When Peter Deppe was a college student, he noticed that last-mile mobility devices were littering his college campus. While these micromobility devices solved an important commuting challenge, they also posed a new problem: There was no simple charging solution.
When last-mile devices first launched, people were tasked with collecting the devices at the end of the day to charge them in their homes for a fee. But before they got picked up, scooters and other vehicles would be littering sidewalks and other throughways. This inspired Deppe to start Kuhmute (pronounced “commute”), a company with the express purpose of developing an agnostic charging hub that could handle basically anything smaller than a car. After less than two years of research and development, the Kuhmute charging hub was born.
Peter Deppe, Co-Founder and CEO, Kuhmute: As a start-up, design is never finished. There’s always something you can add to make your product that much better.
The idea of Kuhmute pretty much came around the same time we saw a problem we could solve. We’re the supercharging network for anything smaller than an electric car, better known as “micromobility.” Electric scooters, bikes, wheelchairs, delivery robots, and more—they can all park and charge in our charging hubs.
I knew I wanted to get into starting a company. Being in Michigan, obviously the automotive industry is pretty big here. So we figured mobility and transportation were a great place to start.
Around that time, in 2018ish, we saw electric scooters become super-popular across the world. And in pretty much every news article and newspaper, there was one story that was always repeating—of scooter clutter scattered all over the city.
So, we figured, why don’t we provide a little bit of organization and operational help in terms of public charging for these small micro-vehicles?
When designing our first prototypes, the first one probably took a couple of hours. We went to Home Depot, got some PVC pipes, and threw something together to get the basic rough idea. That was the first Kuhmute hub that was in existence, and then from there, obviously, we’ve made it more robust and more reliable.
There are definitely still things in the product roadmap that we’re going to be adding here soon just to make it that much better of a product. So having software that we can just quickly draw something up, throw it on a printer, having a prototype part ready the next day was super-important for us.
I think the area manufacturing companies, in general, can benefit the most is having a digital thread when it comes to manufacturing processes—being able to send a file digitally to the other side of the US to maybe a potential other Kuhmute microfactory so, that way, they can print the part there. It saves on shipping. It’s better for the world we live in terms of sustainability and, ultimately, is a lower cost per part because we’re not going through all of those hurdles and we’re just sending files.
So having this cloud connection and then having different manufacturing processes that benefit from that is super-important for us in terms of, obviously, financially saving money but then sustainably just being a better company, as well.
John Larr, Electrical Engineer, Kuhmute: A lot of work goes into the ideation—kind of figuring out what are we going to build and how are we going to build it. The ability to use [Autodesk] Fusion 360 electronics and integrate the mechanical pieces and the 3D elements of the electrical design really helps us iterate.
I can push designs on my end, and they get delivered seamlessly to our mechanical team. Having that ability to understand the sizing, the form factor, and the limitations of the actual hardware makes it that much easier; it really drives home collaboration.
Melody Denby, Full-Stack Developer, Kuhmute: This place is a start-up, and you’ve got a lot of opportunities to learn—even areas that you wouldn’t think about. I feel like I’ve gotten some intros to electrical engineering all the way to firmware and now through the front-end. I’m putting on all those hats. It’s been really, really fun. I like that we get to be able to joke around with each other and also work toward our common goal of parking and charging.
Carter Holmes, Launch Manager, Kuhmute: Technology is the driving force behind everything we do here at Kuhmute. By the time I came in, it was a very streamlined process with assembly, and now we’re just looking at ways to improve that. I’ve watched our CEO put together a whole new design in an hour, and we can have something up and running from the ground up—designed, printed, and assembled for testing by a day or two. Without technology, without the software and the tools that we have, I don’t think any of that would be possible.
Deppe: Here at Kuhmute, we’re always looking for the most sustainable ways to manufacture our products. Having that flexibility of everything being linked back to the same place, over the cloud, it’s better for the world we live in in terms of sustainability and, ultimately, builds a better team.