In April this year, CleanCar will be launching its latest incarnation of the system.  The next version will use smartphone technology and is aimed squarely at consumers via channel partners such as automotive manufacturers and energy companies. 

I wanted to pull together a few words to outline what it is and why we think this next incarnation is important

So how did we get here

Probably best to start with a review of our history and how we got here, like many ideas, it was somewhat an accident, a bit of luck, and being in the right place at the right time.

CleanCar started back in about 2013, I say “about” as the idea grew over a period of a few months so its difficult to say when.  Also, when it started, I named it CleanPEA, where PEAK was an acronym for Promoting electric Alternatives,  which I know now sounds like a drug testing kit.

So CleanCar started in 2013, which coincided with the time I started to become interested in Electric vehicles, having previously berated them as “crap”,  I now began to see the benefits. 

After spending the best part of 14 years in the vehicle leasing sector, I had been well versed in Whole Life Cost WLC (also known as Total Cost of Ownership TCO) for some time.  WLC is simple to explain as it simply works out the cost of owning a vehicle over a set term and distance, for example, 3 years and 60k miles.  WLC considers elements such as depreciation, tax, fuel, servicing and any other predictable costs.

WLC allows you to compare the actual costs of owning a vehicle and its importance as it takes the focus of purchase price and gives a more accurate picture of the costs of owning a car.  In many respects, it often means that a more expensive (purchase price), but the more economical vehicle will cost less over time than a cheaper but less economical vehicle. Usually, with the saving coming from fuel and tax, as well as reduced depreciation as more economical vehicles are more desirable in the second-hand market, and command a higher price.

At the time,  whenever anyone mentioned Electric Vehicles, I would hear the same things; the range is too short, and they are too expensive, but I had a different view. Over the years I had helped customer lease hundreds of really low-cost vehicles that barely drove any distance for things like pool cars.  I had also helped the same customers purchase some super expensive cars for London based managers that had expensive cars that never drove anywhere.  It seemed apparent to me that there would be a use case for any type of electric vehicle so long as the financials added up and they were practical for some reason. 

That’s when I decided to work out the sweet spot, in other words, the ideal range of mileage where you would drive enough miles that you could see a benefit and not too many miles where the vehicle and its charge profile became impractical.  I also wanted to test out if there were customers out there who would fall into the sweet spot.

At the time, I was running a GPS mileage expenses business so I was in a unique position where I could work with specific customers who were considering electric vehicles and fine-tune a model that could show the benefits.  The model was simple, use GPS data to work out a profile such as average daily, and yearly mileage (needed for the WLC) and work out some other key statistics such as max mileage in a day and time parked.  With this, I could check against the range and charge times of the vehicles.  Back then there were only a handful of cars to assess so to start with it was all done with excel and some off the shelf BI tools such as Tableau and Qlik Sense.

The Process

  •       Use our plug and Play GPS dongles to collect a month or so of GPS data
  •       Build up a profile about how the vehicles
  •       Compare this profile to the range and charge limitations of the potential EV’s
  •       Create a list of drivers/vehicles that are suited to each vehicle.  In other words, find out if these vehicles would work for what the drivers required.
  •       The next step was to work out the whole life cost. I soon realised that this info is not publicly available and the only way you get it was to pay, a not inconsiderable amount of money, or to borrow it from some old friends of mine in the leasing industry.  As this was a proof of concept, I borrowed it.
  •       I was then able to produce a pretty basic report that showed:

o   Which drivers are suited to an EV

o   Which Ev would best suit them

o   The WLC of that EV should they run it for the next 3 years

o   The WLC of a new equivalent of their current car should they run it on the same terms.

  •       As suspected, not all drivers were suited, but some were, and in those days it depended upon the type of fleet.  As an example, one of our customers had six sales guys in Birmingham and had a further 320 similar employees around the country.  For that fleet around a 1/3 of their drivers were suited and could save money by making the switch.  In another fleet however it was just three drivers from a fleet of around 300.

So what did I learn?

  1.     I learnt that the new EV’s on the market had a niche and for the right type of driver they could be a practical alternative to an ICE
  2.     If a driver falls in the sweet spot (distance-wise), then they can see some significant savings.
  3.     I learnt that if a company invests in EV they don’t need one charge per vehicle
  4.     Not everyone is suited to an EV, and for some drivers, it would be a real pain
  5.     Focus on the quick wins where an EV is the obvious choice
  6.     The main reason EV were not selling was indifference; many potential EV drivers simply do care for them.
  7.     There is quite a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding. However cold hard facts could cut through this.
  8.     I also learnt that we were way to early with the product.  There simply was no interest or market for what we were doing… yet

We are launching a new system.

 Yes, well kind of.

