Van­cou­ver’s Mo­torino evolves from elec­tric scoot­ers and bi­cy­cles to EV mo­tor­cy­cles

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - FEATURE - An­drew Mc­credie

For a small busi­ness owner, re­al­iz­ing a dream is the ul­ti­mate goal. By that mea­sure, Steve Milo­shev has achieved suc­cess be­yond his wildest dreams.

Dur­ing the past decade-and-ahalf the owner/op­er­a­tor of Van­cou­ver-based Mo­torino has seen many of the tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions he dreamt of come true, from lithium-ion bat­tery pow­ered scoot­ers to all-wheel-drive elec­tric fat bikes. Most im­por­tantly, he’s watched as EV bi­cy­cles have gone from odd­i­ties, even pari­ahs in some cy­cling cir­cles, to main­stream ur­ban trans­porta­tion.

“When elec­tric bikes first showed up the per­cep­tion was they were for lazy peo­ple, or for peo­ple who can’t ride a reg­u­lar bike,” Milo­shev is say­ing in his West 2nd Av­enue show­room. “But then the younger pop­u­la­tion em­braced the EV bikes in Europe, so then the over-50s bought in too.”

Euro­pean EV bike sales have ex­ceeded reg­u­lar pedal-bike sales in the past two years, much of that at­trib­ut­able to the Euro­pean Union set­ting stan­dards for the bat­tery-as­sisted bikes, thus com­pelling the Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers to im­prove the build qual­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and bat­tery sys­tems.

When Milo­shev opened Mo­torino in 2003, the fo­cus was en­tirely on elec­tric scoot­ers, the kind of twowheeled com­muter trans­porta­tion per­fectly suited for Van­cou­ver, par­tic­u­larly the down­town core.

“A few years later we added elec­tric bi­cy­cles but stopped sell­ing them as they weren’t very good back then,” he says. “We then brought bi­cy­cles back in about five years ago be­cause the qual­ity had re­ally im­proved.”

A cou­ple of years ago when I in­ter­viewed Milo­shev, he said his dream would be that some of his prod­ucts would have lithium-ion bat­ter­ies in them, fig­ur­ing that would be in about a half-decade’s time. That dream was re­al­ized much sooner and there are now a num­ber of scoot­ers on the Mo­torino show­room floor his lithium-ion bat­ter­ies. Bet­ter still th­ese scoot­ers are light enough that you can pick them up and move them around.

And now he’s bring­ing elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cles to Van­cou­ver as the ex­clu­sive dealer for two up-and-com­ing brands, Aus­tralian-based Soco and Chi­nese man­u­fac­turer Doohan.

“This is some­thing I’d never imag­ined we would be sell­ing,” he ad­mits of the Limited Speed Mo­tor­cy­cles, or LSM (mean­ing they do not ex­ceed 70 km/h and you just need a reg­u­lar Class 5 driver’s li­cense to op­er­ate one. Reg­u­lar reg­is­tra­tion and in­sur­ance also ap­ply). “They are both very well-built and well-de­signed.”

The Super Soco TC, re­badged as the Mo­torino GTC, is very much a tra­di­tional-look­ing two-wheeler, apart from the fact it has no ex­haust pipe. De­signed by a for­mer Honda mo­tor­cy­cle en­gi­neer, the Soco fea­tures high-end com­po­nents, in­clud­ing Bosch mo­tors and a 1,500-watt Pana­sonic bat­tery pack, and like Tesla bat­ter­ies there are spaces be­tween each cell to al­low for bet­ter cool­ing. In ad­di­tion, each cell is in­di­vid­u­ally con­nected so if one goes bad the bat­tery still works. The GTC re­tails for $4,900 be­fore tax. Add a sec­ond bat­tery pack to in­crease the full-charge range to near the 200-kilo­me­tre mark and that price jumps to $6,400. Mo­torino also of­fers a smaller bat­tery-ver­sion, called the Soco TS, or Mo­torino GT. This 1200-watt ver­sion goes for $4,400 with an ad­di­tional $1,330 for the sec­ond bat­tery pack.

The other elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cle Mo­torino has brought in is not your tra­di­tional two-wheeler. The three­wheeled Doohan iTank fea­tures an ad­vanced two-bat­tery sys­tem along with a com­puter-con­trolled bat­tery man­age­ment sys­tem.

“I’ve been rid­ing one for a year now, and ma­neu­ver­abil­ity of it is amaz­ing,” Milo­shev says. It has a 30-de­grees turn­ing ra­dius. And the three-wheel setup gives you way more con­fi­dence when do­ing tight turns than a two-wheeler.”

But he cau­tions that just be­cause it has three wheels doesn’t mean rid­ers don’t re­quire a good sense of bal­ance.

“Peo­ple say they might buy one for their dad, but I tell them it still re­quires bal­ance. It’s a float­ing sus­pen­sion. It’s also a very pow­er­ful bike, and with dual disc front brakes it is very safe, brak­ing more like a car than a two-wheeler.”

The dual bat­tery iTank has a price tag of $5,700.

Just as with the elec­tric car in­dus­try, in­no­va­tion spurs the elec­tric scooter, bike and mo­tor­cy­cle seg­ments, and Milo­shev points to a num­ber of ‘com­ing-soon’ tech ad­vance­ments that will only make the ve­hi­cles more ap­peal­ing and user­friendly.

One is bio­met­rics, and the Mo­torino owner ex­pects to have a cut­ting-edge elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cle for sale in his shop soon that in­stead of hav­ing a starter key, the owner will just use there fin­ger­print to un­lock and start the bike (like a smart­phone).

Cool fac­tor aside, he says the real ben­e­fit will be the se­cu­rity as­pect. He says there is cur­rently an ‘epi­demic’ of stolen scoot­ers in Van­cou­ver.

“An­other in­no­va­tion com­ing to our prod­ucts is ‘wit­ness cam­eras,’ very im­por­tant for scooter and EV mo­tor­cy­cle own­ers.”

And still more in­no­va­tion is the VCU, or ve­hi­cle com­mu­ni­ca­tion unit, that will al­low Mo­torino techs to mon­i­tor and in some cases fix mo­tor­cy­cles re­motely over a wire­less net­work.

“The bike is con­stantly do­ing a self-test­ing of all its com­po­nents and re­ports ev­ery­thing to a server. As the ex­clu­sive dis­trib­u­tor we are go­ing to build those servers here.”

When the bike dis­cov­ers an is­sue with one of its com­po­nents, an email is sent di­rectly to the cus­tomer to say it needs to be brought in for ser­vice.

“Or, we hope to de­velop the sys­tem so we can fix the bike from here over the net­work.”

On the EV bi­cy­cle front, Mo­torino will soon be stock­ing the light­est EV bi­cy­cle in the in­dus­try, called the Elec­tric Road­ster and built with com­muters in mind. There’s also an off-road fat bike, an all-wheel drive ma­chine with mo­tors on both wheels.

So is Steve Milo­shev all out of dreams? Doesn’t sound like it.

“My next dream is a high­way mo­tor­cy­cle, one that could go more than 200 kilo­me­tres on a sin­gle charge,” he says.

“It’s an amaz­ing busi­ness, re­ally. For me my dreams — in terms of prod­ucts — come true al­most ev­ery year. Things just get bet­ter ev­ery year.”

An­drew Mc­credie

Mo­torino owner Steve Milo­shev aboard the Super Soco TC, an all-elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cle his Van­cou­ver store has ex­clu­sive Cana­dian rights to.

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