Both average folk and environmentalists wait in earnest for all-electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF, the Chevy Volt or Israel’s Better Place-Renault car to roll out of the plants, but greener transportation solutions are needed now. Bridging the gap is Israel’s GreenRoad, which has found such an efficient way to save fuel and reduce accidents that even the insurance companies are impressed.
The company hasn’t built a hybrid-electric powered turbo engine that runs for hundreds of miles. It hasn’t figured out how to power road vehicles with hydrogen or water. And you won’t find it selling a solution that will only be ready sometime down the line. Instead, GreenRoad has an attractive tool that saves gas for trucking fleets and cuts down on accidents – simple as that.
The GreenRoad solution is a software- and technology-based tool that gives drivers and fleet managers real-time feedback and analysis of drivers’ abilities and driving patterns. The system tells drivers how to improve fuel consumption, so that managers can begin to see improvements almost immediately. Measuring such things as G-force, as drivers round the bend, GreenRoad can accurately point out where driving patterns cross the line between safe and risky.
Generation Investment Management, the investment firm chaired by former US vice president and long-term environmental activist Al Gore, liked the idea so much, that it has just pumped $10 million into the company.
Solutions for the “here and now”
Hod Fleishman, co-founder of GreenRoad, and now the company’s safety manager tells ISRAEL21c that he thinks it was the “here and now” aspect of the clean tech initiative that appealed to Generation. Although he didn’t meet Gore personally, he met regularly with the fund’s managers who consult with Gore.
And it’s not only the seven to 10 percent in fuel savings that are apparent in just six months (At about $30 a month per truck, the GreenRoad solution pays for itself and starts to save a fleet money six months into a three-year contract, according to Fleishman) that are attractive to fleet managers and owners, but also the 50% or greater reduction in accidents with its solution on board that GreenRoad boasts.
This means that insurance premiums are lower, because the system also improves driver safety, reducing the likelihood of trucking accidents followed by paralyzing lawsuits. Already insurance companies in the US such as Marsh, and the UK’s Belmont are offering to take on previously uninsurable trucking companies if they install the GreenRoad system, says Fleishman.
Fleishman has come a long way since ISRAEL21c first ran a story in 2005 on DriveDianostics, the precursor of GreenRoad, of which he was CEO.
“We were just two people and a dog back then,” jokes Fleishman, whose firm has since seen $40 million in financing, and has a staff of 90 people working in Israel, the UK and the US. Research and development activities are based in central Israel in Beit Dagan, for the company that was founded in 2004, while sales and marketing operate out of the UK and US offices in San Francisco.
Superstar companies seek out GreenRoad
GreenRoad will use the capital from Generation Investment Management to deploy its GreenRoad 360 service among existing and new customers.
Fleishman tells ISRAEL21c that GreenRoad’s goals are in line with “… what Al Gore and Generation stand for,” adding that Generation is the second fund that has invested in GreenRoad. The first was one has an equally sexy and impressive superstar at its helm: Richard Branson of Virgin Green Ventures.
Fleishman laughs: “I didn’t meet Richard Branson either. But it’s great to hear big names have an interest in what we do. It’s an approval. Many companies are seeing future opportunities, such as better fuel, better batteries – but not in the here and now.
“What’s been interesting for these funds is that GreenRoad is implemented easily today. It doesn’t require replacing all the engines of the world, but revolves around controlling user behavior,” he explains.
“We have pretty high-profile clients,” Fleishman reveals. They include the biggest bus fleet in the UK, FirstGroup and 9,000 buses, and last year the company won a contract for the UK’s Ministry of Defense, for outfitting its vans and buses with the GreenRoad solution. “No, it’s not for tanks,” responds the convivial Fleishman.
Fleet risk reduced by 52 percent
The recent Gore-related investment funds will be used for marketing and continued development. Even though the product is ready for sales, there are “still many cool things we can do to help fleets achieve their objectives,” Fleishman declares. He hopes to show them even more ways to benefit from the system. “We have good revenues but we want to boost development and remain the market leader in our field,” he says.
Competitors offer video surveillance tapes that record drivers on the job. But watching the tapes is labor intensive and the solution contributes more to understanding what happened after a crash occurs, than to preventing accidents and saving fuel. The tapes are sent to a call center in the Philippines, where they are watched and analyzed and then a report is sent back to Cincinnati, Fleishman recounts. He says that drivers tend to find the approach invasive.
Other companies provide fleet management tools using a GPS trace to track speed limits and monitor mileage and speed. “It’s much less sophisticated than what we do,” reiterating that fleet risk is reduced by up to 52 percent. Now that’s something to honk your horn about.
This story first appeared on ISRAEL21c - www.israel21c.org and is reprinted with permission.