What Happened to Local Motors?

By Gary S. Vasilash

Justin Fishkin was the chief strategy officer at Local Motors for seven years (2011 to 2018), then senior advisor for the firm for two years after that.

Local Motors seemed to have it all going for it in terms of what it was doing and how it was doing it.

It was crowd sourcing design. It was using 3D printing to the extent that others were only dreaming about. It was developing vehicles fast. It was putting autonomy into application. It was creating mobility systems.

Olli: Electric. Autonomous. Built in a microfactory. (Image: Local Motors)

From Wired to IMTS Today and an array of media outlets in between, Local Motors was the “it” company in the transportation field.

And a few weeks ago word leaked out that Local Motors was closing up shop.

So on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Fishkin talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Chris Paukert of Roadshow by CNET and me about what the company set out to do and what conceivably happened.

One of the primary factors, Fishkin suggests, is that there was a case of mission creep in that the company found itself stretching in different directions as different constituents became involved in the company.

They went from crowdsourcing designs that led to vehicles like the Rally Fighter, 3D printing an entire vehicle (the Strati) then creating Olli, a compact people-mover with autonomous capabilities, and along the way created fans and attracted companies that wanted to get some of the “stuff” that was allowing the company to do what it was doing.

An early intention was to have micromanufacturing capabilities set up as a network such that there would be the development of vehicles that would lend themselves to specific markets. The company ended up having two, in Chandler, Arizona and Knoxville, Tennessee

It also built a demo microfactory in National Harbor; GE Firstbuild built a microfactory in Louisville, Kentucky, with Local Motors’ assistance.

In addition to GE, Local Motors worked with companies including Airbus and Siemens. All of which is to get to the point that this was something real, not speculative.

Its Olli had deployments in Buffalo, New York; Turin, Italy; Sacramento, California; Arlington, Virginia; Holdfast Bay, Australia; Akron, Ohio; Dunedin, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; Clarksburg, Maryland; Yellowstone, Wyoming; Thuwal, Saudi Arabia; Durham, Florida; Marysville, Ohio; Neustadt, Germany; Jacksonville, Florida; Palo Alto, California; Concord, California; Ghent, Belgium; Lake Nona, Florida; Peachtree Corners, Georgia; Peoria, Arizona; Whitby, Canada; Toronto, Canada; and Crozet, Virginia, yet in the broader scheme of things, that is but a handful of places.

Fishkin also talks about his current activities with a startup Future/Of, which is helping, well, startups. One of the companies Fishkin is working with is Biliti, Inc., a company that is producing electric three-wheelers for last-mile transport.

But not just startups, he notes. As he puts it, “Future/Of works with organizations to scale disruptive business models and frontier technologies.” Which established companies can benefit from. And NGOs.

Still, in the context of Local Motors and where it came to, the question becomes where will micromobility and distributed microfactories go? This is a question that Fishkin help provide some solid perspective on.

And you can see it right here.

Toronto Nixes E-Scooters

Isn’t it a requirement for a major metropolis to have piles of two wheelers on the main shopping streets?

By Gary S. Vasilash

One of the characteristics of major cities is, in addition to pigeons, e-scooters.

Both are seemingly everywhere. One has a use case that isn’t associated with pecking at breadcrumbs.

So it is somewhat interesting to note that the City of Toronto is opting out of a e-scooter pilot program that is running in the province of Ontario and was established in January 2020.

According to a story by CTV News Toronto, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA) had spoken out against scooters, maintaining they presented safety hazards, “especially for people living with disabilities and seniors, when encountering them illegally operating on sidewalks.”

Which leads one to question whether it is the means of transportation or the fact that they are sometimes being operated in an unsafe and possibly illegal manner.

Two e-scooter operators, Lime and Bird, engaged a research firm, Nanos, to check into how Torontonians feel about e-scooters. The survey was conducted between April 14 and 16.

The results show that overall, when asked “Do you support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or oppose Toronto creating a shared micro mobility pilot with shared e-scooters this year in Toronto,” 35% support, 35% somewhat support, 9% oppose, 9% somewhat oppose, and 12% are unsure.

Even if the 12% goes to the naysayers, that combined number is 30%, which is less than either of the supportive groups alone.

No word on the pigeons’ position.

Creating a Micromobility Company

A surprising story about the use case for electric mopeds

By Gary S. Vasilash

Matt Brueggeman says that when he was growing up in suburban Chicago, his family had three Chevy Tahoes. He acknowledges that they were good vehicles. But he also admits that it occurred to him that the Tahoe wasn’t the most efficient vehicle to transport a single person to, say, go visit a nearby friend or to go pickup a carton of milk.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, where he studied Chinese, he moved to Beijing for six years.

While there the absurdity of the Tahoe really became evident to him, as he watched people riding on electric mopeds.

The Flux EM1: It won’t replace a car. But it offers an alternative for those quick trips. (Image: Flux Mopeds)

When he returned to Madison he and his colleagues decided to start a company to allow people to sensibly take local trips. Brueggeman is the co-founder and CEO of Flux Mopeds.

With time, research and development they came up with the Flux EM1. It is an electric moped that has a limited range—50 miles on two batteries. A limited top speed—38 mph. A limited capacity—300 pounds.

It also has a comparatively limited MSRP: $2,400.

And on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Brueggeman talks about how the vehicle came to be and how it is doing in the market. He talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, John Beltz Snyder of Autoblog Green and me.

Brueggeman explains that while the mopeds are produced in China there was extensive engineering developed in the U.S. He says that while the owner of a moped in China can get a broken part fixed by a corner repair shop, that’s not the case in the U.S., so they’ve engineered the units to be as robust and reliable as possible.

He says that the company is keeping its costs down by not selling through dealerships and not carrying inventory: it is build to order.

And while you might think that this is a vehicle that would be on college campuses or being ridden in downtowns by urban hipsters, Brueggeman says that the big market for the company is. . .RV owners. (Why tow a car when you can stick an EM1 on the back?)

If you’re interested in micromobility, you’ve got to watch this show. Right here.