Cafu En Charge, an electric vehicle mobile charger and app developed by Cafu in collaboration with Quebec’s Innovative Vehicle Institute, is launching its first commercial pilot in Montreal this week
A new mobile fast-charging solution designed to improve access to charging infrastructure for EV drivers will be launched in Quebec this week.
The service is a world first for Cafu, a Dubai-based on-demand vehicle service provider, which has chosen Quebec as the location to develop and launch the new offering.
Cafu’s mobile charging solution, Cafu En Charge, includes a Ford E-Transit van equipped with a charging station and batteries, as well as a mobile app. Through the app, users can order Cafu to meet with them at any location to charge their vehicle. Once the session is complete, Cafu bills the user through the app.
Photo: Mehanaz Yakub
The E-Transit is equipped with a 140kWh battery pack that allows for a 50kW fast charge once connected to the customer’s vehicle. The charger supports either a CCS or Tesla connector.
Cafu showcased the prototype of its EV mobile charger and app at the Innovative Vehicle Institute (IVI) in Saint-Jérôme, Que. as part of Impulsion, the International Summit on Electric and Smart Transportation Conference hosted by Propulsion Québec earlier this month became.
Supplement to the stationary store
The service aims to provide a convenient solution for EV owners who may not have access to charging at home or who need an extra boost of power on the go. The company also sees it as a solution for fleet operators who may not yet have completed the installation of their ground-based charging infrastructure.
“The reality is that a mobile, intelligent, connected infrastructure model is a smart game”
Alaa El Huni, Chief Business Officer, CAFU
“This is a complement – not a replacement – of static infrastructure models that everyone believes to be the solution for EV adoption,” said Alaa El Huni, Cafu’s Chief Business Officer, at the IVI Showcase presentation.
“The reality is that a mobile, intelligent, connected infrastructure model is a smart move for us. We urge others to consider a similar way of redesigning, reinventing and disrupting the way we power vehicles in the future.”
This week’s launch features just one pilot, with a single vehicle, operating out of Montreal. If successful, Cafu plans to add more vehicles with different sized battery capacities to target different users and serve more customers.
Quebec as the ideal “gateway”
Cafu operates as an on-demand vehicle service provider in Dubai. Services include on-demand battery replacement and jump starting, fuel delivery, tire changes, car wash and maintenance checks. According to the company, around 20,000 orders are received every day.
When it came time to decide where to expand its business globally, Cafu saw Quebec as the ideal “gateway” to the North American market and saw an opportunity to develop a new type of service for EV users.
“We had to go all over the world and of course I’m from Quebec, so the Quebec lobby was strong,” says Jean-François Lapierre, senior vice president international and head of special projects at Cafu, in an interview with Electric Autonomy. But ultimately the deal was pivotal, seeing how “impressive” the province’s clean transportation ecosystem is and the expertise it has in developing EV innovation, he adds.
Cafu has partnered with IVI, a Quebec-based research center that helps companies develop and commercialize technologies related to electric, autonomous and connected transportation.
“Our task [at IVI] is designed to help Quebec companies develop their transportation innovations. In particular, Cafu wanted to start and expand its operations in Quebec to improve mobility support services here. This goal aligns with our mission to help Quebec companies innovate in the transportation industry,” said Julie Derro, communications coordinator at IVI, in a written statement to Electric Autonomy.
“The initial request was somewhat unexpected, but we had confidence in our ability to support, support and execute this project and support their innovation goal.”
development of technology
Discussions between Cafu and IVI on the development of the mobile EV charger started in late 2021.
“Although Cafu were experts in managing fleets of petrol vehicles, they lacked expertise in electricity, which is why they chose to work with us,” says Derro. “Their Quebec model is customized to meet Quebec’s clean energy transportation needs and provide an energy delivery service to meet user demands and the province’s sustainable transportation goals.”
In the initial development phase, IVI worked with Cafu to select the various components that would be part of the mobile charger, including batteries, the charging station and the Ford E-Transit Van.
One of the biggest challenges was finding a solution to manage road vibrations in moving vehicles without damaging charging station equipment, says Lapierre.
Cafu eventually entered into a partnership with ABB E-Mobility. It provided them with the same charging unit it developed for the Formula E electric car racing series.
“[ABB E-mobility] do the Formula E charging stations that travel around the world every two weeks. They carry it around, they shake it around, they go into parking lots and all that kind of stuff, so that gear suited us really well,” says Lapierre.
Another consideration Cafu faced during the development phase was deciding on the weight and payload of the batteries.
Lapierre explains that the amount of energy they could store in the charger was strictly dependent on how much weight the e-transit van could handle.
“I would like to have more batteries, [but] these batteries are currently very heavy. We have to respect the payload capacity of the truck,” says Lapierre.
As battery technology advances and costs fall, Lapierre hopes Cafu will be able to add more battery capacity to its service in the future. He also adds that he wants to add multiple gas pumps and charging ports so that Cafu can charge multiple vehicles at the same time.
Tests and future plans
The pilot in Montreal will be the first test of Cafu En Charge with real customers. The purpose is to better assess the user experience and test the functionality of the app on the road.
According to Lapierre, Cafu will “make tweaks” to improve its charger and app based on user feedback during the testing phase.
With just one prototype, Cafu will be able to serve an average of eight to ten customers a day. It recharges the vehicle and its batteries while it is parked.
The longer-term goal is to add more vehicles with different sized battery capacities to target different users and serve more customers – both in Quebec and other cities in Canada and the US
Cafu plans to expand through licensing agreements with different companies in different locations.
“If someone in Toronto or even someone in the US wants a model similar to ours, we can give them access to our app. Essentially, we give them a leasing model for our assets and they can launch their business in a sort of Uber manner to really start distributing energy with the Cafu app,” says Lapierre.