They are driven in Scandinavian shipyards, on golf courses in the USA and in large industrial plants from Europe to Australia and New Guinea. In one of the Croatian national parks, there are much more cars than any other vehicle. After the temporary turmoil associated with the political changes in Poland, the company from Mielec with fully charged batteries continues to conquer global markets.
Do you know that Melex is one of the longest operating producers of electric vehicles in the world? It is also no exaggeration to say that it is a global company. Over the last 45 years, it has exported its vehicles to countries on all continents, and the first vehicles from Mielec, which were created in the 1970s, were produced at the request of a recipient from overseas.
“It all started with the legendary order of our vehicles for golf courses in the United States, thanks to which the company started mass production. In the best years for our company, even several thousand golf carts were sold to this market every year” says Miłosz Cieszyński from the marketing department of Melex.
The products of the aircraft factory from communist Poland – at that time operating under the name Wytwórnia Urządzeń Komunikacyjnego in Mielec – turned out to be very competitive, thanks to which Melex quickly gained a 10% share in the US market.
The embargo imposed on Poland by President Ronald Reagan in connection with the introduction of martial law in our country stopped the expansion of the company from Mielec on the American market, but at the same time mobilized it to look for new markets. Thanks to new customers from Europe and the expansion of the offer (it turned out that melexes work well not only as golf carts, but also in the transport of goods and people over short distances), the company quickly recovered.
“Today, we constantly cooperate with a network of more than twenty dealers all over the world. Our vehicles are sold all over the world: to Australia, all over Europe, to Argentina – says Dariusz Gujda, Melex’s financial director, and quickly adds: – But that’s not all, because it happens that we carry out individual orders to very exotic places. Recently, our 8-seater 378 N.Car was delivered to a customer from Papua New Guinea. The client saw our vehicles on the market in Krakow. He liked them so much that he decided to bring a Melex to his hotel”.
Malia Obama at the wheel of a melex
Today, most melexs go to the Scandinavian countries, where they have been sold for 25 years. They are popular both as vehicles for internal transport in ports, shipyards and factories, as well as for servicing bicycle paths and maintaining urban greenery. In total, approximately 200 electric vehicles from Mielec are delivered to the Scandinavian markets each year.
In turn, the first golf carts were delivered to Argentina in the 1980s. The first copies were brought there by Don Juan Casimiro Kurpiel – the son of Polish immigrants. Today, the company is run by his son, and melex cars have become so recognizable in Argentina that – similarly to Poland – their name has become a term for all electric vehicles.
Let us add that the interest in meleks is not weakening also today. Last year, incl. in connection with the tender for the operation of the Expo exhibition in Milan, won by the Italian dealer of the company, over 50 passenger and baggage carts went to Italy. The vehicles were used by the technical and medical services, the police, and the most important visitors of the exhibition.
“Thus, the Italian media throughout the duration of the exhibition featured photos of various famous people riding a melex. Among them were the president and prime minister of Italy, famous actors, athletes and businessmen. The daughter of the US president, Malia Obama, also decided to try driving an electric vehicle and she got behind the wheel to explore the EXPO grounds” says Cieszyński.
He adds that in Croatia there is also a place where there are many more electric cars than any other vehicles (maybe except bicycles). It is about the Brijuni Islands, where a national park was established. You can only move around the largest of the islands on foot, by bike or in a melex. The park’s management recently purchased over a dozen vehicles that can be rented on the spot. Tourists relaxing in the park appreciate the fact that no vehicle disturbs the peace with exhaust fumes or engine whirring.
Melex by all industries
Izabela Żelazko, the company’s commercial director, when asked which industries she cooperates with, replies: “The electric vehicle is such a universal work tool that it is easier to list industries in which it is not (yet) used. For several years, the dominant industry in Poland has been companies providing various types of services for enterprises, hospitals and local government institutions.
In 2014, they purchased almost 20% of vehicles on the domestic market, and in 2015 – over 25%. The second group of companies are production plants that use melex for internal transport. Last year, they accounted for 15.5% of our clients (in 2014 – 13.9%).
