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Flywheel | June 12, 2022
Featuring the top 5 used vehicles of the week and an interview with Toussaint Wattinne, Co-Founder and CEO of Upway
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the market followed by an observation of trends emerging in the industry.
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This week’s features are 3 commuters, a cafe racer style scrambler, and a folding ebike. The observation of the week is an interview about Upway, a marketplace for reconditioned ebikes, with its Co-Founder and CEO Toussaint Wattinne.
Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The VanMoof X3 is VanMoof’s latest model and is arguably the best class-1 commuter bike in the market. While the X3’s powertrain (350W motor and 504Wh battery pack) is fairly standard in performance compared to other commuters, what makes the X3 stand out is its incredible software and electronics. The X3 is entirely vertically integrated, with everything from motors and motor controllers to firmware developed in-house. This allows the X3 to feature a series of software-enabled best-in-class features: automatic transmission, stealth-lock, anti-theft alarms/tracking, and boost button. Maintenance has sometimes been cited as an issue with VanMoofs given that the company is relatively young as an ebike manufacturer, but highly detailed vehicle health data tracking combined with a comprehensive maintenance plan makes it easy and quick to get the bike serviced (especially if you live in a city with a VanMoof brand store). The smart stealth-lock paired with VanMoof’s bike hunters also makes the X3 about as hard to steal as an ebike could possibly be. This listing is 1 year old with 700 miles of usage and still has two years of the peace of mind plan (a subscription to unlimited maintenance and theft protection) remaining. Vehicle ownership and the peace of mind plan subscription can be transferred upon purchase. Listing can be found here.
The Vintage Electric Roadster is a cafe racer style class-2 ebike joining the ever growing list of ebikes that blur the line between ebikes and e-mopeds/e-motorcycles. The Roadster features many custom components and touches reminiscent of retro style motorcycles, from its inverted front fork to the sweeping vehicle geometry. Vintage Electric developed a seriously powerful powertrain for the Roadster. In class-2 mode, the motor is limited to 750W. But for an additional $149, you can buy a race mode key that unlocks the motor to 3000W with a max speed of 36mph. Combined with a whopping 1128Wh battery pack, riders can get ~50 miles of range per charge even in race mode. Given the high power powertrain (and thereby heavy weight), Vintage Electric also added an excellent hydraulic disc brake setup that enables regenerative braking. This listing is a demo bike at the eBike Cyclery and has 1500 miles of usage. Listing can be found here.
The Stromer ST1 sets the standard for premium commuter ebikes. A class-3 speed pedelec made by the iconic Swiss manufacturer, the Stromer has a smooth rideability that has fast made it one of the most popular ebikes. The powertrain features a 500W gearless hub motor with regenerative braking and a 522 Wh battery pack, giving riders ~35 miles of range. While these premium powertrain components give the ST1 very responsive and intuitive acceleration/deceleration, they do make it a lot heavier than most other city ebikes. Given its excellent condition and ~500 miles of estimated usage, this listing is a steal at almost $1500 less than its Flywheel Vehicle Value. Listing can be found here.
The Riese & Müller Homage is a premium class-3 commuter that SF bike shop New Wheel calls “the most comfortable ride that exists.” The Homage is a full-suspension ebike, with front and rear tunable air suspension, and is built upon a Bosch mid-drive motor. Stock Homages typically come with a class-2 Bosch Performance CX system and a 625Wh battery pack, but this listing is upgraded to a class-3 Bosch Performance Speed system and even comes with a dual battery setup giving riders an additional 625Wh. Even the transmission is upgraded to a continuously variable transmission to reduce maintenance efforts and enable shifting while stopped. This particular seller actually owns an ebike repair shop (suggesting that the vehicle has been kept in excellent condition), and is including 6 months of maintenance and repair with purchase. Another incredibly priced listing given that its $2,600 less than its Flywheel Vehicle Value. Listing can be found here.
The Tern Vektron P9 is a premium class-1 folding ebike. Although it is more expensive than most other folding bikes, the Vektron has a number of component upgrades and features that make it ride more akin to a standard, larger commuter than a folding bike. Its frame is actually a bit longer than most folding bikes, making it more stable and allowing riders to get full extension when pedaling. The powertrain, featuring a 250W Bosch Active Line Cruise mid-drive motor with a 400Wh battery pack, is also higher performing than most folding ebikes and thereby gives riders longer range and higher torque. This specific listing is essentially new with only 160 miles of usage and was recently serviced. Listing can be found here.
