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Ubco hits the road with new on-road electric bike

New Zealand-made e-bike company Ubco has moved from off-roading bikes to dual purpose bikes, launching its new 2x2 model worldwide. The main difference? The bike can be used for both work and play and is certified to be used on-road, meaning anyone with a regular learner’s license can use one to get from A to B.

Ubco raised $620,000 on online investment platform Snowball Effect last year to finalise an on-road legal version of its 2x2 bike on top of more than $2 million raised from investors.

After a year’s development, the 2.0 version of the 2x2 is now being taken to market globally.

The bike looks similar to the design of that of its off-roading predecessor, but a whole lot has changed in terms of features.  

With the addition of brake lights, indicators, reflectors, a steering lock, speedometers, odometer and LED headlight, the bike is now ready for on-road use in New Zealand, Australia and the United States, removing the barrier the bike once faced between on and off-road travel.

The new model also features an LCD display that monitors its speed, power output, battery level and distance. This also links via Bluetooth to an app users can download for their phone, appealing to the tech fanatics out there.  

Ubco product manager Stuart Munro says the way the new 2x2 bike can transition between being used for off-roading activities, as well as get someone from A to B on the road, is a huge drawcard.

“There aren’t many 2-wheelers out there that are equally at home both on and off-road, especially ones that are as easy to use and quiet as the Ubco,” he says. “This ease of use and its LA/moped vehicle class means the 2018 2x2 is accessible and suitable to almost anyone, and opens the door to unconstrained adventure.”

Other key design features include brake regeneration, which slows the vehicle by converting its kinetic energy into a form that can be stored until later. Ubco technical manager Tom Hayward calls one of the highlights of its design.

“What this means is as you brake, it puts power back into the battery. For me, that’s an advantage, because the brake control you get is out of this world. When you get a brake going, the control you get going is superior to anything else on a motorbike.”

There are also a range of accessories that can be bought alongside the bike, including frames, decks and a backpack, with the idea that the user can store anything from a hunting rifle to a surfboard. 

UBCO CEO, Timothy Allan says the design of the 2x2 was built on the idea of a vehicle as a tool.

“With the launch of the accessories we can now really illustrate one of the core concepts behind the creation of the 2x2.” 

The top speed it can hit is 50km an hour, or 29.2 miles in the US. The speed has been capped to keep it within the LA/mo-ped license classing instead of users needing to require a motorbike license at higher speeds. It can also travel for a distance of up to 120km on a charge of six to eight hours.

Hayward said in terms of getting the bike road ready, one of the big challenges the Ubco team had to overcome was every feature on it needed to be certified.

“Going through that process to get each of these individual items certified was certainly a big challenge,” Hayward says. “These were an off-road item ­– then we had to test them and certify them, which is a huge process. The change from this bike to the last bike was probably a 12-month design and certification process. In the US, their compliance standards are pretty tough, so ticking the box in the US ticked the majority of boxes in New Zealand.”

Ubco has 31 dealers selling its bikes in New Zealand, 14 in Australia and 19 in the US, with this number growing as more jump on board with the idea.

Electric vehicles are also growing considerably in popularity in New Zealand. There were 3645 EV registrations in 2017, up from 1516 registrations in 2016.

But this popularity is spreading to other modes of transport, too. The Cycling Action Network’s Patrick Morgan estimated 20,000 bikes would be sold in New Zealand last year, while motorcycling giant Harley Davidson recently announced it will release an electric motorbike.

It seems as though everyone wants to jump on the electric bandwagon, but Hayward says Ubco’s bike is unique from its competition.

“Everyone’s definitely doing different things – electric pushbikes are everywhere and you’ve got about 50 manufacturers, but they’re in a class that is limited to 30km an hour and have to have pedals, we’re outside of that class. Our class is quite unique because it’s set up as a mo-ped, so if you’ve got any license whatsoever you can ride it. You don’t need a motorcycle license,” he says.

“These other ones that are starting to come in are electric motorcycles, so they’re heavy machines that are 60 to 180 kg, which is quite a different beast. Ubco is your light commuter that you can take farming, you can put on the back of a ute, you can take to the beach.”

The bike is selling for a cool NZ$8000. Its predecessor 2x2 electric bike was first launched at Fieldays in 2014, where it won an innovation award.

It was initially designed as a two-wheel utility vehicle that could replace farm motorbikes due to being quiet (it doesn’t disturb lifestock), light (easily transportable and lifted over fences) and doesn’t have clutches or chains that could cause maintenance problems.

However, the demand for a recreational, on-road version meant Ubco expanded its vision.

Outside of recreational use, fleets of its bikes are already currently being used by rangers in the Department of Conservation areas and by tourism company, Real Journeys, for their Walter Peak Electric Trail Bike Tours in Queenstown.

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