Electric vehicles (EVs) are key to a more sustainable future. In 2020, we saw a rapid acceleration in uptake, with sales of EVs rising by 43%. COP26 earlier this month has similarly reinforced the importance of net-zero and sustainable initiatives, which we expect to lead to further market growth.
Yet, while EVs are predicted to represent 48% of all new cars sold in 2030, for this to come to fruition, an unbundling is required in the software and hardware which makes up the vehicle. We believe that consumers will buy cars on the strength of their software.
Take the battery today as an example; it’s the single most expensive part of an EV. Although the battery’s hardware has developed to a mature stage, the software has lagged behind. Unlike its petrol and diesel counterparts, we have not gotten to the stage where we can accurately predict the battery’s behaviour. Software gives us the ability to monitor, control and optimise the battery in the field to reliably measure its health as well as predict and improve its future performance. What’s more, this software will underpin the data for an entirely new EV stack, from battery passporting/resale to reuse, warranties and insurance.
The “Tesla Effect”: driving the unbundling of hardware and software
Currently, most software is combined with hardware in a single “package” and sourced via a single supplier to an automotive Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). This is often what we’d refer to as a ‘black-box’ solution — and is the route of the problem. These systems provide minimal customisation and data extraction capabilities and are, therefore, suboptimal today and will be insufficient in the future.
Led by Tesla, the automotive industry is facing a paradigm shift in intelligent EV and connected vehicle systems. The ability to combine best-of-breed features, speed up time-to-market and having the ability to adjust and upgrade parameters in the field via over-the-air (OTA) updates has become table stakes to stay competitive. Previously a hardware-driven industry, automakers are now differentiating themselves by the quality of their software advances.
To keep up with Tesla, many OEMs need to completely change their employee knowledge-base to meet the need for the electric powertrain and software-first principles. But time is not on their side — consumer demand is driving ambitious production targets, making it highly challenging for them to compete.
This why we led a $11m round into Eatron, alongside our friends at Aster Capital and VinFast.
Unlocking the electric vehicle transition
Eatron is the software enabler for the next generation of electrification in vehicles and beyond.
Its flagship product, the Battery Management System (BMS), is embedded into vehicles and other industrial applications to manage the rechargeable battery. It monitors and calculates the overall state of the battery in real-time. Its advanced AI techniques allow it to understand the battery’s condition at the cellular level; then predict its remaining useful life.
As we transition from combustion engines to batteries, the entire dynamics of the vehicle is set for change. For this reason, Eatron complements its BMS with its Intelligent Motion Software (IMS). The purpose of the IMS is to control the damping systems to automatically improve the overall driving comfort and handling of the vehicle. The software is modular, hardware agnostic, and is licensed to manufacturers with an ability to be updated via OTA.
Strategically positioned for the future
We are particularly excited about the company’s ability to add value through the lifecycle of the battery.
Eatron’s software architecture allows for advanced testing and simple configurability, shortening the manufacturer’s time to market.
2) In the field
Once a battery is out in the real world, the ability to reduce and predict breakdowns and lengthen the battery’s life is precious for the OEM. This results in significant savings, reduced warranty risk and lower servicing costs.
Because Eatron understands what is happening in the battery at a cellular level, they can provide the data to help calculate the dollar value of the battery. Whether this is a car being sold on or a battery being repurposed for reuse, this data will unlock the ability to measure its health at any given moment. Ultimately, we believe new applications and sub-industries will be built on top of this valuable data set — and Eatron sits at its core.
Eatron connects the data it gathers and manages to its own cloud analytics platform, providing the car maker a wide range of powerful features. These features go beyond the manufacturer — each vehicle will have its own analytics instance and will dynamically change its state based the drivers behaviour. For the vehicle owner, this equates to personalised performance and improved range.
Rather than a driver adapting to their vehicle, the vehicle personalises itself to the driver.
Where it all began
We met Eatron two and a half years ago when it was still a budding start-up. While it was too nascent an idea to invest in, in the few years since, it has grown and developed at an exceptional rate. In fact, their software is due to be in production on vehicles in less than 3 months!
We often meet young companies developing software innovations which they hope to embed into a vehicle. However, this is incredibly hard — not least because the software must be developed alongside a long list of stringent safety and security regulations. Therefore, to succeed in this space, you require a domain-specific understanding of batteries coupled with a track record in delivering cloud and embedded software to OEMs and industrial manufacturers.
Eatron’s team has all this in spades. While the underlying technology is impressive, co-founders Dr Umut Genc, Can Kurtulus and Amedeo Bianchimano make up the foundations of a unique and experienced team; with over 15 years of delivering automotive-grade software. The team doesn’t stop at the founders — they are supported by some of the leading engineers and professors in this field, based across the UK, US and Turkey. They also plan to expand their presence in Asia as part of this funding round. Eatron’s ambition is global, and we’re thrilled to be joining them on their journey from here.