Feb 27, 2017 | By Benedict

Etran Group, a Thailand-based startup, is planning to launch a taxi service that uses 3D printed electric motorcycles. The company is hoping to raise 300 million Thai Baht ($8.6 million) to fund the venture, which could commence operations as early as September.

It’s easy to get frustrated while driving. Interminable traffic jams, reckless drivers, and parking tickets are just a few of the bugbears one can encounter when behind the wheel, but drivers (and motorcyclists) in many cities should count themselves lucky—lucky that they’re not in Bangkok, where there is almost constant gridlock, and where motorists will do almost anything to make it to their destination on time.

But while roads in Thailand can be unnavigable, polluted, and hazardous, they could soon be the home of a radical new transport system that incorporates modern technologies to make traveling safer, cleaner, and cheaper. Etran, a new startup based in Thailand, is currently seeking raise about $8.6 million from a pre-Series A round in order to develop an exciting new e-transport solution that utilizes 3D printed electric motorcycle taxis.

Motorcycle taxis might be uncommon throughout North America and Europe, but in Thailand they are sometimes the best (and only) way of navigating heavy traffic. Operators of such motorcycle taxis are content to weave through stalled traffic (and occasionally over sidewalks) in order to get from A to B faster than any four-wheeled vehicle. Hailing such a taxi is not for the faint of heart, but it’s certainly effective.

Soranun Choochut, chief executive officer of Etran, held a press conference last week in which he explained how he intends to run the new business. “We will rent [the 3D printed motorcycles] out at half of their usual fuel costs,” he said. “Drivers will thus gain additional income of Bt36,000 a year.” Drivers of the new electric motorcycles, dubbed Etran Proms, will be given a smart card which can be used to start the vehicle, swap batteries, receive maintenance, and pay rental fees.

Despite the ambitious nature of the project, Soranun is aiming to get the first 3D printed bikes on the roads on Bangkok in the third quarter of 2017. If all goes to plan, Etran will be explanded to cover the entirety of the city throughout 2018, before expanding to other cities and countries in 2019.

The 3D printed Etran Prom vehicles will be assembled by Summit Auto Parts, and will have a division between driver and passenger to provide comfort for both. Chinese suppliers will provide the 5,000-watt motors and batteries, with which the vehicles will be able to hit maximum speeds of 80 km/h (50 mph) over a maximum distance of 60 km (37 miles). The 3D printed vehicles will also be equipped with IoT technology that allows drivers to easily check charge status and other factors.

Etran has big, Tesla-like plans for its taxi network, and envisages building battery-swapping and maintenance stations throughout Bangkok. Swapping batteries will take just one minute, faster than the five minutes needed to refuel a regular motorcycle.

Digital Ventures has already provided a Bt300,000 ($8,600) financial grant to Etran, but the startup hopes to raise a massive Bt10 billion ($287 million) within the next five years. Soranun has appealed to Thai investors to favor Etran over international solutions whose interests lie outside of Thailand.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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