Palmerston man Chris Walker rides one of the
electrically-assisted bicycles he hopes will become a
common sight on Otago roads. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Commuters will find the sting taken out of hills,
headwinds and petrol prices if electric bicycles and scooters
become more common on Dunedin roads.
Envirobikes director Chris Walker says developing plans to
independently import Chinese-made electrically-assisted
bicycles in recent months has been a "huge learning curve"
and an "exciting ride".
He spent more than 100 hours researching, sourcing, and
arranging shipping and invested about $4000 to import four
sample electric bikes, which arrived in Dunedin earlier this
He plans to order another 40 this week.
Similar products, which assist a cyclist's pedalling by
engaging a small electric motor in the bike's hub, are
distributed in small numbers around New Zealand but were a
popular mode of transport in China, he said.
A 2007 New York Times article said although electric
bikes were popular in Asia and Europe, they only sold in the
"tens of thousands" each year in the United States, compared
with sales of up to 10 million in China in recent years. Mr
Walker expects the bikes to retail about $1700.
Charging the battery would cost about $1.72, which means the
bike could use about 3c of power per km.
"It's easy to lose that childhood excitment of riding and
these bikes recapture that.
"They may help people getting back into fitness or commuters
in shaving time off their ride."
The idea of importing a "green vehicle" with mass appeal came
to Mr Walker earlier this year while researching
cost-effective transport options for the journey from his
Palmerston home to the University of Otago, where he is
Foundation Studies information services manager.
Browns Avanti Plus manager Stu Thomas said the Dunedin store
sold two or three electrically-assisted bikes (with 200W
motors in the front hub) each year since Avanti launched the
bikes in 2005.
Sales might increase when Avanti released an upgraded
electric bike in the next six to 12 months, Mr Thomas said.
Timaru-based Quarry manager Peter Hooper said an
electrically-powered alternative for non-cyclists might be
the 350W scooters he imported after a recent business trip to
"I was there in March and every man and their dog had them.
They were a lot more common than cars.
"They remove the hassle of driving and there's the fun
factor. They are unusual here but won't be for long.
"In Sydney they are putting in public charging points and
free parking to encourage use."
The scooter resembles a 50cc petrol equivalent, and has a top
speed of 35kmh and flat terrain range of about 70km.
There are now about 400 electric scooters in New Zealand, but
he expects them to become more popular when petrol prices
"inevitably rise". On-road costs are about $1200.
Range: 65km battery range claimed by the manufacturer.
Charge: 4 to 6 hours to recharge (cost estimated $1.72) - 500
Power: 36V - 180W motor (mounted in rear hub), powered by a
10amp lithium battery.
Components: Six-speed conventional bicycle gears plus LED