Have you ever wondered what goes into creating a cutting-edge hyper-scooter like the Apollo Pro? The whispers, the debates, the late-night brainstorming sessions? Well, you won't have to be wondering anymore. In this exclusive edition of our blog, we're pulling back the curtain to give you a front-row seat to the action.
Join Mac, our charismatic CEO, and Eloi, our innovative CTO, as they come together for a riveting conversation. Before our latest marvel, the Apollo Pro, we realized that the scattered fragments of discussions, ideas, and insights about the product were like pieces of a puzzle waiting to be assembled.
That's where this blog post comes in. We've sifted through the noise and pieced together the best insights and key takeaways about how The Apollo Pro came to be. Here, you'll discover the magic that sets it apart and learn more about its pivotal role in Apollo's grand plan.
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How did the Pro come to be?
The creation of the Pro was inspired by various elements and driven by a sense of frustration with existing products on the market. Design-wise, we looked at different companies and products for inspiration. The mood board for the Pro included influences from the Cybertruck, particularly its lighting and the finish and sharp edges of Apple's MacBook and iPhone. We wanted the scooter to feel special, so we focused on using high-quality materials, avoiding plastic, and using CNC aluminum for the throttles.
However, aluminum wasn't reliable enough in manufacturing compared to plastic throttles, so we made some adjustments. One of our inspirations in the micro-mobility industry was Vanmoof, especially their clean and simple design and technology like IOT theft tracking.
This inspiration even extended to our new dot display.
Initially, We were reselling rebranded scooters and struggled to differentiate ourselves in marketing and customer service. We wanted to create something better, something unique, much like Dyson did with their vacuum when they were dissatisfied with existing products. This frustration led us to innovate and create the Pro, setting a new standard in our field.
“We aimed to create something not just different, but radically so, something that would directly tackle and resolve the issues we identified in existing OEM products.”
Eloi, CTO & Product Designer of Apollo
What can you tell us about the development process, and why did you make it public?
Why did we decide to make the development process public? The answer to that question is deeply rooted in our desire to connect with our audience.
First and foremost, we recognized that the journey of creating the scooter was filled with intriguing challenges and solutions that people would find fascinating. We poured immense effort into this project, and keeping it all behind closed doors seemed like a missed opportunity. By sharing our daily struggles and triumphs, we hoped to provide a transparent look into the complex process behind a seemingly simple two-wheeled vehicle.
We also believed that bringing people along on this journey would foster trust and understanding. By explaining some of our more controversial choices, like the drum brake, and sharing the ups and downs of development, we aimed to make our audience feel more connected to the company and the individuals behind it.
Feedback was another crucial aspect. It's easy to lose perspective when you're immersed in a project for so long. External input can be a refreshing wake-up call, helping us see things from a different angle. This was especially valuable in the later stages of development, where we had to make critical decisions about features like the display. Though we initially planned not to include one, public feedback led us to reconsider.
Lastly, we wanted to show our commitment to tackling big challenges and delivering a product we truly believed in. We've faced criticism over the years, particularly regarding delivery timelines, but we wanted to demonstrate that we were taking on something significant and complex without cutting any corners. Making ourselves vulnerable by showing the 'ugly' side of development was a risk, but it was one that we felt contributed to the authenticity of our story.
It's been almost three years since we started working on this product, a timeline that might seem insane to some. But we hope that by sharing our journey, we've communicated our dedication to creating something truly special and future-proof. We're not in a hurry; we're committed to making one of the best products for the years to come, even if it means making controversial choices and facing critique.
“The feedback, even from sources like YouTube comments, has been invaluable in shaping our path, and we're grateful for every voice that has contributed to bringing the scooter to where it is today.”
Eloi, CTO & Product Designer of Apollo
Why did you go with the controversial dot display?
We initially planned not to include a display on the scooter, firmly believing that a phone would suffice. However, after receiving feedback from our audience, with 20% of comments questioning the absence of a display at the scooter's price point, we reconsidered. Concerns ranged from the inconvenience of attaching a phone to the scooter to worries about phones getting wet or damaged.
After much deliberation, we decided to invest in a display, a decision that required a complete redesign of the scooter's electronics. This was a challenging process, as retrofitting a new component like a PCB (printed circuit board) to fit the existing design is complex. We learned the hard way that requirements must be clear from the beginning to avoid such difficulties.
We chose a dot display, similar to what's used in traffic lights because it's visible from any angle and doesn't reflect light. It's an elegant, simple, clean, and functional design, much like what Vanmoof uses. We wanted the basic display to show clear numbers and essential information like battery status and error codes without a cock-pit-like experience overwhelming the rider.
The key notion here is the feeling of the ride. Whether you're going at 20 or 25 mph, it's about how fast you feel you're going. Our dot display leans into providing a simple, basic, intuitive experience, allowing riders to focus on the ride rather than being distracted by excessive information.
“It seamlessly blends functionality and aesthetics, providing a large display while accommodating the need for more detailed information in the app.” Mac, CEO & Co-founder of Apollo
Why did you use drum brakes?