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Observation of the Week
An Interview with Toussaint Wattinne of Upway
This week, I had the opportunity to chat with Toussaint Wattinne, Co-Founder and CEO of Upway. Upway is Europe’s leading marketplace for reconditioned ebikes. They buy ebikes directly from sellers, assess and refurbish them, and sell them online direct to consumers.
In light of their recent $25M Series A raise, I wanted to chat with Toussaint about the thesis behind Upway and their upcoming plans. Below is a summary of our conversation:
Q: Inventory of used ebikes still feels nascent and small in the US, is this the case in France/Europe as well?
A: Today, France looks similar to US in volumes, but the US market is growing fast. While volumes as a whole are low, building trust in the used market improves liquidity and increases volumes. A lot of discussions about the secondary market today revolve around buyer pain points, but solving seller pain points is equally important (expensive goods, who's going to show up at your door, will they pay, etc.). Ultimately, sellers provide supply and liquidity, which is the main bottleneck right now.
Q: How does does the European ebike market compare to the US?
A: The US is an interesting market because vehicles are a bit bigger and faster, and the market a whole is growing faster than many markets in Europe. The EU also has a lot of leased fleets (i.e. companies leasing fleets for their employees) that resell into the used market. This is a big supply source that doesn't really exist in the US. That being said, the US is expanding rapidly and will likely become larger than France and even Germany in just a few years. We’re planning to expand into the US soon.
Q: Do vehicles from shared fleets (i.e. Lime and Bird) act as an interesting supply source that can replace some of the leased fleets you mentioned don’t exist in the US?
A: Shared fleets are theoretically interesting sources, but they have some homework to do. Their IoT is designed for shared and not really compatible with individual ownership, so many vehicles are often locked when out of their shared fleet network. They're also usually designed with different features in mind: they're meant to be robust and incredibly weather- and vandalism-proof. So all specs equal (motor, battery, transmission), the price point will likely need to be lower for them to be appealing to individual owners.
Q: What are some reasons that you buy the vehicle outright as opposed to being a peer-to-peer (P2P) network like BikeFair or Craigslist? What are the pros and cons of both?
A: There are really 3 approaches when thinking about used marketplaces. P2P, connecting buyers/sellers to refurbishers, and vertical integration like Upway. P2P doesn't improve trust enough for buyers/sellers or solve seller pain points, so you're really just playing with existing volumes instead of expanding the market. A marketplace connecting to refurbishers is tough because there aren't that many refurbishers, and it is difficult to maintain consistent quality across refurbishers. Vertical integration creates new volume, gives us full control and insight over vehicle health, and allows us to repair and offer a meaningful warranty to customers. It also allows us to pick the right brands to buy that will be easier for us to repair and offer warranties on.
Q: How do you mitigate the risks around offering a 1 year warranty?
A: A 1 year warranty thus far has been really reasonable because we are very selective about buying the right bikes. We analyze the after-sales maintenance efforts required for every bike model and avoid buying those that require a lot of after-sales resources.
Q: Do batteries pose an issue when refurbishing given that they form a majority of the cost of an ebike?
A: People tend to overestimate how quickly batteries degrade. Typical ebike batteries are good for 5-8yrs with 100s of charge cycles, and ebikes are typically goods that aren't charged every day. We are mostly seeing batteries are still in pretty great condition. But, for any batteries that are in poor health, we work with refurbishers to fix them (i.e. replace spare cells).
Q: How are you dealing with replacement parts, is that something OEMs work with you on?
A: Although there's a lot of different ebikes brands and models, many are built upon a pretty similar subset of components (Shimano transmission parts, Bosch/Bafang/Yamaha batteries, etc.). So having stock of these components has typically been sufficient. We’ve occasionally even had some OEMs that sent their technicians to our warehouses to help with maintenance of more custom components.
Q: Finally, what makes for a good or bad ebike to sell used?
A: The best brands are ones that require the least after-sales, because this makes it easiest for us to offer a comprehensive warranty. Legacy brands are usually great because they’re designed to be so robust and maintenance free. Some of the newer brands comparatively require a bit more after-sales since they're still young and going through some typical hardware growing pains. But, they're also the faster growing brands that are bringing in a new customer segment, so it’s imperative for us to work with them.
Upway is currently live in France and Belgium, and is planning to launch soon in the US, Germany, and the Netherlands. If you’d like to chat with Toussaint ahead of their launches, you can reach connect with him here or email me and I can introduce you. Thanks Toussaint for the wonderful conversation and insight!
That’s it for this week. Thanks again for joining, see you next Sunday!
- Puneeth Meruva
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