Need a ride? Hail a Tesla!
Zerology promotes shared mobility with electric Tesla Model 3s.
Photograph by M.O.D. Media Productions
From the pages of In Business magazine.
Having just completed the sale of Forte Research Systems, a technology company he founded in 2000, Shree Kalluri is on to his next plan.
The breadth of his new venture, Zerology, was on display Oct. 16, when the company announced a partnership with Green Cab Co. of Madison to create an all-electric cab company, one of the first in the U.S. But it was the electric taxicabs — state-of-the-art Tesla Model 3s — that no doubt made the biggest splash at Breese Stevens Field.
Zerology is focused on making Madison the national standard for sustainable living, an idea Kalluri has been studying for years.
“I became very conscious of what was happening in the environment,” he explains. “Every day there were natural disasters impacting the civilized world. Emissions from things like carbon dioxide (CO2) are creating havoc, and we need to take immediate action to save our planet.”
While waiting several months for his own electric vehicle, a Tesla Model 3, to arrive, he explored the idea of living car-free and was pleasantly surprised at the convenience of on-call transportation using just an app. Then he learned that battery costs, whichdrove the costs of electric vehicles, had been steadily dropping for years. Finally, Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, announced plans to develop a more affordable — about $39,000 — Tesla Model 3.
Suddenly, his dreams for a cleaner, more livable Madison were within reach.
“Look at all the apartments going up around Madison. Thirty percent of young professionals don’t own a car, but they want access to one at an affordable rate, so if we can get an average household with two or three cars down to one, we’ve done a lot.”
Kalluri compares Zerology to a Zipcar with electric vehicles and says other manufacturers are taking notice, as well.
“The trend is going to a point where car ownership won’t really be required.”
Kalluri asked Green Cab to rethink its hybrid car business model, which used ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles.
“We told them we would provide the electric vehicles, take over the maintenance and charging costs, and their drivers could try this. They agreed to partner with us.”
Zerology promotes three ridership experiences in its shared mobility platform: ride-sharing, where electric vehicles are parked and charged at multitenant properties and businesses around town; van pooling, in partnership with Green Cab Co., to transport multiple riders with predictable schedules; and ride-hailing, also with Green Cab, a traditional, eco-friendly taxi service.
But just going electric isn’t enough, Kalluri maintains. In Madison, where nearly 65 percent of people drive solo, a car is used only 4 percent of the time, on average, so he believes the number of cars must be reduced, as well. That’s where ride-sharing and even increasing bus ridership comes in.
With the monthly cost for a personal vehicle averaging about $700 a month, according to Zerology’s data, Kalluri says that within a few short years, the cost of purchasing and maintaining electric vehicles will be more affordable than ICE vehicles.
Zerology’s transportation-as-a-service model (TaaS) provides vehicles on an as-needed basis, and maintenance, charging costs, and insurance is included.
The technology company is developing an app that he says will integrate all of the area’s sustainable transportation options and schedules through collaborations with other companies like BCycle, so riders can coordinate their travel from points A to B to C using any configuration of sustainable transportation based on their time demands. It won’t happen overnight, but it is the transportation wave of the future, he insists.
“Transportation is so fundamental to how the world works. If we can make it affordable and reduce emissions, what an amazing thing that would be.”
The company just closed on its first funding round and will purchase as many as 35 high-tech Tesla Model 3s to start. It won’t always be Tesla-exclusive, Kalluri notes, but right now, it’s a great selling point.
“Who doesn’t want to drive a Tesla?”
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