When it comes to the transition of the transport sector to electric vehicles, commercial fleet are probably one of the lowest hanging fruits. More often than not, they have agreed routes, reserved off-hours parking, and much lower driving and maintenance costs.
But for many commercial operators, electric vehicles are still a clue. Gagan Dillon and Andrew Blade co-founded Synop to minimize unknowns and accelerate the introduction of electric vehicles in commercial fleets. In a TechCrunch exclusive today, the company announced a $10 million seed round to be led by Obvious Ventures, joined by Wireframe Ventures, Congruent and Better Ventures.
“Transport electrification is a big deal, especially for companies with large fleets,” said Andrew Beebe, managing director of Obvious Ventures. “Synop is removing the biggest hidden infrastructure barriers for companies that want to seamlessly make this transition.”
Dillon and Blade found that fleet operators have a lot of questions to answer before they move to electric vehicles. “How are you extending the life of this vehicle, this asset? And then how do you use this asset on a daily basis? Where should it be? What time should it charge? How long should it charge for the back and back?” Dillon said. “It’s all organized through the Synop platform.”
One of the first clients of the company is highland, an electric school bus fleet provider based in Beverly, Massachusetts, which raised $253 million in a Series A round in early 2021. The company offers bus fleets through a subscription model that includes charging infrastructure, power operation and maintenance. Synop is working with Highland to optimize charging and routing.
But there will be more than just school buses on the Synop platform. Dhillon and Blajde develop their software to work with almost any type of car and any manufacturer. “We want to build something that does not depend on the class of the car, so from Grade 2-8 from commercial vehicles,” Dillon said. “We also want to create something that is independent of the use case. You can bring an electric garbage truck to Synop – we have people who bring electric garbage trucks, which is really amazing.”
The company is also working on an online vehicle control function, or V2G, connections. Electric vehicles have long been seen as a potential asset for network managers that they can pay well to access. Grid-connected EV batteries can help stabilize the flow of electricity in the event of equipment failure or downed power lines, giving network managers time to make better decisions. They can also help offset peaks in demand. All this gives fleet operators the opportunity to monetize their assets when they are not in use.
But no EV owner, especially fleet managers, wants to wake up to find that their car’s battery is dead when they need it most. “Our software will help you, as a fleet operator, optimize pickup times [electricity] back [to the grid] because you don’t want to drain your battery at 4am and then have no charge for a route that you have to run at 7am,” Dillon said.
Blade said Synop is collecting and analyzing data to help optimize the use of electric vehicles across different fleets. But it will also store customer data separately if they request it.
Synop can also help fleet managers decide which routes are ripe for electrification. “Give me 100 of your routes and then let’s come up with a roadmap for electrifying them,” Blade said. “We collect data, we look at the route, we can give a confidence interval for how electrifying it is, and then we give that answer to customers. [to] get their cars on board and help them get them up and running.”
The goal is to help electrify and manage the commercial park so that operators can realize all the potential cost savings that electrification can offer, Dhillon said.
“Most competitors today are building a very vertical approach where they want to use only their own products and not have interoperability support,” he said. “Ultimately, we feel like a big opportunity in this area is for someone to create a kind of neutral software layer for commercial electric vehicles and chargers.”
“We’re trying to position ourselves, you know, for lack of a better term, plumbing in this industry,” Dillon said.
Credit: techcrunch.com /