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Flywheel | November 07, 2022
Exploring the difficulties of shipping micromobility vehicles and featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight an observation of trends emerging in the industry and feature five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the secondary market.
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The observation of the week explores the difficulties of shipping micromobility vehicles. This week’s featured vehicles are two utility-focused urban commuters and three compact ebikes.
Observation of the Week
The difficulties of shipping micromobility vehicles
My friend and colleague Reilly Brennan recently had an extremely cumbersome time trying to send his D2C ebike back to the manufacturer for maintenance. His comments on the experience:
“When I got a fatal error on my ebike which required it to be sent back to the manufacturer, I languished in the purgatory of long-distance service. When the service tech told me I could just bring it into a local brand store, I reminded them the bike was some 300 miles from the nearest location. This meant they had to send me a box (over two months to get this box sent to me), another one month for them to give me a return label ('we have been informed that there is a current ship in repair delay and cannot accept your bike at this time'), and then a month to get the bike back. Upon return the bike had shipping damages that were not on the bike when I sent it in.”
Shipping is one of the most frustrating experiences of owning a micro vehicle. Whether it be because a rider is moving to a new city or needs to send their vehicle back to the manufacturer/retailer for returns or maintenance, the logistics of shipping these vehicles is a critical element of the user experience to get right. However, many riders find the process of shipping their vehicle so expensive and complicated that they just resell or discard their vehicle altogether. In 2022 thus far across major US markets, ~11% of all listings that report the reason for sale indicated that the vehicle was being resold due to shipping difficulties. Even retailers and manufacturers struggle with shipping, particularly when receiving the vehicle back from their customers. In the case of returns, some brands even let customers just keep the vehicle while still issuing a full refund because shipping expenses and processing times are costlier than not receiving the vehicle back.
So why exactly is it so expensive and cumbersome to ship an ebike? It ultimately boils down to three factors:
Weight: Ebikes are simply heavier than most goods that are shipped via common carriers like UPS. Given that a packaged ebike likely weighs at least 50lbs, shippers have to pay expensive “overweight” rates. Many of these carriers also cap consumer shipments at a max of 150lbs.
Volume: Assembled ebikes are hard to fit into reasonably sized boxes, so ebikes are typically shipped with the front wheel and handlebars off. However, assembly/disassembly is extra friction in the process and introduces the risk for damage and unsafe assembly of the vehicle.
Battery: The shipping of batteries is actually regulated by the United Nations (UN). Most batteries used on micro vehicles are Li-Ion batteries that fall under the standards UN3480 or UN3481, which classifies these batteries as a Hazard Class 9. For someone to ship a vehicle with UN3480 or UN3481 batteries, they must be able to provide a UN38.3 certification (a testing standard batteries must meet to be considered safe for shipping) and get a pre-approval from the carrier. This is not only an incredibly arduous and complicated process, but also one that introduces a further surcharge since it requires specialized hazmat handling. Take a look UPS’s 12-page battery shipping manual on the matter to get a sense of just how confusing this can be.
Outside of large parcel carriers like UPS and Fedex, there’s a few white-glove alternatives. A friend at a used ebike retailer mentioned that they’ve shipped pre-owned ebikes in the past via BikeFlights or Kitzuma, but these services mainly focus on pedal bikes and are still too expensive for most people. As far as I’m aware, there’s no commercial carriers that specialize in moving micro vehicles.
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Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The Lectric XP 3.0 is a budget class-3 folding ebike. Recently released by Lectric as an upgrade to its popular XP 2.0, the XP 3.0 sports a number of improvements that positions it to “likely become one of the best-selling electric bikes in the country.” The new XP 3.0 features a stronger 55Nm motor, improved motor controller, stronger brakes, integrated rear rack, and a more cushioned hydraulic suspension fork, all while selling for same $1,099 MSRP as the XP 2.0. These improvements lead to the most significant new feature: the XP 3.0 can now be used as a two-person vehicle. When combined with Lectric’s passenger package accessory (additional $75), the XP 3.0 can comfortably transport two adult passengers at a speed of ~25mph. The XP 3.0 is certainly the cheapest two-passenger ebike on the market, and has a strong case to be considered the best budget ebike out there. This listing is for a brand new, in-box vehicle with a transferable warranty. Listing can be found here.