One of our more controversial choices was the shift from disc brakes to drum brakes. Previously, we only used disc brakes, except for the City 2021 model. However, flat tires and brake issues became significant pain points for our customers. Whether it was receiving a scooter with a flat tire or misaligned brakes, these problems were often beyond our control at the factory. Even with perfect adjustments, shipping companies could be rough with the boxes, causing misalignments.
We realized that for larger scooters like the Nami, customers might be able to adjust brakes themselves, but for smaller models, people often just wanted to ride without hassle.
So, we decided to make a change across all our models, introducing self-healing tires and drum brakes. This decision coincided with a significant upgrade in our throttles and brake coupling. Now, the pressure applied to the handlebar is directly linked to the amount of regenerative braking the motors apply. This allowed us to remove all four cables under the handlebar, creating a brake feel mimicking mechanical brakes.
Drum brakes are the future. They are weatherproof, resistant to dust, sand, and water, and the brake pads last much longer. While some might argue that mountain bikes and motorcycles have always used hydraulic brakes, we're not implying that hydraulic or disc brakes are inferior. We've learned, especially with the introduction of regenerative braking in the City model, that mechanical brakes have become irrelevant to our scooters. Customers told us they use them 90% less, relying on regenerative braking instead.
In conclusion, our shift to drum brakes was a carefully considered decision driven by customer feedback and a desire to innovate. We believe it represents a step forward in scooter design, offering a more reliable and enjoyable ride.
“Regenerative braking not only replaces the jerky, mechanical experience with a smooth and controlled one but also recharges the battery at the same time. It extends the battery range dramatically, enhancing the overall riding experience.”
Mac, CEO & Co-founder of Apollo
Are you already thinking about V2?
Are we already thinking about a V2 for the Pro? While the idea is there, it's unclear, as the current model is already performing exceptionally well. It's packed with innovative features like regen brakes, a wireless charger, built-in IoT, GPS, and an accelerometer. It's designed to be future-proof, but there's always room for improvement.
What was the most satisfying about the entire process?
The most satisfying part of the development process is receiving and testing prototypes. We'll never forget the excitement of opening each new box and working with engineers to refine the design. All parts are custom-made with the Pro, so each new prototype is equipped with new products that must be tested. It's a fantastic process, and with over 150 different products, there's always something new to explore.
What about the most challenging part of the process?
The throttle was one of the most difficult components to perfect. We tried many different ones before landing on the perfect design. We put a lot of time and effort into it, and it wasn't perfect until a couple of iterations later. We had to make further adjustments to ensure it could withstand 300,000 cycles.
The lights were another challenge. We had to develop our own external module to power them, and then we threw a wrench in the gears by deciding to change all the colors. This led to much room for bugs and required 21 iterations before we got it right.
The integration of IoT was another significant hurdle. Many companies offered lacking, expensive solutions that didn't fit our design ethos. We wanted something integrated into the deck, surrounded by metal, not an ugly box sticking out. It seemed impossible, but we found a way to make it work, incorporating features like Wi-Fi, IP address, and triangulation.
These technologies were widespread in shared scooters but were never optimized for design and user experience. Scooters needed to be solid and functional in the sharing market, often at a high cost. For privately owned scooters, we focused on design and user experience, making integrating these features a unique challenge.
We also had to consider the cost. Shared scooters are expensive, and we had to find a way to offer premium features without passing the entire cost onto the customer. We had to create the whole infrastructure and back-end ourselves, which was, and still is, very difficult.
“The development of the Pro was a journey filled with excitement, innovation, challenges, and triumphs. From the thrill of testing new prototypes to the satisfaction of overcoming design hurdles, it's a process that has resulted in a scooter that stands out in bold relief.”
Security has been our major focus, making the Pro one of the most secure scooters on the market. Features like a built-in alarm, electromagnetic lock on the motors, sensors to detect theft, and a kill switch make the scooter highly secure. A locking accessory provides an extra layer of protection, even though the scooter's built-in security features are already robust.
What's the big picture here?
Unlike many scooter companies that see their products as mere complements to other modes of transportation, we envision our scooters as replacements for cars and buses. This perspective guided our engineering decisions, leading us to focus on the weight and design of our products as vehicle replacements. We also took the bold step of controlling the entire supply chain, from the controller to the app, the software, and the scooter itself. This presents challenges but also opportunities to deliver more value to our customers.
Reflecting on the three-year journey of working on the scooter, it's clear that this project has been transformative. From the initial concept to the final product, the experience has changed us as individuals.
“The Pro epitomizes our belief in creating products that people will love and use every day, and it's a stepping stone towards a future where we have three unique products that meet the needs of every rider in the market.”
Mac, CEO & Co-founder of Apollo
What did you not share about the Pro?
Well, we infused it with personality and surprises, like a hidden Easter egg in the app and a playful meme that appears on the display when you reach certain speeds. But that's just the tip of the iceberg! The Apollo Pro is chock-full of innovative features and delightful details waiting for you to discover them.
If you're looking for a scooter that combines top-tier performance with a sense of fun and adventure, the Apollo Pro really hits the spot. Don't just take our word for it; experience the excitement, quality, and innovation for yourself. Join the Apollo family and ride into the future like a PRO!
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OCTOBER 2, 2023
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