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Flywheel | October 24, 2022
Exploring the automotive industry's foray into micromobility 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 automotive industry's foray into micromobility. This week’s featured vehicles are a two commuters, a front-loaded cargo trike, a folding beach cruiser, and a fat-tire ebike.
Observation of the Week
The Automotive Industry’s Foray into Micromobility
During this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe confirmed that smaller EVs and ebikes in particular will be part of their future product portfolio. This not-so-secret secret has been apparent for quite some time: Specialized’s former CTO moved to Rivian this past summer and and Rivian filed a trademark for ebikes back in January of this year.
The automotive industry has long flirted with micromobility, and this isn’t the first time auto OEMs have ventured into the space. BMW, Mercedes, GM, and Porsche all have released ebikes of some kind, Ford owned shared scooter service Spin for ~4 years, and even Elon Musk mentioned that Tesla may eventually build an ebike.
These forays into the industry are not that surprising. Not only is the writing on the wall that urban mobility is moving towards micromobility, but constraints on the battery supply chain over the coming decade make it clear that OEMs need to incorporate light EVs in their lineup. In his TC Disrupt interview, RJ says that the battery supply chain “has to grow on the order of 20x over the next 10 to 15 years” and that “it’s going to constrain how rapidly we go from, you know, a few million electric vehicles a year to 100 million electric vehicles a year.” We need to move more people and more miles with fewer Whs, and micromobility is simply just more efficient in terms of utility/Wh. As @jdavey_2 points out, “if they [Rivian] split the battery from 1 of their $65K pickups they'd power almost 300 e-bikes.”
None of the automotive OEMs have been particularly successful with their entry into micromobilty. Most of their efforts have largely just been concepts they’ve released to get their foot in the door, and many of their vehicles have really just been 3rd party ebikes rebranded under their own logo. Within all of this frenzy, the only company that has truly claimed a stake in micromobility is automotive Tier-1 supplier Bosch.
Bosch is a dominant player in micromobility, supplying the powertrains for most of the high-quality ebikes on the market. Premium ebike brands boast about having a Bosch powertrain on their vehicles, and many bike shops will only sell ebikes with a Bosch powertrain. Bosch’s moat isn’t necessarily the quality of their components (although that’s a huge piece of it), but rather the maintenance network they’ve built. Given that most incumbent brands use Bosch and sell their vehicles through bike shops, and given that most bike shops typically only sell incumbent brands, Bosch powertrains can be serviced at virtually every bike shop in North America and Europe. Bosch also has an incredibly well designed technician training and certification process, which makes it even easier to onboard new maintenance providers.
As new automotive players enter the micromobility sector, I think focusing on the maintenance network as a wedge is the most effective way to build market share. Although Bosch has the incumbent brands locked down, I actually think there’s an interesting opportunity for new entrants to similarly roll up and build a network across younger ebike brands. These newer ebike brands have shown a faster pace of innovation in vehicle technology (particularly software and electronics) and the ownership experience, and as a collective will be a compelling competitive segment to the incumbents.
The new entrants I’m keeping an eye on? Valeo with their new light EV powertrain offering and Yamaha with their new ebike lineup that will only be distributed through their motorcycle dealer network.
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Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The Co-op Cycles CTY e2.1 is a class-1 commuter ebike. Co-op Cycles is outdoor recreation equipment retailer REI’s in-house ebike brand, founded to provide affordable ebikes designed upon REI’s learnings from selling high-end ebikes from legacy ebike brands (i.e. Cannondale, Electra, Benno, Haibike, Diamondback). From the onset, it’s clear that the CTY e2.1 is designed with the commuter use-case in mind. The mid-step frame makes getting on the bike easier, and a rear rack, front and rear lights, memory foam seat, and center kickstand are all natively integrated and come standard with the vehicle. The powertrain is modest (40Nm Shimano E5000 mid-drive motor and 418Wh battery pack) but more than sufficient for the average commuter. With 170+ stores nationwide that are all equipped with bike service centers, REI is one of the largest ebike distributors and maintenance networks in the country. Now combined with its own in-house brand, REI has quietly vertically integrated the entire value chain for owned ebikes and is quickly becoming a formidable giant in the sector. This listing is in like-new condition, and its registration can be transferred such that new owners also receive access to the vehicle’s “Coast to Coast Support” maintenance plan. Listing can be found here.
The Ferla Sport Limited Edition is a class-1 front-loaded cargo trike. Ferla is a boutique cargo bike brand based in Southern California that specializes in family-focused ebikes. The Sport Limited Edition is one of Ferla’s original flagship models (now discontinued) that they launched the brand with. Designed for parents to transport children, the Sport Limited Edition has a heavy-duty front box with a 350lb payload capacity and a shorter frame length to improve the trike’s handling and make it less prone to tipping over. The 45Nm Bafang hub-motor and 418Wh battery pack are both frankly a bit weak for a cargo bike, but should suffice for casual neighborhood cruising. Family-focused cargo bikes are one of the fastest growing segments in micromobility, particularly because they’re amongst the first ebike form factors that are truly designed for a specific job to be done. This listing is a floor model with 30 miles of usage sold by Ferla. Differently configured used Sport Limited Edition vehicles can be found on Ferla’s outlet. Listing can be found here.
The BMW M-Sport Cruise is a high-performance class-3 commuter ebike. Designed for agile and sporty rideability, its monstrous powertrain (150Nm Bafang BBSHD mid-drive motor and 665Wh Panasonic battery pack) sits on an ultra-light carbon fiber frame. This ebike is a perfect example of automotive companies’ forays into micromobility. From the classic red and blue M-series aesthetic to the ultra aggressive powertrain and Continental tires, the M-Sport truly pays homage to its BMW sister vehicles. It’s a great option for BMW fans, but it’s frankly not a very practical option for high-utility commuters due to its lack of suspension (particularly at a max speed of 40mph), awkward riding position, and poor cargo capabilities. This listing is a newly assembled vehicle sold by a local LA bike shop, and can be bought with further battery upgrades. Listing can be found here.
The Pedego Latch is a class-2 folding cruiser. Pedego has long been known for its beach cruisers, and the Latch is the only folding ebike on the market that comes close to replicating that beach cruiser feel. The powertrain (30Nm hub-motor and 360Wh) is pretty similar to other folding ebikes, but the Latch’s use of a Gates carbon belt drive sets it apart and gives it the smooth pedal motion and casual rideability characteristic of a beach cruiser. Combined with the fact that the vehicle also has an extremely small footprint when folded, the Latch is extremely popular as a recreational first/last-mile vehicle that riders carry in the back of their RV or boat. It’s also very easy to maintain the Latch because of Pedego’s vast dealer network. Although the Latch is on the higher end of the price range for folding bikes, this listing for a model that’s been ridden for less than 2 miles and is posted for ~$800 less than MSRP is a compelling option. Listing can be found here.
The Sondors X is a class-2 all-terrain ebike and a modern refresh of Sondors’s original Fat bikes. Its powertrain features an 80Nm Bafang hub motor and an 840Wh battery pack that is neatly packaged into a triangular compartment between the top and down tubes. Although most fat tires are typically used for off-road biking, the X isn’t a great trail bike because of its weak transmission and lack of suspension. However, its powertrain specs and cushy fat tires make it a very comfortable city commuter. This listing is missing a key and a charger, which are telltale signs suggesting that the listing is almost certainly a stolen bike. The terribly photoshopped images on the post don’t exactly lend any credibility either. 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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