For those in the electric motorcycle world does the name Neal Saiki ring any bells? It should as Saiki is the founder of the Zero Motorcycles which he started out of his garage in Santa Cruz back in 2006. The perfect beginnings for any vehicle start-up, especially a Silicon Valley one.
Saiki is no longer with the electric motorcycle company he help found as he left in 2011 to pursue other projects and goals. Now he is raising money via Kickstarter for his next electric bike venture. We are not talking about electric motorcycles but electric bicycles.
Neal Saiki has been in bicycle and cycling industry for quite awhile. He’s developed bike frames for various manufacturers and has had his own company, Santa Cruz Bicycles, for many years. The early electric motorcycles he built was partly from this knowledge and experience. He also worked on an electric cargo bike that can be charged with a solar panel with his wife Lisa but it doesn’t seem like that idea went very far.
His latest venture, Karmic Bikes, is an attempt at two industries he knows very well bicycles and electric vehicles.
Saiki is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and co-founder of Karmic Bikes along with Hong Quan the CEO. There are a few problems Karmic is trying to solve.
While popular in Europe because of high gas prices, the electric bike industry has failed to catch on in the United States. Karmic Bikes is attempting to change that with an affordable electric bike with some key features highlighted in this video.
“It’s the only rebuildable lithium-ion battery on the market. It’s patented so nobody else has this technology… Our battery pack is small and light and very powerful. It’s also 48 volts instead of the normal 24 volts or 28 volts which lets the motor operate much more efficiently and cooler. You get more range and power from the same amount of energy.”
If you have ever looked at prices of an electric bike, aka an electric bicycle, you’ve probably been floored by how much some of them cost. Decent ones start at least $2,000 and the batteries might only be good for one or two years depending on how much you use it. Finding a replacement battery can expensive and difficult. If you can’t buy one or don’t want to that leaves you with just a really heavy bicycle you paid too much money for that you don’t want to ride anymore. Pretty much an electric bicycle sucks for this reason.
The idea behind the Karmic Koben is that most of the time an electric bicycle is you get a rebuildable battery. That means you don’t have to worry about finding a replacement battery when the time comes. I assume, but it’s not clear, that getting Karmic to rebuild the battery will reasonably priced.
In addition they’ve tried to solve some of the weight distribution problems plagued by other electric bicycles. The Koben has a custom designed frame rather than retrofitting an existing frame.
Like a lot of start-ups Neal Saiki and Hong Quan turned to crowdfunding to be able to make the Koben a reality. Karmic Bikes has been extremeley successful blowing past it’s goal of $195,000. As I wrote this there are currently 250 backers that have pledged $289,576 dollars. That’s almost $100,000 more than they were originally hoping to raise. I’m sure partly Saiki’s reputation in the bicycle industry along with the fact he helped start Zero has helped the Kickstarter campaign.
Usually we don’t write about bicycles or electric bicycles since this is the electric motorcycle club. We thought it would be interesting to share what Neal Saiki is working right now and it’s interesting to see him go back to working on bicycles and now electric bicycles.
Karmic Bikes sounds like a good idea and I hope it is successful. I still think electric bikes are a hard sell in America though and I don’t see many people buying them unless prices continue to fall and technology is more accessible. What are your thoughts about electric bikes? Would you buy one for commuting?