Flywheel | May 08, 2022

Featuring the top 5 used vehicles of the week and exploring the history of Kelley Blue Book


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 three folding bikes, an electric fixie, and a premium commuter. The observation of the week explores the history of Kelley Blue Book.

Top 5 Vehicles of the Week

The Vektron S10 is Tern’s most popular class-1 folding ebike. Designed with a tall hinge and an auto-lock system, the fold on the Vektron is much more secure and stable than the average folding ebike. The S10 features Bosch’s performance line powertrain (250W motor and 400Wh battery pack), and is actually the only folding ebike sold in North America to have a Bosch powertrain. While not the best cargo hauling vehicle, the S10 does have a 60lb capacity rear rack compatible with most mounting interfaces. Additionally, the seat uses Tern’s new Andros stem that has two quick release clamps, which allows riders to easily switch between two seat heights. This listing has very low mileage and comes with proof of purchase and registration. Listing can be found here.

Launched in 1975, Brompton is an iconic British brand famous for their ultra-small folding bicycles. The C Line is a class-1 electric version of their six-speed bike. The powertrain features a 250W motor designed by Williams Advanced Engineering (the team behind Williams F1 Racing’s motors) and a 300Wh battery pack that’s housed in a removable clip-on bag. While the prospect of electrifying the legendary Brompton folding bikes is enticing, the execution of this effort is underwhelming. The electronics are front-loaded and the battery bag doesn’t tightly clip onto the vehicle, making the bike cumbersome to maneuver. Additionally, the motor is not as powerful or smooth as most other class-1 ebikes, and the power sometimes disconnects since the battery bag rattles when riding. For most riders, the Tern Vektron S10 featured above is a more rideable and stable folding ebike option. This listing is in excellent condition and has low usage. Listing can be found here.

While the C Line featured above is a Brompton folding ebike electrified by the manufacturer itself, this listing is a Brompton A line folding pedal bike that the seller upfitted with a Swytch ebike kit. This vehicle has a similar chassis to the electric C line, but has a three-speed transmission instead of a 6-speed transmission. The Swytch powertrain on this bike is a well reviewed conversion kit Swytch designed specifically for Brompton bikes, and features a 250W motor with a 250Wh battery pack. The motor on this listing seems to be a higher performance motor than the default Brompton/Williams motor on the electric C-line, but this listing still has the same front-heavy balance issues as its default-electric counterpart. Listing can be found here.

The Pure Cycles Volta is a class-1 ebike modeled after fixie pedal bikes. Featuring a 250W Bafang motor with a 250Wh battery pack, the powertrain along with all cabling is neatly integrated into the vehicle frame. The Volta has integrated head and tail lights (an increasingly common feature in ebikes) and unlocks via a car-like key fob. This vehicle is designed to be a stealthy and agile urban ebike. Its 20” wheels and 36.4lb weight combined with electronics that are fully integrated into the frame make the Volta nimble and hardly distinguishable from a pedal bike. The seller of this listing recently replaced the battery and is able to provide proof of purchase. Listing can be found here.

The Priority Embark is a premium class-1 ebike marketed as a maintenance free vehicle. This ease of maintenance is primarily due to the bike’s high-end transmission components: a Bosch Active Line Plus powertrain (250W mid-drive motor and 400Wh battery pack) coupled with a Gates Carbon belt drive and a continuously variable Enviolo transmission. Even just one of these components is hard to find on most ebikes, let alone all three. The ebikes that do have a similar set of parts (i.e. those from Riese & Müller) typically cost at least twice as much. This specific listing is sold by a seller I’ve mentioned before, Orange County Cyclery. They have performed a 100 point inspection on the vehicle and fully tuned it up before listing. Listing can be found here.

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Observation of the Week

Learning from the history of Kelley Blue Book

My friend Sanjay Dastoor recently pointed out how tracing the history of pivotal services and companies in the automotive sector provides an interesting framework to think about similar services in the micromobility sector. As such, I wanted to dive into the history of Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and see if there are any learnings that can be applied to the used ebike market.

Les Kelley established the Kelley Kar Company in 1918, a used vehicle dealership that started with 3 used Ford Model Ts that Les bought, fixed, and resold. As demand for used-cars spiked and Les needed to be more methodical about procuring inventory, he created a list of the used cars he wanted to buy and the price he would be willing to pay for them that he distributed to other dealerships and banks that could help him find this inventory.

Eventually, dealerships and banks began to trust Les’s lists as a way to assess the value of vehicles and started using them for their own operations. In response to this demand, in 1926, Les published the first Blue Book of Motor Vehicles.

The Blue Book of Motor Vehicles was operated as an independent trade publication for dealerships, banks, and insurance providers in parallel to the Kelley Kar Company, and quickly became the de facto method of vehicle value assessment. In fact, during World War 2 when used car prices skyrocketed due to a car shortage, the US government used the Blue Book to set used price ceilings. The Blue Book determined vehicle values through a combination of analyzing vehicle transactions at dealerships and their own expert appraisals.

In 1952, Les sold the dealership (the largest dealership in the US at the time) to focus exclusively on the Blue Book. The business really took the shape of the Kelley Blue Book we know today in 1993, when the KBB reports were made available to consumers and the general public.

There’s a few key events that led to the rapid growth of the Kelley Blue Book:

  • The prices of new vehicles of the same model stop dropping and begin to stabilize around the same time as the inception of KBB.

  • During the Great Depression, there’s an unprecedented number of people needing to sell their vehicles as quickly as possible.

  • During World War 2, there’s a shortage of new car production.

Some of my initial takeaways from the history of the Kelley Blue Book that I think are relevant to the used ebike market:

  • The main pain points the KBB solved are the lack of a starting point for vehicle price negotiations and lack of buyer’s trust in sellers. These are both also massive pain points for used micromobility.

  • Due to the pandemic, there’s also a shortage (or at least a delay) of new micromobility vehicle production.

  • Up until prices stabilized in the 1920s (referring to the Model T price chart above), selling a used Model T was difficult because new Model T prices were decreasing faster than Model Ts were depreciating. This meant that used Model Ts would often cost more than a new Model T. In micromobility, we’re currently seeing a bit of the opposite. Shortages of new vehicles have led to an increase in both new and used prices, but the used ebike market doesn’t seem large enough or standardized enough yet for the government to consider setting price ceilings like they did for used cars during World War 2. Perhaps this suggests that unlike in the automotive industry, there may actually be an opportunity for used micromobility vehicles even before we reach a stabilized bottom on new vehicle prices.

For a deeper dive into the history of the Kelley Blue Book, check out this excellent podcast by CarStuff.

That’s it for this week. Thanks again for joining, see you next Sunday!

- Puneeth Meruva

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