E-bike manufacturers look to supply market

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In June, electric bike startup Joco, which rents e-bikes to grocery delivery workers and other couriers in New York City and Chicago, began testing a new vehicle called the Deliverator.

Manufactured in Eugene, Ore. by Arcimoto Inc., the Deliverator is an electric tricycle with an “inverted tricycle” configuration – two wheels in the front and one in the back.

It has 20 cubic feet of enclosed storage behind the driver, a top speed of 75 mph, a range of about 100 miles, and retails for $25,000. Joco is testing four as part of a pilot program with Arcimoto and has started giving demos to ghost kitchens, grocery chains and other potential customers who need delivery fleets.

“They loved it,” said Joco co-founder Jonny Cohen.

The Deliverator is a modified version of Arcimoto’s flagship product, the FUV, or Fun Utility Vehicle.

The Deliverator’s storage compartment replaces the FUV’s single passenger seat. While the original is aimed at retail customers willing to pay $17,900 to enjoy the breeze and turn heads while driving, the Deliverator is aimed at fleet customers looking to reduce operating costs and deliveries per hour want to maximize.

Founded in 2007, Arcimoto spent more than a decade developing the retail fun utility vehicle, which shipped to its first customers in 2019. Work on the Deliverator began that same year.

Besides Joco, Arcimoto has small pilot programs for the Deliverator in Los Angeles; Key West, Florida; and Eugene, Ore. The goal is for electric tricycles to gain traction in the US as urban delivery vehicles, a role they are already playing in cities across China, India and Southeast Asia.

“Our goal is to radically expand the market opportunity for three-wheelers,” said Mark Frohnmayer, Arcimoto’s co-founder and chief executive officer.

Of the 117 million tricycles on the world’s roads last year, more than 90% were in China and India, according to BloombergNEF’s Electric Vehicle Outlook. China alone has a fleet of around 100 million, mainly used for transporting passengers and cargo over short distances. Almost 70% of the world’s fleet is electric, using mostly lead-acid batteries, although a rapid transition to lithium-ion is underway. BloombergNEF expects global sales of electric tricycles to surpass 12 million units this year, with fewer than 10,000 outside of China and India.

In the US, the three-wheeler remains a niche product, with internal combustion engine models like the Polaris Slingshot being sold to retailers as flashy weekend vehicles. Arcimoto is trying to use this recreational appeal to get US drivers to opt for light electric vehicles for some of the many, many short trips they make alone in their cars.

“We compete very well for the fun factor with all types of toys on the market,” said Frohnmayer, “but the benefit thesis breaks through very quickly for our customer base.”

At the moment this base is small. The company built about 300 vehicles last year, including the retail two-seat recreational vehicle, the Deliverator, and other variants built for first responders, landscapers and film sets. This year the goal is 1,000.

ElectraMeccanica, a competing electric tricycle manufacturer founded in 2015, has so far produced more than 400 examples of its flagship rider-only SOLO, which retails for $18,500.

Vehicles like the Fun Utility Vehicle and SOLO occupy a space in the personal transportation market – more than a bicycle but less than a car.

“In the US, it was difficult to convince people to buy expensive small electric vehicles,” said Reilly Brennan, founding partner of San Francisco-based transportation venture capital fund Trucks. Most people, he said, would rather buy a used Toyota Corolla.

For fleet customers, tricycles can be a happy medium. They are smaller, more manoeuvrable, and cheaper to run than vans and trucks, but move faster than most cargo bikes and don’t require the rider to pedal. As cities increasingly restrict access for cars and trucks in central boroughs, three-wheelers are future-proof, Brennan said: “In certain corridors around the world, small, light electric vehicles will likely be the only way to make deliveries without paying a penalty.”

ElectraMeccanica is also testing the waters for delivery and other commercial uses, with a cargo version of the SOLO with 12 cubic feet of storage and a $24,500 price tag set to begin shipping shortly.

In February, the company announced it had shipped 20 SOLOs to customers including sandwich shops, restaurants and a frozen yogurt stand. While these pilot programs are about both promotion and logistics, they suggest the U.S. three-wheeler market is moving in a new direction. Delivery buyers, Brennan said, are likely to outnumber retail buyers in the next 10 years.

Jocos Cohen said if all goes well he wants to place an order for a few dozen units when the pilot ends later this summer. Joco’s primary business is renting bikes to delivery people who will pick them up and drop them off at private parking lots scattered across New York, but the delivery person won’t be available to them. It only offers the tricycles to fleet customers who contract with Joco for access to multiple vehicles.

“We think the next trillion-dollar opportunity in transportation is going to be in light electric vehicles — e-bikes, cargo bikes, this beautiful Deliverator,” he said, “you don’t need a two-ton vehicle to do the deliveries we do.” make.”

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