WFAE: NC businesses ride the e-cycle wave. Is this your next vehicle?

WFAE: NC businesses ride the e-cycle wave. Is this your next vehicle?

NC businesses ride the e-cycle wave. Is this your next vehicle?

Bicycle sales have surged during the coronavirus pandemic as more of us take to the roads and greenways for recreation - or give up our cars. Electric bikes and e-cycles are the market's fastest-growing segment.

You might call these personal electric vehicles or personal EVs. They range from electric-assisted pedal bikes that go up to 20 miles an hour to more powerful models that more closely resemble motorcycles and go up to 45 miles an hour. Sales of e-bikes grew 240% over the 12 months ending in July 2021, according to research firm NPD.

"So something that was a niche 10 years ago is now utterly mainstream. We're seeing them proliferate across all different bicycle categories," said Ash Lovell, of the industry group People for Bikes.

These days you can find electric versions of commuter bikes, gravel bikes, road bikes and mountain bikes. Some riders buy them to replace traditional bikes. But for others, a two-wheeled electric vehicle is a climate-friendly alternative to a gas-guzzling car, said Brett McCoy, founder of a Cornelius startup called Huck Cycles.

"A number of our customers have actually replaced their truck, their car, their day-to-day driver with our vehicle as their commuter (vehicle)," McCoy said.

Huck Cycles is named after Mark Twain's character Huckleberry Finn. The company started in 2019 as a "hobby project" for McCoy, who at the time was a bank executive in Charlotte. He thought about buying a motorcycle but said: "I wanted something that was better for the environment that was more efficient, quieter, didn't have the ongoing costs," he said.

He bought a couple of e-bikes, but says they felt like "toys." So he decided to build his own.

As he worked, he posted his designs on social media. And suddenly others were asking to buy them, too. Before he knew it, he had quit his day job and started Huck Cycles.

The company now has two models, the Rebel, which has pedals and a throttle, and the Overland, which is throttle-only. Both cost $6,200 and have three modes: 20, 30 and 45 miles per hour. So far, Huck has sold more than 700 in the U.S. and worldwide - bringing in $2.5 million.

Huck is in an industry dominated by companies that manufacture in Asia or Europe, says McCoy.

"One of the things that sets us apart from the market is we actually build and fabricate our bikes here in the US. We do import components and parts that we can't get in the U.S., but frames, hardbody components, tanks, seats, anything like that, we do get locally."

While Huck's motors come from Japan, the company also works with suppliers in High Point, Shelby, Mooresville, Statesville, and Kannapolis.

E-bikes have hand brakes like traditional bikes. For e-bikes with pedals, the motor stops when you stop pedaling. For others, a throttle controls the speed. Most models plug into a standard outlet. The range varies by model and driver. Huck Cycles typically get 35 to 50 miles on a charge.

Huck Cycles is a relatively new entrant in a field that's growing worldwide. Read the full story here.

An extended version of this story appeared in WFAE's Feb. 10, 2022, climate newsletter.