We recently profiled the PiCycle, PiMobility’s newest electric bike. With its amazing performance and stunning design I couldn’t help but call it the coolest electric bike ever. In effort to learn more about PiMobility and the electric bike business in general I’ve asked PiMobilility’s founder Marcus Hays to join us. Marcus has been producing and developing innovative electric vehicles and bicycles since 1995 when employed as a consultant to automotive industry titan, Lee Iacocca. Marcus also had the extraordinary privilege of working with the famed Dr. Paul MacCready, inventor and developer of GM’s first electric car, “EV-1″. In 2008 Marcus established an electric motorcycle land speed record at the Bonneville Land Speed Record Trials going 68 miles per hour.
Marcus….What’s the latest news in the Battle of Bike vs. Car? Are bikes gaining some ground?
Bikes are gaining ground (insert rousing cheer here) evidenced by so-called “Transportation Bikes” now becoming the hottest segment of the US bike industry. The growing popularity of these designs directly correlates I believe to the increasing number of dedicated bikeways being installed by municipalities nationwide. Bicycles are easily the least expensive technology available to reduce the impacts of climate change, dependency on foreign oil and while we’re at it, a public health crisis called obesity.
Where do electric bikes fit into the mix?
Making the leap to bicycle from automobile is an order of magnitude in technology (I believe forward) that electric bikes overcome via a silent electric motor that provides a much needed power boost on hills otherwise limited to athletes. The implications of this technology are therefore clear.
How has the technology evolved?
Lithium batteries have reduced end-product weight by 70% while doubling per charge range. There have also been significant improvements in charging technology such that recharging periods are typically half hat they were just 2 years ago. Battery cycle life – a cost factor that directly bears on cost per mile – is in some cases triple what is was just 3 years ago. All of this equates to cheaper, better, faster and longer range electric vehicles. I believe it’s safe to assume that all modes of transportation will be battery powered in the not too distant future.
Who is the ideal customer for an electric bike?
Smaller, lighter batteries have fostered product development maturity within the bike industry as a whole that results now in a raft of products offering performance and styles as varied as traditional non-electric alternatives. Previous and longstanding assumptions that electric bicycles were the exclusive territory of the aged or infirm are now shattered. For example college students desiring low cost, low-carbon transit (back to the no license and registration piece) are no longer simply auto-centric. Perhaps the biggest shift we’ve seen is demand from 30 something urbanites who, shedding car ownership for a variety of reasons, are replacing their cars with electric bicycles. However because these folks demand quality and style equal to their computers and portable electronic devices, and because the PiCycle is one of the few purpose-built electric bicycles, we’re becoming a favorite among this group.
Tell us about PiMobility. How did your company come about and what are your plans?
Pi Mobility is an offshoot of a 4-wheel electric hybrid endeavor dating to 1995. However when Lee Iacocca retained my services in 1998 for an electric bicycle specific project I became enamored with the concept. However traditional electric bicycle making based on intersecting tubes resulted in end products either dull or duller and so it’s highly gratifying to discover with the introduction of the PiCycle there are lots and lots of people who share my sentiment. PiCycle’s architecture is also versatile enough that model variations are virtually unlimited. In the not too distant future “Pi” will be serving up a three-wheel commercial vehicle and a 100mph road-legal fully electric cruiser will debut in 2010.
How much do your bikes cost?
PiCycle begins at $2,499 and options are as deep as one’s imagination. Made-in-USA permits just-in-time inventory levels that invite rich customization while profit margins are simultaneously enhanced.
Where can folks see and touch one?
Pi Mobility is currently focusing its dealer and distribution efforts in California and Italy. At this moment however the best place to see, touch and ride a Pi is at the Sausalito factory.
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