SURU: An E-Bike Made In and For Canada
It seems like the classic entrepreneurial story. Man sees need, man invents solution, man turns it into a business. Or it could be a woman, of course, but in this particular case, the protagonist is male. His name is Michael Uhlarik and he lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. His invention? An electric motorbike called Suru.
He's not a novice to the process. He designed the Amarok electric motorcycle. Still it's taken the father of two threee years to get to this point with Suru.
Suru is a bit hard to classify. It's not a bicycle and it's not a motorcycle or even scooter. It's a sort of hybrid: a tough, rugged crossbred that conforms to US and Canadian electric-assist bicycle specifications: top speed 20 mph (33km/h) and working pedals. At 73 lbs, its a good 20 lbs heavier than the typical e-bike, so you're going to use its 500W rear hub motor pretty much most of the time. (See more specs here).
In an interview with Chonicle Herald, Uhlarik admits his creation won't appeal to cyclists or motorcycle riders.
“Both of them will hate it,” he said with a laugh during a phone conversation from his Hubbards home/workshop on Monday. “Bicyclists are a purist sort, generally speaking. They won’t give their bike up for anything. Motorcyclists will say, ‘What, it’s top speed is only 33 kilometres an hour? No way.
“But that’s not who we’re zeroing in on. Someone who drives a Suru is a person who lives in a city that drives a car everywhere and sometimes pointlessly."
He also admits that raising the money - it took just 10 days - and building Suru was the easy part. Finding customers for the $3,900 machine will be the real challenge, especially since he's going up against cheaper competitors out of the dominating Asian market where China turns out similar machines by the tens of millions every year for a fraction of what Uhlarik and his small team can produce them. His advantage is Suru is made for the Canadian - and presumably also US markets - not for Nanjing or Hangzhou where cheap and discardable is the business model.
Having recently won the $50,000 Spark Innovation Challenge, beating out 135 other competing startups in Nova Scotia, Suru is moving into a facility that will enable them to produce 5-10 bikes a week.
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