In the years since I first came up with the concept for CleanCar (thank god we changed the name from CleanPEA) we have been fine-tuning the offering.  The system has morphed through feedback, bespoke builds and tinkering into the system we have today, but it had its limitations:

  • It’s not truly scalable, and we would have to fire up a new set of servers each time we hit another 5000 users.
  • The admin was clunky, it was aimed at fleet managers and meant that bringing on drivers or employees of a company, meant uploading CSV files that could be a pain.
  • It’s just a bit clunky, over the years as code had been added to the system, it meant that some part were bloated and not ideal. It worked in the same way an old car gets you from a to be, but we needed an upgrade, smoothing a bit quicker and more comfortable.

It was with the above in mind that almost exactly a year ago today we decided to rebuild the system.  We would keep all the great stuff that we know works and the general principals would remain the same, but we made a lot of changes including:

  • From now on we will have a new all singing all dancing app that records the trips as well as giving the full CC experience.
  • We have full scalability and elasticity in the system so we can grow from 500 to 5 million users without having to rebuild the system or the infrastructure
  • Our code is cleaner and lighter, meaning the system will run better and quicker.
  • We have built-in globalisation, meaning we can roll the system out in any country.
  • The admin and user onboarding is slicker and easier to use.

 So you are releasing a smartphone APP

 Yes, and the timing is right to do this.

Why smartphones were not an option in the past

 When we first started out using GPS devices, it was the early days of smartphones, the iPhone was about 3 years old, and the be frank the limitations of GPS and battery life meant that you could not rely on accurate trip data.  With GPS on, an iPhone battery would last for 56 minutes (I tested it)

Also back then there was still a battle for IOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows in the phone market.  In short, it was complicated, and unreliable.  Actually, blackberry was really good at handling GPS.

We also found our market was the fleet sector who had a mostly adopted an aggressive stance towards the mobile phone usage in cars.  They had pretty much banned the use of mobiles by employees, and if you then wanted to put apps on phones that were used in cars to collect mileage, then it became a can of worms.

In summary

  • A few years ago, smartphones were just not up to the job, but today they are much better with better GPS and better battery management
  • Mobile phone legislation meant fleets often had an outright ban on the use of mobiles
  • The mix of mobiles and operating systems meant you needed to build your app four times
  • Rolling out apps to some fleets was a nonstarter as their policy on mobiles in cars precluded it.
  • The message for a GPS dongle was so simple “just plug this in and we will do the rest”

 Why the app now?

 Well the main reason is our change in focus from Fleet to Consumer.  When it comes to working with fleets, it’s easy to distribute a GPS device, and we tend to deal with one or two key people who are able to accept delivery of GPS dongle, place those in a car and then collect them up at the end.  It means we have a nice slick process to distribute and collect up devices.  With consumers however that becomes more difficult on a number of levels;

  •       Firstly the cost, distributing 10,000 GPS devices is a lot of money. However, consumers will mostly already have a smartphone.
  •       Distributing devices via post is a big undertaking in large numbers; it requires a lot of admin and cost.
  •       If you think distributing them is tough, try getting them all back. You can just imagine trying to get 10,000 devices back from customers all over the country; many will go missing, break, get lost etc.
  •       Smartphones are much better than they used to be, they are not perfect, but the more modern phones have far superior GPS and better battery management, meaning they are now up to the job.

 So are there problems using Smartphones?

 There are a few, yes.

  • Many people still use old phones or vary basic phones that are not capable of recording trips
  • You are reliant on users downloading the app.
  • You are reliant on users turning on the app.  Apps can’t turn themselves on, especially with Apple iOS, so if the user does not turn it on and apply the right settings, it won’t work.
  • GPS still uses battery. Despite improvements, it will still use up the battery quicker, so you need to be sure the phone is plugged into a power socket in a vehicle.

So the future is Consumer Space

Ok so the plan currently is not to go directly to the consumer, its to work with Key partners who already have relationships with the consumer.  Think energy companies and auto manufacturers.  These organisations have a relationship with you and me already, and what’s more, we could both benefit from the sale of EV, as a consumer I can benefit from owning an EV because I will save money, however, at the same time I own an EV, and I am will be spending more money on energy.  It’s a win-win

Who is it aimed at?

 Its aimed at anyone who drives a car and is interested to see if they could save money!

How will it work?

Simple all you need to do is download the app; from there, you can set up an account with CleanCar and then set the app off to record trips.  The app will automatically log your trips and upload them to your CleanCar profile.

Once we have enough data, a week or more, you will be able to log in and see

  •       If an EV is suited to your needs
  •       Which EV will work for your requirements?
  •       If you can save any money by making the switch

All of our calculations and analysis is done using independently sourced data. Hence, we only show you if an EV is going to work and if it truly saves money, we have currently have no affiliations to any manufacturers, so all our advice is independent.

What next

Soon we will be providing some launch material and implementing the new system into some of our early customers.  If you are interested, then we will be in a position to roll out to the next phase of customers from July 2020.

So, if you are a business that sells energy, finance, cars, charge points or any organisations looking to increase the uptake of EV, such as local authorities looking to help residents. Then we would love to talk to you; we are convinced that the CleanCar car B2B2C offering will help with your goals and its ready to go!

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