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About Shift to Solar

  • Founders: Rens van Gurp
  • Founded in: 2021
  • Employees: A pool of six freelancers
  • Money raised: Practically only their own money
  • Ultimate goal: To build a wonderful business that is a structural part of a more beautiful, sustainable and better world.
Why we write on this topic:

Really good business ideas can be born out of exasperation. That is proven once more by the entrepreneur Rens van Gurp from the Dutch city of Zwolle. Fed up with only being able to charge his electric bike at home, he founded a start-up to remedy this problem.

You are just about to unlock your bike and you are in a hurry because showing up late for your job interview is not an option. Or you are inserting your key in the lock of your car. In ten minutes, the spinning class doors will close and they will stay that way for anyone who turns up late. “It’s always at just those times that you forget to charge your electric vehicle,” Rens van Gurp starts out by saying.

Van Gurp founded Shift to Solar, a start-up that comes up with smart solutions for electric vehicles. For example, he developed a solar carport for cars and a Hive ‘n Drive for e-bikes and other small types of e-vehicles. In this instalment of start-up of the day, the Zwolle-based entrepreneur talks to us about his company and ambitions.   

Rens, tell us. How are you going to free us from the exasperation caused by an uncharged vehicle at the wrong time?

Beeld: Fred Kraaij
Rens van Gurp. Photo: Fred Kraaij

“With our Hive ‘n Drive: a universal, circular charging station for e-bikes and other smaller e-vehicles. Solar panels are mounted on the roof of that charging station. You don’t need to bring a charging cable, it’s built in. This allows you to charge while at work and avoids those occasions when you need your bike but it is uncharged. We are also developing a solar carport for cars that is equipped with solar panels.”

And you came up with that idea because you often ended up with an uncharged bike yourself?

“Yes! I do have an electric bike myself. Once you leave home, there are very few places you can recharge your bike. And you don’t always have your charging cable tucked underneath your carrier straps either. You really have to remember to bring it with you.”

Who are your customers?

“We are mainly targeting companies and governments so that they can offer their employees the opportunity to charge their bikes while they are at the office. Together with the province of Overijssel, we set up a survey. The findings showed that in our province, 65 percent of employees live within 15 kilometers of their workplace. Quite a large group that’s living within perfect (e-)cycling distance. That is an indication of how large our target group is.”

What was the biggest challenge?

“Look, building a bike rack with solar panels like this is not rocket science. The challenge lay in developing universal charging systems. How can we create a charging station where you have the ability to charge as many electric bikes as possible? You can compare it to charging systems for phones. We are now getting closer and closer to having a universal charger for phones, the USB-C, but that took years of struggle. In that respect, electric bikes are where phones were twenty years ago. We have succeeded in part; we now cover seventy percent of electric bikes. The next step is wireless charging.”

Where will Shift to Solar be in five years’ time?

“We installed our first charging station in April. We now have twelve charging stations for electric bikes up and running. A few years from now there will be a lot more. It would be really great if our charges bays would also be available beyond the national borders by then. That wouldn’t be due to a lack of demand, which is extremely high.”

Cover photo: Fred Kraaij