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[Korean Startup Interview] Eflow: Pioneering the Future of Micromobility with Advanced AFPM Technology

2024-03-15 8 min read


[Korean Startup Interview] Eflow: Pioneering the Future of Micromobility with Advanced AFPM Technology

Reading Time: 8 minutes
  • funding Stage : Pre-Series A 
  • Raising Amount : KRW 2B
  • Desired Fundraising Timeframe : 1Q 2024

At ‘CES 2024‘, technology trends highlighted mobility as a key area following AI. Mobility is expected to enhance the variety of available services through integration with AI and see an expansion of the micromobility market in line with eco-friendly energy policies. Issues such as urbanization, personalization, and carbon neutrality suggest that smaller modes of transport will become increasingly diversified and expanded. Amid optimistic forecasts for global micromobility market growth, Eflow manufactures powertrains that are critical for the efficiency and performance of micromobility.

Eflow’s axial flux permanent magnet motor (AFPM), ‘axDriver’, addresses the limitations of traditional radial motors. While radial motors are restricted by their output torque and offer a mere 40Km driving range, necessitating frequent recharges and over 3 hours of charging time, Eflow’s AFPM motor delivers more than double the output torque. It also significantly reduces the variety and quantity of materials and components needed through miniaturization and weight reduction. Furthermore, Eflow’s powertrain is developed to be compatible with both lithium and hydrogen fuel cells, enabling stable, high-performance operation. The company has developed its facilities to produce and charge hydrogen fuel for micromobility. Through ongoing research and development, Eflow has established proprietary technology, offering superior performance in aspects such as torque, driving range, charging time, and equipment lifespan compared to competitors.

Eflow is currently seeking investment to expand its manufacturing and production capabilities necessary for market pre-emption. The investments will be allocated to areas such as mass production facilities, factory expansion, raw material costs, testing and certification fees, and global PoC.

Eflow’s CEO, Soohan Yoon, stated, “The Eflow team is proud of our worldwide variety of technologies and know-how in AFPM motors. As we are in the development and commercialization phase, we believe that with significant interest and investment, we can grow into a global company, a unicorn.”

What problem is Eflow addressing?

With the upcoming ban on the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles starting in Europe by 2025, there’s been an acceleration in developing eco-friendly modes of transport that don’t emit carbon. The annual market size is expected to reach KRW 40 trillion with a 10% growth rate. As a specialist in developing axial flux permanent magnet motors (AFPM) for micromobility since 2015, we have been producing high-efficiency, high-performance powertrains for micromobility.

The eco-friendly micromobility market includes entries from automobile companies like Benz, Audi, GM, and Ford. However, the radial motors they commonly use are limited in their output torque and have a driving range of only 40Km, requiring multiple charges per day and over 3 hours per charge, a significant efficiency drawback. To address this, our developed AFPM motor, based on domestically and internationally patented technology, achieves more than double the torque of existing motors and supports high-performance micromobility through miniaturization and weight reduction.

How does Eflow solve this?

Firstly, Eflow innovates the motor driving method. Unlike the conventional radial flux permanent magnet motor (RFPM), the AFPM developed by Eflow aligns the axis direction with the magnetic flux direction, allowing for much greater force. This results in a motor that is a third of the size of conventional motors and dramatically reduces the variety and quantity of required materials and components.

Furthermore, with the addition of features like InWheel, the global industry is shifting towards AFPM. The development of controllers tailored to motor characteristics not only enhances functionality but also significantly improves efficiency when replacing large quantities (100 or more per vehicle).

Secondly, Eflow efficiently utilizes fuel cells. It ensures compatibility with lithium/hydrogen fuel cells and supports stable, high-performance powertrain operation through efficient research on hydrogen fuel cells, developing and applying supercapacitors. Eflow has also developed facilities to produce and charge hydrogen fuel specifically for micromobility, which was selected for the 2023 TIPS project.

Thirdly, Eflow is improving materials. The company focuses on developing both the powertrain and the vehicle body to enhance micromobility performance. Collaborating with leading global companies, it is advancing research and development using materials like carbon and carbon fiber to create eco-friendly micromobility solutions.

What are Eflow’s competitive advantages and technological strengths?

Our company has achieved significantly advanced technology compared to our competitors as a result of the technological strengths we’ve mentioned. In micromobility, factors like torque, driving range, charging time, and equipment lifespan are critical. Eflow exceeds its competitors with torque more than three times higher (155Nm), a driving range more than tripled, and charging time reduced from hours to under two minutes. Additionally, we’ve increased the average equipment lifespan from 1.8 years to over 5 years.

Our core technology, the AFPM motor, has been a focal point in the global motor market as the “motor of the future.” Until 2020, only two companies globally could manufacture it due to patent technology transfers (exclusive rights) – YASA (for large-scale motors in the UK) and EFLOW (for small to medium-scale motors). Particularly, Frank Heller, the former CTO of SCHILLER, which held the original patent, joining Eflow significantly propelled us forward in competitiveness.

YASA segmented its technology for aviation and automotive applications, selling its aviation motor division to Rolls Royce for 18 million pounds (KRW 30.2 billion) in 2019, and its automotive motor division to the Daimler (Mercedes Benz) group for 56.2 million dollars (KRW 74.6 billion) in 2020, starting mass production. Eflow is the first company worldwide to mass-produce small to medium motors, having completed pilot production in 2023.

