Electric Currents

2016: The Year of Quikbyke

Jan 02, 2016

For the better part of two years, we've been working on launching a spin-off of EV World called ePEDALER. In 2015, we changed the name, we raised private capital, and we won a matching grant to build our first prototype Quikbyke Q•pod electric bicycle rental kiosk. Now we're set, in 2016, to turn a dream into reality.

In a previous commentary, I wrote about Quikbyke's MVP, "minimally viable product," basically a shipping container with some electric bicycles inside. When EV World published that article in late November, we had some money in the bank and a promise from the state Department of Economic Development to match it: we spend the money, and Nebraska reimburses us for all allowable expenses, effectively doubling our budget as long as we focus our expenditures on prototype development. Legal fees and expensive office space don't count.

As December rolled around, however, we were still only a business "on paper", an LLC with no material, physical assets. That changed on the 18th, when Pro-Container,LLC, which also happens to be one of our investors, arranged for the delivery of our first shipping container, a 20 ft, one-trip, slide-loading, beige beauty, to the property of Predator Customer Trailers and Motorcoaches, located here in my hometown of Papillion. Video of its arrival is posted below. As you'll hear, I get pretty excited, especially when I discover the driver maneuvering the truck and trailer from outside the cab by remote control!

On Christmas Eve we got nearly 7 inches of snow!

For the time being, the container sits parked less than two miles away, as the geese fly (we have a local flock that fly low over our house most evenings at dusk from a nearby lake. It's a magical moment to hear them plaintively "honking" as they go overhead). As you can imagine, I am impatient to get started on converting it, but first we need to figure out how we are going to power it. My goal from the outset has been to charge the bikes, as well as meet the Q•pod's other power needs using sunlight. Not being an electrical engineer, I have to call on the expertise of others: in this case, a professor from the University of Nebraska and two seniors from Creighton University who have volunteered to help me figure out what we need and how we utilize it. We begin those discussions when they return to school mid-January.

With the power system figured out, we then can start to focus on placement of the backup battery system, inverter, circuit control panel, e-bike charging system, as well as the bike racks, POS stand, storage cabinetry, bike repair station, retail shelving, lighting, security, WiFi, cellular communication system, etc., etc.

While all this is happening, we also need to come up with an exterior design scheme that is both attractive and functional. It needs to tastefully, even playfully, arouse curiosity while remaining true to its form. It is, after all, a shipping container and we must maintain its structural integrity so that it can be stacked on a ship and moved over any body of water just as it was originally designed to do. Here I'll be looking for input: reader suggestions and design idea submissions welcome.

And then there are the bikes themselves. Here I have a certain criteria in mind starting with I want them to come from American suppliers. Some, if not all of them, need to have 26-inch step-thru frames so they are easily mounted and dismounted by both men and women, especially by older riders. The number of bikes and spare batteries per Q•pod will be somewhat determined by how much solar power we have available: the goal being at least a dozen.

In terms rider comfort, we'll go with bikes that have wide comfortable seats for 'older bottoms', as well as have a wide range of adjustment in seat height and handlebar placement. Rather than baskets, we'll use rear-wheel panniers for people to carry their possessions. This allows us to transfer the panniers, which also serve as advertising venues for the Quikbyke brand, from older bikes to new replacement units. The older bikes will be refurbished and sold into local markets or online.

While I wait for school to resume so we can start the power planning process, I worked on a new, updated version of the Quikbyke website, which we launched online last week. Below is a screen capture of the home page, which is designed to be viewed on any mobile device, laptop or desktop computer. It utilizes the currently popular long scroll format. Google's Speed Page service gives is a pretty good rating in terms of usability, if not download speed.

Bottom line here is things are going to start to get pretty busy this year with a lot of my attention focused not only on the fabrication of our first prototype Q•pod, but on the marketing and digital side of the enterprise. EV World will, out of sheer necessity, have to take a subordinate position in terms of publishing priorities. We'll keep updating content, but on a somewhat less rigorous basis. We want Quikbyke's first Q•pod installed and ready for consumer testing before the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder weekend, which takes place April 30th this year. That event attracts more than 30,000 visitors - and potential investors - and we're hoping to be placed just across the street from where the event is held! After that, come June is the NCAA College World Series which also takes place nearby. Both will be excellent opportunities to test the concept and work out the inevitable "kinks."

And after that? Well, we've begun early dialogue with organizers of an even bigger international sporting event, but it's way too early to talk about it. Just stay tuned to both EV World and Quikbyke.

Quikbyke home page screen capture

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