E-bike company moves to get motorists out of a jam
For many Beijing residents, traffic jams are a nightmare that occur every day. Yet, for Nathan Siy, the problem has huge profit potential for his electric motorcycle business.
Siy, a Chinese-American who came to Beijing in 2006, established his company last year in Zhongguancun, a hub of Internet companies in the capital city, to make and sell e-motorcycles.
In discussing why he established the company, Siy said he used to be frequently annoyed by the traffic congestion in Beijing until he bought an electric scooter in 2007.
“It was so convenient, cool and environment-friendly. It took me around to understand more about the culture and the people here.”
Naming the company Evoke, Siy said he hopes to “evoke” new lifestyles, convincing people to change the way they commute. The first two letters of Evoke stand for “electric vehicles”, he added.
Siy’s idea of making e-motorcycles has been embraced by two of his friends — Sebastian Chvobok of Germany and Chris Lee Rethen of the United States. The two joined Siy’s company last year.
They all are optimistic about their business. “We in total have 40 years of experience in China. We know it even better than some locals,” Rethen said.
“The biggest problem is the traffic. You can get really stuck if you drive a car,” he said, adding that the high efficiency and convenience of e-bikes is a key to address the traffic jams in Beijing.
Evoke motorcycles are entirely hand made. As Siy studies electronic engineering and Rethen is crazy about battery techniques, they spend most of their time in a workshop.
“It’s so lucky that I have two companions sharing the same goal and dream with me,” Siy added. “It’s cool when you ride an Evoke motorcycle, and it feels even cooler when you make one.” According to Siy, the new model, Evoke Sports, can go as fast as 120 km/h.
Siy said that lithium batteries are capable of producing such high speeds with their design. Evoke motorcycles leave the entire space under the seat for the battery, which can last for more than 150 kilometers after a full charge.
“We adjusted the acceleration, so that people can adjust the speed freely to what they are used to,” said Siy. “People can choose a comfortable speed. For the beginners, maybe 60 km/h, and for the motorcycle lovers, maybe over 100.” In addition, seats are designed to be lower, and batteries and motorcycle bodies are designed lighter. Siy said it’s “the way designed for Asians”, taking safety as the main concern.
There are two problems that need solving in the development of electric motorcycles in China, according to Siy. The first is that charging is not convenient enough, and the other is that traffic regulations for electric vehicles are not clear enough.
One of the things Siy and his colleagues are doing is to talk to convenience stores about making charging stations available for e-riders.
“It’s a win-win thing. Riders pay stores, and stores provide them with electricity,” Siy said, adding that he believes that more and more charging stations will be built in the near future.
As for regulation, Siy said there are no license plates for electric scooters, and license plates for electric motorcycles are hard to get. Many of the scooters on the street don’t have tags.
The company’s motorcycles aren’t cheap by local standards, with the Evoke Urban Series running 39,000-44,000 yuan ($4,200-$6,900) depending on level of battery. Sales are slow, but they’re confident they will pick up.
“We are waiting for the regulations. Only when it’s clear will we know what to follow.”
Siy and Chvobok discussed their idea with officials, showing them the designs of the electric motorcycle. They were pleased that the officials showed interest in their product. “The procedure might take long, but we’d like to wait till things change and we come into a new era of electric motorcycles,” said Chvobok.
In Siy’s eyes, Beijing has a fast pace, providing a lot of opportunities. “If you are hungry and young, it’s a great place to grow,” he said. Yan Dongjie contributed to this story.
Nathan Siy (center) works on an Evoke motorcycle with friends Sebastian Chvobok (left) and Chris Lee Rethen.