Melexes are often bought by companies from the energy and fuel industries. Their share in domestic sales in 2014 was 18.4%, and in 2015 – 13.9%. The list of industries with a share of more than 10% is closed by tourist companies providing services for transporting tourists in the old towns of cities, as well as hotels and restaurants that use electric vehicles to transport suitcases, bedding or meals. Their share in the company’s sales – both in 2014 and 2015 – amounted to over 13%.
“As for foreign markets, the situation is very different for each of them. In Sweden, the majority of customers are large industrial plants and companies from the municipal sector. In Croatia, many vehicles go to the tourism industry. It is similar in Greece and Italy” adds Izabela Żelazko.
Electric export star
Interestingly, 60% of meleks go to foreign markets. The remaining 40% of vehicles are sold by the company from Mielec on the domestic market. “Our history began with exporting, so the popularity of our vehicles abroad should come as no surprise. In many countries, melexes have a reputation for durable and reliable vehicles.
Added to this is an extensive dealer network, stretching from Australia to Argentina. All this makes our vehicles very popular abroad. As far as the domestic market is concerned, the best proof of the popularity of our products is the fact that all electric vehicles are commonly referred to as melex “- summarizes Izabela Żelazko and adds that the company constantly receives calls from customers using vehicles at the beginning of production. The durability of meleks is one of the keys to the company’s success. Thanks to it, the brand gains the trust of customers who come back to order new vehicles. “We place great emphasis on professional service, availability of spare parts, as well as professional technical advice. Our customers demand that their vehicles serve reliably, whether it’s 30 ° C or -20 ° C outside” says the sales director.
With a melex for bedding and… to the fire
Another advantage of meleks is undoubtedly their great variety. Cieszyński admits that it is difficult to clearly define how many versions of vehicles have been created in the 45 years of the company’s operation.
„Today, we offer customers over 100 models. These are luggage, passenger and special vehicles. In each of these categories, we offer vehicles from three model lines with four different wheelbases. Each of the vehicles produced is custom-made and is often tailored to the customer’s needs” says Cieszyński.
The modifications concern the installation of new elements of equipment or non-standard sizes of loading boxes. But Melex also offers specialized vehicle superstructures, such as containers with shelves, drawers, doors or roller shutters. Vehicles from Mielec can also be equipped with isothermal bodies.
“Our offer includes a vehicle built specifically for postal and courier services, or a garbage truck, equipped with a tipper that can be emptied directly into a standard container. Large hotels often use vehicles with special bodies to transport suitcases and bedding. Some time ago, a vehicle for painting stripes on roads was created on the basis of the melex”- enumerates Cieszyński.
Recently, two companies based on Melex vehicles have built light fire trucks that are to be used to extinguish fires in closed production halls. For several years, such a vehicle has been used, for example, in a Volkswagen factory near Poznań. The model for St. John Paul II during his last visit to Poland. At that time, the Pope was driving an electric, open-air vehicle on which a beautiful armchair was mounted.
120 km on alternating current
In 45 years, the technology used in melex has almost completely changed. The first vehicles were very simple structures equipped with DC motors and a simple speed control system based on a resistor.
In 1986, Melex was the first manufacturer of electric vehicles in history to present electronic control of a DC motor. Such a system was installed in some 152 and 252 models as well as in the 412 models. This eliminated many troublesome faults of the driveline. Today, all meleks are equipped with AC motors.
They are much more energy-efficient, which significantly translates into the range of the vehicle. Even with a standard set of batteries, Meleks can boast an average range of 60–80 km. “This is more than enough for most of our customers because it is rare for these vehicles to cover longer distances in one day. Of course, for more demanding customers, we have prepared a solution that allows you to travel up to 120 km on a single charge. These vehicles, equipped with the 72 V system, are most often sold on the Scandinavian and Dutch markets, ”says Cieszyński.
Melex also introduces lithium-ion batteries to the new offer, which allow for faster charging as well as partial recharging of the batteries. This solution is of particular interest to companies where vehicles are used in a three-shift system and have to work around the clock.
