Name: Tristan Thorvald
Contact: 0045 53 89 77 07
Company: Francis Automotive ApS
Website: No website yet
Position: Co Founder
Industry: Car manufacturing
From architecture to CEO of a boutique electric sports car start up, how did this come about?
Since finishing my higher education I have also enjoyed the start-up and development process of companies. Having developed companies within the education sector, health sector and construction sector, I believe finding a niche and acquiring the people with the right skills gives you a good starting point. While developing the architectural firm my passion for track driving grew. Having tinkered with my own car to make it run the way I felt works best, you soon realise developing the car from the ground up is the only way to get the results you truly want. Looking at the automotive industry the logical progression seems to be electric vehicles, which lead us to the birth of Francis Automotive.
Tell us about the business?
Francis Automotive is looking at developing a modern electric car, with aesthetics from the gorgeous classic cars of the past. The first few years will focus on the development of the prototype and getting that running perfectly. Once this is complete, we will shift our focus to the development of the aesthetics of the car with a full inhouse developed exterior and interior.
Car manufacturing has some of the largest barriers to entry, what have you done to work around this?
By keeping our team small initially, we can keep development costs down. For safety equipment we will not be developing our own parts. This also helps us avoid the tedious and expensive approval process for them. We are also working with the Danish Technical University for their expertise within the electrical vehicle sector. They have an in house team of students and professors, which have developed and race their own electrical car. They proudly share that this model was built completely from the ground up.
The sector has large upside potential with economies of scale. What are you doing to get around this or are you planning on leveraging this as an exit plan?
Initially our main goal will be to get a well-functioning prototype. With the development of in-house software to operate the car, we are confident we can make one the best-managed and efficient electrical power train. Having set specific dates along the development process to see if we continue as a bespoke boutique, or start to look at collaborating with larger vehicle manufacturers. Should we continue as a bespoke unit for our final car, we are not aiming to take advantage of economies of scale, but the extremely high-end market with only a few units produced a year and an immaculate finish.
A lot of countries are increasing taxes on consumers and businesses access to cars to reduce CO2. Is there a way to bring the government on board to help market your cause?
The EU are constantly increasing regulation on emissions with vehicles being developed, and future cars are moving towards a full electrical drivetrain. It is possible to seek government support for start-ups within Denmark. However, we feel unless it is vital, these funds should be left for start-ups that are truly cash strapped.
What technical specialists are you surrounding yourself with?
Initially there are three of us working directly on the prototype. Bastian, who is a master with a lathe and works well with wood. These are both skills that will be required during the development of the prototype. Nicholas, who is a tech guru and will focus on the development of all the onboard software. And finally, myself, I will focus on business development, future sales channels and production of the prototype. With a partnership with DTU, we will have a team of specialists at implementing and developing the electrical powertrain.
What are the challenges with building an electric car in comparison to a traditional car?
The main challenges faced are the trade-off between weight and range. Batteries are still at their infancy of technological development, so we must remain flexible with our battery technology used. Currently the weight of an electrical car far surpasses a traditional car. This makes both handling, and braking an issue. By the time our prototype is complete battery technology will have come a long way, hopefully alleviating this issue. Secondly, regulations on electrical cars are constantly changing as the industry advances, whereas traditional cars do not see drastic changes to the requirements to be road legal.
This is now your fourth start up, all four in different industries, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter different sectors when they see opportunity?
With all start-ups you should find your niche, believe in your idea and surround yourself with the right people. It is unreasonable to think you have the skills required in a sector that others have been in for decades!