Case: How DEKRA is helping Brekr to climb the steep learning curve in e-mobility testing

Apr 15, 2020 Digital & Product Solutions

Widely described as a “futuristic café racer” in motorcycle magazines, the Brekr has created a whole new category of electrically powered mopeds. As such an innovative product, it involves a steep learning curve for the experienced team of developers – not least due to the complexity of the testing and certification landscape for e-mobility solutions. DEKRA is providing valuable support in the area of EMC testing and beyond.

Brekr was founded in 2018 by Niels Willems, a successful online entrepreneur, and Jasper Hagedoorn, an industrial designer and product developer with extensive experience in the bike industry, along with a third investor. Since then, the team has been expanded with experts in creative design, engineering and marketing, supported by a flexible layer of additional employees to facilitate the company’s continued growth. The two men were inspired by the idea of developing a moped that has the same allure of mopeds from the 1950s and ’60s, but without all the harmful emissions. “Petrol mopeds generate a lot of pollution which is becoming a real problem in cities. So we wanted to develop a product that would actively stimulate the energy transition – it definitely had to have the cool factor. Therefore, the keywords in the development process were design, power and speed,” says Willems.

Merging the past with the future

The resulting Brekr certainly fits the brief. The moped merges the past with the future in an individualistic yet logical design. It has a motor with 2,500 Watt nominal power and 4,000 Watt peak power, and a maximum speed of 45 km/h (category L1e-B in Europe). The removable 1.9 kWh battery offers a large range of 50 to 80 kilometers per charge (which can be doubled by adding a second battery). “All other electric mopeds on the market have a characteristic fuel tank, but no fuel – it’s crazy but true! We’re proud of the fact that we’ve designed the Brekr without a fuel tank. Instead, we’ve incorporated a battery box and placed it as low as possible for optimal maneuverability,” continues Willems.

Unique commitment to design and customization

One thing that makes the company so unique is its unwavering commitment to design. The Doetinchem-based start-up is clearly proud of having its roots in the Achterhoek, a region in the east of the Netherlands which has a rich history of manufacturing, motocross, music and the reputation for being able the throw a good party. “The green in our company logo echoes the green in the region’s flag, as well as representing the ‘green ride’ that the Brekr delivers,” he explains. The company offers a wide choice of customization options, and is taking the design element even further as it is currently working on a range of Brekr accessories such as helmets and locks.

Minimizing supply chain complexity

Besides its focus on design, the company also stands out thanks to its sourcing philosophy. “At my previous employer, a major bicycle manufacturer, we had a very complex supply chain and it was a huge hassle to match the right component to the right bike,” recalls Hagedoorn. “Therefore, right from the start we’ve aimed to work with just a handful of suppliers that are the right fit with us in terms of experience and mindset. There are so many start-ups around nowadays, all claiming they have ‘the next big thing’, that it can be hard to get suppliers to take you seriously at first. We’re rewarding the ones who believed in us at the start with our continued loyalty today.” Willems adds: “The Brekr is also designed to minimize our supply chain complexity. Each and every Brekr is 95% identical. This helps to keep our supply chain simple, plus enables us to manufacture in small batches at a competitive price. Meanwhile, riders can still create their own Brekr by customizing the color of the aluminum plate and the saddle.”

Production challenges

The Brekr Model B is scheduled for launch in June 2020. “The coronavirus outbreak has delayed this a little but we are still on track for late June – although we don’t know what future measures we might have to take, of course,” comments Willems. “Our suppliers are keeping us up to date and doing the best they can for us. We might end up producing a smaller batch first, and then make up the difference with larger batches later.” With the launch date rapidly approaching, the company is keen to get its product homologized as quickly as possible so that the Brekr moped is authorized for sale. “Although we’ve outsourced the production itself to a manufacturing company in the Dutch town of Veghel, we’re handling the homologation process ourselves,” explains Hagedoorn. “The RDW recommended that we should contact DEKRA for the testing. They are located just down the road from us, and they also reacted quickly to our enquiry.”

EMC testing

The focus was on EMC (R10) testing, based on the requirements for electromagnetic compatibility in emission and immunity. “The Brekr was evaluated in all kinds of modes of operation, both stationary and in motion, with the lights and indicators on and off, the horn and so on, to see what happens when the product is exposed to electromagnetic interference, and whether it emits any electromagnetic interference itself,” he continues. “Unfortunately, no matter how much thought you put into designing, developing and building a product, you never actually know exactly how it will work until you test it in practice. So we regarded the first test DEKRA did as a kind of a pre-scan. That revealed that we still need to make some changes to the cable routing to the headlamp, but we’re pretty confident that we will pass the test next time around.”

Other e-mobility testing challenges

In the case of an e-mobility product such as the Brekr, there is no single international standard that applies. Instead, various ISO and IEC standards are relevant for the individual components such as lighting, electronics, batteries and the recharging aspect. DEKRA is an ideal partner in such cases thanks to its long-standing heritage in both mechanical and electrical testing and certification. “For us at Brekr, it’s very much about working with the right suppliers that have the right knowledge to help us – whether it’s for the frames and covers, the mechanical/electrical systems and batteries, or testing and certification,” concludes Hagedoorn. “Despite having run a test center with a 70-strong team in the past, I’ve never had hands-on involvement in the testing and certification process before. Also, the standards landscape is particularly complex for the Brekr so it has been a steep learning curve. The specialists from DEKRA were very patient and took the time to explain everything to us, which was a big help. As a start-up, any expertise DEKRA can share with us is more than welcome!”