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KPN makes electric moped Brekr connected

The moped of the future hails from the Netherlands, where a start-up managed to develop the Brekr, a connected electric moped, in just 18 months. From the design and the components to the smart functionality and the business model, the Brekr is a paragon of innovation.

The concept behind the Brekr originated with entrepreneur Niels Willems and his partner Jasper Hagedoorn. “We’re making the transition from fuel to electric, but vehicles still look the same. Electric mopeds and motorcycles all have a kind of petrol tank. That doesn’t make sense, because you actually want the battery and the centre of gravity to be as low as possible. The situation is reminiscent of the first cars, which were like horse-drawn carriages with an engine. While developing the Brekr, we overthrew the basic design.”

Willems started developing the Brekr in 2018 together with two technical experts and a designer. The design is very different from the traditional moped, with a battery positioned closer to the ground, large wheels and an aluminium frame. “Of course a moped also is a lifestyle product and should have an attractive look. The rich history of mopeds and motorcycles is certainly reflected in the Brekr.”

Less maintenance required
The most expensive part of the Brekr is the battery. The vehicle has space for two removable batteries, each with a capacity of 2.0 kWh. “Even under less than ideal conditions it can still cover 100 kilometres,” says Willems. “The battery is full of technical highlights, such as an advanced battery management system (BMS) that protects against overcharging, short-circuiting and incorrect voltage, among other things. In addition, the braking energy is recovered, resulting in energy savings of 7 to 15 per cent and thus increasing the range.”

So range is no reason to opt for a scooter with a combustion engine. “In addition, a Brekr requires less maintenance due to the electric drive,” explains Willems. “Specifically, there are fewer moving parts and no oils or filters are used. And to make things even easier for our customers, they can have any maintenance and repairs carried out at a location of their choice, such as their home or place of work.”

A unique sound
Another advantage of electric vehicles is that they do not cause noise pollution. “Noiselessness makes for a nice ride, but can also lead to dangerous traffic situations as people don’t hear you coming,” explains Willems. “That’s uncomfortable for the rider as well. Cyclists and pedestrians in front of you cannot see or hear you approaching, so you have to shout or use your horn. Other road users don’t like that.”

“That’s why we gave the Brekr its own sound,” the entrepreneur continues. “A shaker makes vibrate a plate at the bottom of the moped. This works like a speaker, generating an electric engine sound. This type of shaker is much less susceptible to interference than a real speaker with rubber and paper. The sound changes with the speed and throttle, just like a real motorcycle. That’s much nicer than having a monotonous sound.”

BREKR 09

Theft prevention and detection
KPN has made the Brekr ‘connected’. Containing a GPS module and a SIM card, the moped is linked to the Brekr app. The app provides insight into previous journeys, the capacity of the battery, the location and any suspicious circumstances. “In the event that your Brekr is lifted up or someone bumps into it, you’ll receive a notification. You can also set up a geofence around your home. If the Brekr then leaves the designated area, you know that someone’s trying to steal it.”

The average scooter owner knows this is a real risk. “In Amsterdam it’s almost certain your Vespa will be stolen within a year, or at most two years,” says Willems. “As a result, insurance premiums are astronomical. We looked for a solution for this with the Brekr. If the Brekr is stolen, you simply press the theft button in the app and professional investigators will immediately look into it.”

This mechanism has proven extremely effective. Expensive cars and e-bikes with similar systems are often found within 48 hours. In addition, the anti-theft function has a preventive effect. “Stealing a Brekr is very risky for the thief,” explains Willems. “The investigators can find out the method used, the storage location and the destination of stolen vehicles. That’s why many criminals prefer not to touch the Brekr.”

Reduced insurance costs
The business model is also innovative. The Brekr is sold directly to consumers, including one year of connectivity. “Then it costs 100 euros for a period of three years. But the anti-theft functionality also means a significant discount on the monthly insurance premium. Bottom line, it’s a much better deal for the customer. That’s why we expect that almost everyone will continue to use the smart functions after the first year.”

Customer needs are also key when it comes to maintenance and insurance. Willems: “Just as connectivity, these are additional modules that we offer for the Brekr. For example, if a customer concludes a maintenance contract, we will visit them periodically, or when necessary.

The insurance is provided by the ANWB, which has a lot of experience with innovative insurance concepts and for several years now has been working with KPN in the area of track & trace for bicycles.” Willems continues: “We receive a commission on the premium, but we don’t want to earn anything from replacing stolen mopeds. That’s why we keep the price low for the insurer if a Brekr has to be replaced. For three years from the start of the insurance policy, customers are entitled to a new Brekr as a replacement.”

Fast market launch
The Brekr is a complete e-moped, but that doesn’t mean development has been completed. For example, the app is being expanded to include additional functionalities, while the roadmap also includes remote diagnostics. “This will enable you to detect technical problems remotely and to determine whether a technician needs to be dispatched. We’ve designed the Brekr to make this possible from a technical standpoint.”

Wouldn’t it have been better to wrap up these matters before launch? “We deliberately chose not to do that,” says Willems. “This is a growth market and there are other rivals in the field. A short time to market therefore is crucial. In an innovation process like this, as an entrepreneur you must carefully determine which functionalities are not immediately required for commercial success. And with the Brekr, customers ultimately get more than their money’s worth.”

There is another lesson learned that Willems would like to share with entrepreneurs. “If you want to distinguish yourself, you have to think outside the box. That’s incredibly difficult. Every moped designer starts by drawing two wheels and then a petrol tank. They can’t help it. But you need to really go back to basics: what are the customer’s challenges and how can you solve them? Never just shoot down the craziest ideas during a brainstorming session. Instead, see if there’s something useful at the core.”

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