Gorazd Lampič, Elaphe: Elaphe is developing new EV architecture
Date: May 5th 2021
Author: Alenka Lena Klopčič
Electromobility is an inevitably, rapidly growing global trend. By slightly suppressing it, the Covid-19 pandemic has only made the surge of development a little more manageable, said the CEO of Elaphe, Gorazd Lampič, in Energetika.NET’s latest video interview (in Slovenian only).
“In the first few years after the establishment, from 2006 to 2010, Elaphe worked a lot on two-wheelers as this was an easier way to test the company’s technology. But the solutions turned out to work better with larger vehicles, and this is where Elaphe shifted its focus,” said Lampič. The CEO also mentioned the company’s collaboration with the California-based company Aptera and Lordstown Motors (MORE), an Ohio-based company with an R&D engineering centre in Detroit. The latter city is where Elaphe has recently opened an office.
“In-wheel motors operate through the interaction between magnetic field and electric current, and in most motors, a magnetic field is easy to generate, while electric current requires a more complex process. In the in-wheel motors we are working on in collaboration with Domel, a magnetic field takes a more complicated method, whereas electric current is easier to supply,” said Lampič in reference to the previously mentioned project for a modular electric scooter.
If I chose hydrogen, it would be for larger vehicles
When asked whether Elaphe recognised hydrogen as an opportunity, considering that the EU currently has very high expectations of this source, Lampič replied by sharing his memories from 2005. This was when he went to a major motor show in Monaco, and Lampič remembers that a showcase of the latest electromobility technologies had more hydrogen vehicles than battery electric vehicles. Within just few years, the market tipped in favour of battery vehicles, and this, according to Lampič, is because hydrogen-related technologies are more complex, require different infrastructure and are associated with more safety concerns, while batteries are relatively simple and could easily be used by innovators and start-ups to develop their innovations.
Batteries deliver a number of benefits in smaller applications, while fuel cells can have bigger potential in larger vehicles, added Lampič. “If I chose hydrogen, it would be for larger vehicles,” he noted. With small vehicles, it could perhaps work in combination with metal hydride hydrogen storage.
Not very optimistic about people’s behaviour
At the marketing conference mentioned above, Lampič was asked how last year’s developments had affected Elaphe. In his reply, Lampič said that although the pandemic had slightly suppressed the rapid growth in electromobility, this only made the surge of development a little more manageable (MORE, available in Slovenian only). And what are Lampič’s predictions and expectations for 2021, and for the period up to 2030 and up to 2050, in the light of the EU’s ambition to become carbon neutral?
“These are important questions, and ultimately it all comes down to people’s behaviour. We might be using electric cars, but if they are too heavy or too big, or we make unnecessary trips, we have done nothing (for the environment, author’s note). Also, considering where the emissions come from and how resources and land are used, we can see that actions matter more than the technologies used. There’s still too little awareness about what is good for our planet,” said Lampič matter-of-factly, admitting that he is quite pessimistic about this matter.
Mobility, especially electromobility in contrast to petrol cars, is becoming part of infrastructure at large, including buildings. This can ease the pressure on the grid and increase (energy) independence, added Lampič, reiterating the importance of ‘light’ vehicles. As regards self-driving cars, one should, in his view, also consider what drivers will be doing instead – they may as well hold the wheel to avoid doing anything stupid, said Lampič in another down-to-earth comment.
Why pursue something others have already set out to do?
At Energetika.NET’s conference En.odmev 020 last year, in a discussion about technological innovations, Lampič said politics should not be the one to decide which technical solution should be used, and where; its job is to set the requirements that solutions, services or products should meet. It is up to the industry to find adequate solutions (MORE). What does Lampič think of this today?
“If you look back every six months or so, and realise you are thinking differently now than you were back then, you are on the right track,” he said, laughing, but adding that he still agreed with what he said at En.odmev 020. In his words, it is difficult to compete on price with something that already exists, and one should not fear developing new things, something that does not yet exist. Rather than developing the obvious products most of the industry is working on, such as central electric motors or batteries – as an example, Lampič mentions the Croatian company Rimac –, Elaphe works on something never seen before in electromobility, new products, solutions and architecture that will revolutionise vehicles. “Why purse something others have already set out to do?” said Lampič in a rhetorical question. He is intrigued by the number of companies that want to compete with Tesla, but use the same concepts to do so.
Although an R&D company, Elaphe had a revenue of some EUR 7m in 2020 (of which just over EUR 1m was grants), while its earnings before tax were just below EUR 1m. This year, the company expects a revenue of more than EUR 10m. At the time of Energetika.NET’s interview with Lampič last year, most job openings at Elaphe were for electrical and mechanical development engineers. This is still the case today, although the company has hired 30 new members of staff since the beginning of 2021 alone. All the while, Elaphe has managed to retain a start-up culture. To learn more about the challenges as well as bonuses of having an R&D company like Elaphe, watch the video interview (in Slovenian only).
The video interview is available HERE (in Slovenian only).
This article is available also in Slovene.