Move aside Uber; here comes the Mellowcab revolution

A new start-up company from South Africa called Mellowcabs want to start an urban transportation revolution. Well, at least if micro-t...

A new start-up company from South Africa called Mellowcabs want to start an urban transportation revolution. Well, at least if micro-transport entrepreneur, Neil du Preez, has anything to with it. Within urban transportation, it is the part of the journey known as the ‘last mile’, that bit between where the bus/train/tram drops you off and your home, that is often the most problematic. In most cities, it is the taxis that fill this void despite the complaints about congestion and pollution.

“More than 80% of all urban trips across the globe are shorter than three miles, which is an extremely inefficient use of internal-combustion engines,” said du Preez, who founded Mellowcabs with colleague Kobus Breytenbach. “But short distances are ideal for electric micro-vehicles such as Mellowcabs. Our cab's performance is on par with normal taxis, and it complies with international roadworthy standards, meaning we can operate legally and safely on just about any road.”

Mellowcabs has come up with perhaps a unique solution by designing an egg-shaped hybrid pedicab made from recycled plastics and looking like something that Elon Musk might have envisioned. It is powered by both pedal and electric power that will cater for a smooth if not lightning-quick ride. The batteries, which are lead crystal, are also supposed to be good for about 110 kilometres.

“In hilly areas where you have sizeable passengers you need a bit of kick. The geared motor allows you to reduce strain on the motor on pull-away, thereby extending motor and battery life. We use programmable controllers to set all the required parameters, for example limiting top speed to 25km/h,” said du Preez.

The addition of bicycle pedals, which work through a single rotor crank set, extends battery life. “We’ve installed a pick up system, which forces the driver to pedal to engage the motor, and forces him/her to keep pedaling. That being said, it’s really easy, and my mom would be able to pedal a Mellowcab,” he added.

Initially, Mellowcab wanted to run a free service, paid for by the advertising on the vehicle, but this seems to have been replaced with a flat fee system for urban journeys of up to four kilometres in distance (any further and you should be on the bus). Rather than wait for the taxi, there is already a smartphone app, like all those other ones out there already, that will show you the available Mellowcabs and will arrange a meeting point; and like that other app-based taxi service, Uber, the process is cashless with charges being levied against a customer’s account and then paid to the driver at a later date. 

The Mellowcab business describes itself as an advertising AND transportation company, so the cabs have been designed with a large surface area, perfect for the placement of adverts. Each Mellowcab hosts an on-board tablet computer that runs a geo-location software. As the vehicles approach a certain store or restaurant, the software triggers specific adverts, a promotional offer or a monthly special, for example.

Mellowcab remotely manages ad content, which is stored in the Cloud. The tablet can also connect to the passenger’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, allowing passengers to snap a picture and load it onto their social media profile of choice. This could enable effective brand identification, said du Preez. 



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