The Rad Power RadRunner is a compact class-2 utility bike. It’s Rad Power’s most versatile model, designed for both comfortable commuting and heavy cargo hauling. The powertrain features an 80Nm rear-hub motor and 672Wh battery pack, and the vehicle’s 300lb payload capacity means that it is powerful enough to carry a second passenger via RadPower’s Bring a Friend kit. The frame is extremely modular and low to the ground, making the RadRunner one of the best all-purpose ebikes on the market. RadRunners are particularly popular ebikes for tourism and fleet uses because, as Reilly Brennan puts it, they’re “the right blend of durability and low cost (not too high in either category, just right).” When I was in Zion National Park this past week, I saw RadRunners everywhere, available for rent at most bike rental shops for ~$79/day (a 19-day payback!!!). This listing is in excellent condition and fully accessorized, and is being resold because the seller is moving. It’s yet another example of the many vehicles that are posted for resale simply because it’s too expensive and cumbersome to ship an ebike. Listing can be found here.
The Jetson Bolt Pro is a class-2 compact neighborhood mini ebike. At a length of 47” and a height of 39”, it feels closer in size to a scooter than an ebike but packs a zippy powertrain. The powertrain consists of an 80Nm direct drive hub motor and 216Wh battery pack, both of which feel surprisingly strong yet quiet. However, most of the parts are made of steel, which make the Bolt Pro very heavy (43.2lbs) for a vehicle of this size. The Bolt Pro is certainly too weak and unreliable to be a regular high-utility commuter, but it’s a fun recreational vehicle that punches above its weight given its astonishingly low price point. Jetson really took off during the pandemic when American big box retailer Costco started selling Bolt Pros in their stores. In fact, this model is now the 10th most sold used ebike in the US. The Bolt Pro deserves credit for being one of the first ebikes that many Americans were exposed to, and its success is a testament to the power of strong distribution. It’s extremely exciting to see a retailer as large as Costco beginning to embrace micromobility, and I look forward to hopefully seeing Costco bring even more micromobiltiy vehicles to the mass market. Listing can be found here.
The Aventon Pace 500 is a class-3 commuter-cruiser hybrid. Commonly known as “best bang for your buck” ebike, the Pace 500 is one of the most affordable class-3s on the market and a favorite amongst couriers and last-mile delivery riders. Featuring a 50Nm hub motor, 614Wh battery pack, and hydraulic brakes (rare for ebikes <$2K), the Pace 500 has higher quality and better performing componentry than most other ebikes in this price range. Aventon ebikes also have an excellent companion app with a number of social features that let you interact with the active Aventon community and compare how you ride. Aventon has emerged as one of the marquee budget brands in the sector, combining affordable prices with high quality vehicles and excellent maintenance/support. They recently raised a new round of financing led by Sequoia China, making their total funding raised similar to that of competitors like Rad Power and VanMoof. This listing is practically brand new with only 15 miles of usage. Listing can be found here.
The BESV PSA1 is a premium class-1 mini ebike. Unlike most compact ebikes that are either small and flimsy or fold and feel unstable at the joints, the PSA1 has a solid, fully integrated frame that pairs with a full suspension system to give the best rideability of any ebike this size. The powertrain features a 70Nm Shimano hub motor and a 381Wh removable battery pack. These specs are comparable to full-size commuter ebikes, so they give the PSA1 power and agility that defy its small geometry. The PSA1 has widely been applauded for its reliability, but BESV also has a fairly extensive network of service centers in case you need to maintain the vehicle. This listing is for a lightly used (506 miles) vehicle bought 1 year ago. Listing can be found here.
That’s it for this week. Thanks again for joining, see you next Monday!
- Puneeth Meruva
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