New British firm Soventem is hoping to shake up the EV industry with a unique take on car sharing, using carbon-neutral electric cars with unconventional designs and a focus on automation.
The London-based start-up aims to launch its EVs in the UK in March 2024, making them available for outright purchase and for use as part of shared-mobility schemes.
They will be developed at a new facility in Warwickshire’s MIRA technology park through partnerships with Israeli EV platform developer REE and US suspension specialist Clearmotion.
Soventem claims its cars will have 300 miles of range and be able to charge to full capacity in less than five minutes.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar, founder Robert Parson explained his thinking behind the radical designs of the company’s planned EVs, which feature gullwing doors, front and rear storage areas and a lounge-like interior.
The more sporting model has a 1+1 seating arrangement similar to that of the Renault Twizy, which Parson said “goes back to my days of racing”.
He explained: “We wanted to sell road-legal electrified race cars with air suspension and just have fun on the road. Most of the times I’ve been out in my sports cars, it was usually by myself. [So] a two-seater made sense with the passenger in the back, and through a video screen on the back of the driver’s seat, you can see the driver with a little camera. You have a visual connection and you can see forward on that video screen and have a two-way conversation.”
Having previously toured the factories of Mini, Rolls-Royce and TVR, Parson said that Soventem will throw conventional production lines “out the window”, instead using teams of five people who will build cars from start to finish.
They will be built in dedicated pods, while customers will be able to commence the production process themselves and have question-and-answer sessions with the production team.
Each model will be built using 3D-printed components with a unique production experience and the goal of being as carbon-neutral as possible.
“We’re not going to be a high-volume, mass car manufacturer,” said Parson. “We can’t compete in that world. We decided to become a niche car manufacturer with 3000 cars a year tops. We knew we were going to build some exciting, futuristic, concept-looking cars that we will actually bring to the market.”
Soventem’s concepts showcase advanced levels of technology, including a new incar assistant called Lucy, which has been designed in-house.
“As you walk up to the car, Lucy will scan you and remember you. As you get close to the car, she will actually greet you in your native language. As you get in, the door closes and Lucy will engage you in a conversation to refresh you of the features she can provide,” Parson said. “We like to think that Lucy will be connected to everything.”
Parson claimed the assistant is able to detect contacts of the driver in nearby locations, such as cafes, and will request to ‘ping’ their phone to make them aware of your presence.
Soventem says its cars will be equipped with other technologies found on modern vehicles, including LED matrix lighting, a sentry mode and a degree of autonomous driving.
It also hopes to launch a new ‘tri-power’ system in 2029. Parson said this will reduce road users’ reliance on chargers and hydrogen stations by enabling the extraction of hydrogen from polluted air and converting it into electricity through a fuel-cell stack.
Parson claimed Soventem’s cars will be affordable and is confident there will be demand, adding: “Potential owners I’ve been talking to like the fact that it’s off-the-wall thinking. They like that it’s totally different to anything that’s coming to the market.” Parson expects to make a loss at the beginning of production, both in private ownership and the rental sector, but remains optimistic.
“I would say within the next five years, car-sharing sites in cities around the world will be 100% electric,” he said. “These companies will have to rethink their strategy and where they’re going to get their stock from.”
To date, investment in Soventem has come solely from Parson and his family. Crowdfunding measures are being considered, and Parson is looking to obtain capital investment within two to five years, when Soventem expects to be ready for Euro-standard vehicle production.