48 (143) 2021


The answer to urban mobility is here – and it’s Polish!

Rafał Budweil, CEO of Triggo.City talks to the BPCC’s Michael Dembinski about his invention, which could transform the way the world gets to work
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I’d drive my car into the city centre, but I don’t like traffic jams, and parking spaces are hard to come by. I’d ride my motorbike into the city centre – much quicker – but it’s raining and I don’t feel safe in the heavy traffic. Here’s the answer. This Polish-designed-and-built answer to short-distance urban commuting – a four-wheeled, electric-powered vehicle drives like a car on the open road, but can fold itself into the width of a motorbike when it comes to threading through traffic and for parking, and can be used safely and comfortably in any weather.

MD: The genius of the Triggo.City lies in its retracting front axle, that can quickly change from car width (148cm/5ft) to motorbike width (86cm/2ft9in) when on the move. How did you come up with the idea?

RB: Triggo’s narrow two-seat tandem cabin coupled to its variable-geometry wheel track allow it to move at slow speeds through the jams in manouevre mode; stability is needed at higher speeds, and this is where the magic happens – the wheels extend as Triggo speeds up. You need more space around you to go fast. My ‘eureka moment’ was realising that variable geometry is the answer to balancing the need for stability at high speed vs nimbleness in heavy traffic – which is slow, therefore a narrow track becomes sufficient. Triggo can be both stable and agile as traffic conditions demand.

In manoeuvring mode, speed is limited to 35km/h (22mph), fast enough for traffic moving at a crawl. In cruise mode, it’s as stable as a car; once the traffic loosens up a bit, push a button, and when rolling along, the wheels extend out in under a second. Now you can drive at up to 90km/h (56mph). In both modes, you can lean the Triggo into turns, like a motorbike.

Powered by a 15kW electric motor, Triggo offers a solution to our planet’s urban mobility problems. The world’s cities are choking on and clogged up by fossil-fuel-powered cars which are nearly always too big for the task they carry out daily – usually carrying a single occupant, occasionally two, rarely more, into the city centre from the suburbs.

Triggo is safer than a scooter or motorbike. I’ve had three motorbike accidents in my life – none have been my fault. I am conscious of the fact that right now, there’s someone out there whose life will have been saved in future because they were driving a Triggo rather than riding a motorbike at the same place and same time when that inevitable accident happens. And a Triggo is more comfortable, especially in winter or on rainy days – in this respect it’s as comfortable and convenient as a car.

The philosophy behind Triggo is that it should be uncomplicated and reliable, light and cheap – and yet the magic is there, driven by the latest technology. Twelve microcomputers manage the vehicle’s handling; this is ‘drive-by-wire’ – there are no mechanical connectors between the steering wheel and driving wheels. A central hinge creates what is in effect an articulated vehicle, the front wheels lean into corners, the rear wheels are powered by the electric motor. Software allows the driver to dial in their own preferences for driving style – from hard and sporty like a Porsche 911, to a more  laid-back, softer ride, like in an American cruiser.

MD: What’s your business model – how do you intend to get Triggo to as many markets as possible as quickly as possible?

From the outset, we have foreseen the licensing of our patented technology to manufacturers around the world. With ongoing discussions with several potential partners, prospects for a swift lift-off look good. We’re selling Mobility as a Service (MaaS); solutions for cities. It’s much easier to sell a fleet of 500 Triggos to a single operator than to sell the same number to 500 individual clients, each of whom will want to be specifying their vehicle to their individual taste. It was a conscious business decision to move forward this way.

Our strength lies in our patents, which cover countries that between them are home to half of mankind, 4 billion people – well, 3.95 billion to be exact. This is a product that has the potential to unjam our metropolitan areas globally; no one else has a vehicle like Triggo.

MD: How do you see the ongoing switch from petrol- or diesel-powered cars to ones powered by electricity?