The engines used are modern and maintenance-free designs that are very durable. A complicated electronic system is responsible for controlling them. By appropriate modification of the parameters stored in it, you can adjust the characteristics of the vehicle to the terrain on which it will be driving.
For example, during the tests of our vehicles on the route to Morskie Oko in the Tatra Mountains, the parameters were adjusted so that during the descent, the driver, without pressing the accelerator pedal, could drive the vehicle at a constant and safe speed. During the descent, the vehicle recovered energy from braking, thanks to which it could cover this demanding route up to four times without the need to recharge the battery.
But the technological innovations introduced today in meleks do not only apply to the drive. The N.Car and 4xx series vehicles already have a multi-link front suspension, which improves driving comfort and maneuverability. N.Car vehicles are additionally equipped with front disc brakes. Most of the body parts are made of plastics. It is true that the base of the vehicle is still a solid, steel frame, but now it is protected against corrosion by the galvanization process. Thanks to this, Polish constructions are considered the most durable in the world.
A pioneer with history
Although in the case of commercial vehicles it is difficult to talk about “fashion”, the company makes sure that meleks look modern and set standards in their segment. Last year, the company introduced a new line of 4xx vehicles, the design of which was created in cooperation with a professional design studio, in such a way that on the one hand, through large, round headlights, it referred to the first Melex vehicles, and on the other hand emphasized the modernity of the solutions used.
The N.Car series vehicles, which were presented by the company in 2009, also attract attention with their originality. The style of this model is – apart from the universal structure – an additional advantage. It is appreciated by companies for which a modern image is a key issue. “Our customers appreciate, above all, the wide range of possible uses for our vehicles.
When it comes to luggage vehicles, what counts for them is very low operating costs (driving 100 km costs about PLN 6), small size and high load capacity. Therefore, in this group of vehicles, the most popular model is the 391 N.Car, which offers a load capacity of 1 t, an enclosed cabin and a wide range of optional equipment. This vehicle is used most often for specialized superstructures that adapt it to the needs of customers. In addition, the vehicle is one of many in our offer, which is approved for driving on the roads of the European Union” says Cieszyński.
If approval is not required, customers often opt for the 392, which offers a payload of 1,250 kg and a long list of additional options.
Among the passenger models, the 378 N. Car is the most popular model. It can carry up to 8 people, and the multi-link suspension and 13-inch wheels used significantly increase the comfort of traveling. This vehicle is used in tourist destinations to transport people, for example in historic parts of cities and national parks. Its modern design is often an additional element attracting the attention of potential customers.
4xx sets new trends
This year Melex wants to develop the latest 4xx model line. As part of this line, the company will prepare, among others a vehicle adapted to serve passengers in large passenger terminals. It will have its premiere at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 in Cologne, Germany.
“The electric drive and the compact dimensions of our vehicles are the perfect combination for airport use. On the basis of our vehicles, both passenger versions as well as small ambulances or vehicles for technical services can be created, ”says Cieszyński.
Other new products from Meleks this year will be a 6-seater passenger vehicle and a 4-seater luggage vehicle from the new 4xx line. These vehicles will be lighter than the N.Car models offered today, but will also receive a multi-link suspension, which ensures very high travel comfort. “In response to a number of inquiries from our customers, we will also prepare special versions of the smallest 4xx series vehicles, i.e. the luggage 445 and the passenger 443.
They will be designed to move around a closed area. Mainly inside large production halls. Therefore, they will not be equipped with lighting, and customers will be able to choose whether they want an open version or with a canopy and acrylic glass” says Cieszyński.
He adds that the company has also started work on a new model line that will further expand the range of vehicles. Work on it is at the research and design stage.
Competition from Asia and more
When the first Melex vehicles were built, there were only a few manufacturers of electric vehicles in the world. Today, when ecological means of transport are gaining more and more recognition, there are more and more manufacturers of this type of vehicle. The largest number of companies offering this type of vehicle is located in China. Some of the local products also reach Poland. Some are sold under the brand name of European producers.
So far, customers are distrustful of them, especially when it comes to the availability of spare parts. In Europe, the biggest competition among luggage models are vehicles from France. When it comes to golf carts, manufacturers from the USA and Japan play a leading role.