Following Daimler Group’s announcement to incorporate AFPM motor technology into all new cars post-2025, there has been a surge in global motor market development efforts. However, overcoming the competition in the required time and know-how for research, development, and manufacturing technology is challenging, leading many, including Hyundai Motors, to seek collaboration with our company.

What products does Eflow provide?

First, we offer the AFPM motor as a standalone product, targeting clients who develop their own fuel cells and controllers.

Second, we sell the AFPM motor along with a controller module set that operates each wheel motor, aimed at clients who can source their own hydrogen/lithium fuel cells.

Third, we offer a complete powertrain set that includes the AFPM motor, controller, and onboard fuel cell, where clients only need to add the chassis (housing) to our components.

For clients with experience in related businesses (e.g., electric scooters/e-bikes), we sell either the motor alone or a simplified powertrain. For new entrants from different industries, we also offer the full specification of our entire product.

What market size is Eflow targeting, and who are its core customers?

According to Mordor Intelligence, the European micromobility market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 12.5%, from approximately €9.91208 billion (about KRW 14 trillion) in 2023 to €17.84359 billion (about KRW 26 trillion) by 2028. The market for cargo bikes for delivery is also expected to expand from KRW 1 trillion in 2022 to KRW 2 trillion by 2027. All customers aiming to enter this market are potential clients for Eflow.

What is Eflow’s business model?

Our business strategy is categorized into several models:

Firstly, as a B2B model, we supply powertrains to demand companies.

Secondly, as B2B and B2C models, we sell electric bicycles for delivery, powered by hydrogen fuel cells. In these first two models, our customers include electric bicycle manufacturers and distributors for delivery.

Lastly, as B2B and B2B2C models, we participate in building hydrogen refueling infrastructure facilities. Our customers here include operators of charging infrastructure, shared mobility, and BSS platform companies. We aim to expand our customer base to include hydrogen fuel cell motorcycles and small electric vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, moving beyond electric bicycles.

From 2025, we plan to mass-produce up to 100,000 AFPM motors annually, selling combinations of various powertrain options. Starting in 2026, we intend to expand globally, offering AFPM motor sales along with hydrogen fuel production and refueling infrastructure.

What has the Eflow team achieved so far?

Since being designated as an incubating company by the Gyeongnam Creative Economy Innovation Center (Gyeongnam CCEI) in 2015, we have been selected as the exclusive Korean partner of Resom GmbH, and a promising ICT sector company (K-Global 300) by the Ministry of Science and ICT. In 2018, we established our corporate research institute, received certification as the Korean cooperating company of Pragma in France, and signed a supply contract MOU. In 2019, we developed a 250W AFPM power module and moved into the standard factory in the Changwon Masan Free Economic Zone. In 2021, we received approval to join the KOTRA BI office in Frankfurt, Germany, and participated in EURO BIKE 2021.

Regarding investment, in 2022, we attracted KRW 200 million in Seed Round funding from Enlight Ventures, and investments from POSTECH Holdings (KRW 300 million) and Gyeongnam New Deal Innovation Venture Investment (KRW 200 million). That same year, we opened our Frankfurt, Germany branch and established a Seoul office.

In December 2022, we signed an MOU with AKKURAD in Germany for a $1 million/year supply agreement, established Eflow North America in February 2023, and attracted investments from d・camp (KRW 100 million) and BlissVine (KRW 150 million). Last May, we were selected for the TIPS program, and in June, we won an excellence award at the UN Social Problem-Solving Startup Competition. We also attracted investments from Quantum Ventures (KRW 200 million) and BTV Ventures (KRW 150 million), closing our Seed Round with a total accumulated investment of KRW 1.3 billion. In January this year, we joined the DRIVERY Program at the Global PoC Center in Berlin, Germany.

What makes the Eflow team competitive?

CEO Soohan Yoon, who has a background as a researcher at KIST and rose to the position of Director of Technology Marketing in his 30s at a global electronics company in Hong Kong, founded Eflow with confidence in commercializing AFPM technology after encountering it by chance. He embodies a spirit of constant challenge, not settling for past successes.

CTO Frank Heller, who served as the CTO of SCHILLER, the company that first developed the AFPM, now brings that expertise to Eflow. Additionally, Professor Yongjin Yoon, who received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and serves as a professor of mechanical engineering at KAIST, is our research director. Our team also includes a variety of experts in key positions.

Three reasons why we need investment!

Eflow is currently seeking pre-Series A funding, with a company valuation target of KRW 20 billion and an investment goal of KRW 2 billion.

First, we need to expand our manufacturing/production capabilities. We plan to equip and expand our factory, requiring funds for raw materials such as motor electrical steel, copper, magnets, testing, certification fees, and global PoCs.

Second, we intend to outsource motor production to SNT Motiv, which develops key components for automotive motors and defense industry products. This requires initial production costs, including mold fees.

Third, with volumes expected to exceed 100,000 units post-2025, our CTO and CSO in Stuttgart, Germany, will gather customer needs to apply to our products and receive feedback. Concurrently, we plan to continue mass production in Korea, following this feedback loop with local customers.

[Korean Startup Interview]

스타트업 투자의 숨은 말 '다코스'
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