RB: Electric cars the size of conventionally powered SUVs are only part of the answer; they still need to be driven into the city centre and parked; they have the same footprint (8-10m2) as the cars they are meant to be replacing. The average electric SUV weighs two tonnes, which is far heavier than what’s needed for carrying one or two humans a short way into town. So charging takes longer – much of that electric power is wasted on propelling unnecessary structure and weight. A conventional electric car with a range of 200km would be entirely acceptable to the motoring public if could be charged in five minutes – yet it takes several hours. But why waste time charging the battery when you can have it swapped in minutes for a fresh one? In Japan, the big motorbike manufacturers have agreed to a common standard swappable battery that will work on all their future electric motorbikes. A swappable battery is also our answer. This will allow for Triggo fleets to be continually on the move, continually available, without the need to be spending several hours a day being charged. The MaaS operator – a city, a public transport authority – will be able to locate dropped-off Triggos via GPS and quickly change depleted batteries for charged ones in minutes. Or – for a discount – a Triggo user can make a short detour to pick up a fresh battery on the way to their final destination.

MD: The pandemic has changed the way we work for good. Though far more people will work from home in future, those who still need to go to their workplace are less likely to choose public transport, preferring an individual mode of transport. The old way of doing it this – driving a fossil-fuel-powered car into the city centre – is no longer sustainable, and soon it will become about as socially acceptable as smoking at your desk. How do you see the future for urban commuting?

RB: Autonomy is the prize, but not in the sense of a car that allows the person in the driving seat to be driven autonomously without their input. The Triggo is intended to be driven by the driver, but to return to its pick-up point by itself. This is easier to achieve than so-called full Category 5 autonomy. The autonomy will be about automated fleet repositioning – empty, self-driving Triggos that can be summoned, for example, to the railway station to meet passengers who can step off their train and into a Triggo to take them the final few kilometres to their destination. A self-driving Triggo should be able to be positioned exactly where it is needed.

Unmanned Triggos will be moving slowly, along known terrain. The technology here is similar to slow-moving robotic vehicles currently being developed to deliver parcels and pizzas in America. We are working with Horiba MIRA (formerly Britain’s Motor Industry Research Association) to provide testbeds for third-party developers wanting to work on autonomy. Adding another microcomputer to the 12 used to manage the Triggo’s drive will be relatively easy; once this is working, Triggo drivers will be able to summon their own vehicle through a smartphone app.

It’s quite possible you may even spot a driverless Triggo or two as it cruises along the streets of Milton Keynes (UK) this summer as we put our vehicles through their paces during a series of controlled and monitored pilot programmes.

MD: Since the concept’s launch, Triggo has generated much interest from around the world, though not that much in Poland. Who’ll be first with Triggo fleets?

RB: Interest is greatest in Asia, especially India, the Middle East, the UK, Germany and France. The firm already has a memorandum of understanding with the government of Singapore, for example, which sees Triggo as an excellent solution for its emergency services, whose first responders need to cut through traffic but who find motorcycles inherently unsafe for such roles. The potential for Triggo as a ‘blue light service’ and critical-supplies vehicle has not gone unnoticed in other countries too.

There are also a number of very exciting initiatives underway in the Middle East in which Triggo has been recognised as a practical and smart mobility solution that can be seamlessly integrated into the smart cities of the future.

The most forward-thinking town planners and transport authorities across the world are assessing how best to integrate smart mobility hubs with their existing urban transport services to improve the daily travel experiences of residents and visitors alike. It will come as no surprise that Triggo ticks their boxes and that we are exploring the most effective deployment of Triggo as an integrated, smart, urban mobility solution with both transport authorities and private-sector MaaS providers.

MD: Triggo has just had a successful initial public offering of new-issue shares on Warsaw’s NewConnect market. How will the funds raised will be used?

The money raised in our IPO will allow us to build 30 Triggos by the end of this year; the first two are heading to Singapore, there are many more expressions of interest from cities or institutions in hosting pilot projects, they will need fleets rather than individual vehicles.

The strategic question now facing us within the next few weeks is whether we build our own factory, or subcontract the production of different elements of the vehicle to different manufacturers. The potential global demand for electric micro-cars is estimated to be several million units a year. Despite that demand, I can’t see anything like Triggo out there at the moment. Conservatively, we are aiming to build 50,000 units by 2026 and 130,000 by 2030.

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