February 2011 - A steadfast staple of transportation, the bicycle transcends boundaries, and people all over the globe use it. However, Marcus Hayes, founder and CEO of PiMobility, Sausalito, Ca., sought to "design a more efficient product with far less hand work," dispelling the need for cheap labor and below-standard working conditions in third world countries. Instead, Hayes sought to bring the job to California, where his team could "successfully compete with electric bicycles made overseas" when its product hits Best Buy shelves in April 2011.
Hayes believes that because at least a billion people use two-wheeled conveyance for their daily transportation needs, roughly 400 million of these apparatuses are motorized. "In countries where kerosene fuels many of these vehicles, each vehicle emits roughly 500 times the amount of GHGs and CO2 as a contemporary automobile," Hayes says. "Even internal combustion engine scooters sold in the U.S. emit 5 times what a Hummer emits." In addition to a lower impact on the environment, a battery-powered machine is cheaper alternative to fuel.
"When you consider a PiCycle can travel 2,000 miles on the equivalent amount of energy as 1 gallon of gasoline and that in many places, a gallon of gasoline costs $10 per gallon, two-wheeled battery-powered vehicles are a solution for both the environment and pocketbooks," he says
For the warrior commuter
It might come as a surprise to some consumers that there are approximately 120 million electric bikes operating in China alone and another 3 million in Europe. According to PiMobility, electric bike sales are expected to reach 465 million by 2016. Currently, PiMobility's customers are in export markets. The Euro/dollar exchange rate makes the PiCycle a favorable choice among Europeans. "The U.S. market hasn't really awakened yet to the benefits of an electric bike," Hayes says. Although that could change in the near future.
Often when Americans think of motorized bikes, they think of a motorcycle or its zippier cousin, the moped. During the 1970s and 1980s, people traveled using mopeds, often finding that if there was a need to pedal, the moped's weight, in excess of 125 pounds, was often a damper on travel times. "The PiCycle weighs 65 pounds and has the power equivalent to a 49cc internal combustion engine," Hayes explains, pointing out that PiMobility's option is more "pedal-friendly" and only requires $0.04 per fill-up of electricity to travel approximately 20 miles. "PiCycle is also mass transit and bike path friendly because statutorily, it is considered a bicycle" he says.
Should the user run out of power, they can pedal the PiCycle home. "Assuming you pedal with the motor, you'll get an enormous endorphin rush without the heavy perspiration that pure human-powered bicycling requires," Hayes adds. "So you get exercise, travel 3 times faster than a human-powered bike (at 20-30 miles per hour) and not be covered in sweat when arriving at work."
A practical and eco-friendly transportation option
According to Hayes, being eco-friendly was a No.1 priority. Aside from its fuel efficiency and lightweight frame, "with reasonable care, a PiCycle will last a good 30 to 50 years," he adds. Moving around easily and quickly benefits commercial needs, as well. Someone using the PiCycle as a means for delivering goods or other light packages can maneuver through busy streets to meet customer time expectations.
The PiCycle's strength stems from its aluminum frame. The arch design extends the bike's life cycle, "but isolates otherwise fragile batteries and electronics within the tube's interior, in turn, adding to reliability," Hayes says. Should your bike need repair, PiMobility claims its PiCycle can be repaired in any bike shop anywhere in the world. It's double-wall aluminum rims allow tires to be relatively lightweight, ensuring balance and enough rigidity to maintain its strength. In other words, jumping a curb or dropping the bike won't leave it in shards on the street.
With seven speeds, the PiCycle is two-wheel drive. A 1 horsepower electric motor drives the front while its rider powers the back by pedaling. "The human being needs multiple speeds to keep up with the motor and ultimately to comfortably assist the motor at cruising speed," Hayes adds.
Where are people looking for this lightweight/motorized option? "Mostly urban-dwellers," says Hayes, who adds that since the company is based in California, a large portion of its sales currently are to bike riders in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. As PiMobility continues to expand, Hayes predicts an increase in demand from Americans on the East Coast and Midwest. MM