The electric vehicle revolution is upon us. This fact is great for reducing the over-reliance on fossil fuels for transportation. Toxic air pollution and climate change emissions need to be reduced both for human health and the environment. Some people are not on board with electric vehicles. They argue online in favor of internal combustion engines and conventional personal transportation, making bogus claims about the ‘extra’ costs of EVs while denying the massive costs of climate change and petroleum extraction, for just one example. The debates and arguments tend to focus on large vehicles that can transport multiple passengers.
There’s a whole class of electrified vehicles that gets overlooked: e-bikes and the like, or ‘micromobility’. E-bikes are doing quite well because they just make sense. Who would not want a bike that could propel itself when you did not have the time or energy to pedal it? E-bikes are efficient, enjoyable, portable, compact, and compelling. (Of course, there are also electric standup scooters and skateboards.) If you aren’t ready to purchase an e-bike, it is possible to electrify a bike of your own with a conversion kit.
The Canadian engineering firm ENVO Drive Systems manufactures e-bikes, conversion kits, a trike, a snowbike and a waterbike. Founder and CEO Ali Khazemkhani answered some questions for CleanTechnica about the firm and its electric products. (He previously provided background information for this interview on CleanTechies.)
When and why did you found ENVO Drive Systems?
I am committed to offsetting the impact of fossil fuels on our planet by helping people move differently with sustainably engineered, future-proof and green micro electric mobility solutions in all terrains. Yet, I knew I could not combat climate change with the effort of an individual. I know that people are deeply concerned about climate change, but they just don’t have the resources or knowledge of what they can do to help in this long-term battle. Thus, I want to design and build affordable clean mobility solutions for everyone to use anywhere, anytime.
In 2016, I started ENVO to work together with talents in the industry to develop micro electric mobility products for people to use in any situation.
Why do you think electric vehicles are important?
Climate change is a global concern. Extreme weather is causing severe harm to our life and economy. Thus, countries around the world are coming together to combat climate change.
One of the major causes of climate change is greenhouse gases (GHG). The burning of fossil fuels produces GHGs and hazardous chemical emissions. Adopting EVs can reduce GHG emissions considerably. So far, over 12,000 riders in the ENVO community have collectively saved over 85 Million KGs of CO2 every year by opting for clean energy instead of using fossil fuels.
This is why countries like Canada have rolled out zero-emission plans and have advised stopping the sale of conventional vehicles.
What do you manufacture and how many have sold so far?
ENVO is Canada’s largest micro electric mobility brand, with products ranging from e-bikes to Snowkarts to conversion kits.
Unlike the mainstream North American e-bike brands, which order catalogue products from Southeast Asian factories and label through a pure purchase trade, ENVO products are truly engineered in Canada and are based on domestic requirements, regulations, climate and applications.
There are 4 types of production done by ENVO based on the complexity and cost-effectiveness:
- Engineered, manufactured, and assembled in-house: SnowKart
- Engineered and assembled in-house, parts manufactured overseas: FLEX series
- Engineered in-house, manufactured and assembled overseas: D35/ST series.
- Re-engineered in-house based on an existing production platform, manufactured overseas: Lynx series.
In-house engineering makes the production and supply chain a lot more difficult to handle, but enables ENVO to offer the best products that suit our community the most. Also, by investing in in-house engineering, ENVO can manage the cost of production at the cost level of manufactured parts plus fees, rather than the catalogue pricing of a manufacturer which includes their overhead and profit margins. This is the trick to how ENVO provides high-quality yet affordable products.
Last but not least, ENVO technical staff performs a 100% quality control check to ensure that the quality of all 4 types of production is up to standard and can guarantee customer satisfaction.
As of today, there are more than 12,000 people who believe in ENVO and became members of the ENVO family!
How do your conversion kits work and do they work on any road or mountain bike?
ENVO conversion kits are hub-motor-based designs. Riders replace their bike’s tire with ENVO’s hub motor to power the bike. The conversion kit includes a battery and controller along with other parts that need to be mounted on the bicycle frame.
ENVO offers a large variety of conversion kits for different rim sizes and dropout spacing, so most bikes are compatible.
Your eCity Bike has an impressive range of up to 100 km per charge. How long does it take to charge and does it come with a home charger? Can it be charged with a public EV charger or can it be charged from a standard wall outlet at work?
All ENVO batteries come with a CC/CV Li-ion charger, only this charger should be used to charge the batteries. This charger comes with a standard socket input and can be plugged into any socket with 120V electrical output. It takes 2-3 hours to fully charge ENVO batteries.
What is a FLEX snowbike?
FLEX is the latest ENVO invention that shakes the micro electric mobility industry. The FLEX line of e-bikes includes FLEX Overland, FLEX Urban, FLEX Trike and FLEX Snowbike.
FLEX allows users to upgrade and adapt their e-bike to four different riding applications based on their preferences or riding needs year-round.
For example, FLEX Snowbike is designed for customers looking to explore snowy trails and frozen lakes – perfect for ice fishing and winter trails. The FLEX Snowbike can be easily converted into the FLEX Overland with the help of modular design components, allowing for the utility of two products on one platform.
All FLEX range of products are equipped with dual battery options and the FLEX Snowbike offers a range of up to 50 km.
What is a recent development?
As consumers become more aware of the environmental impacts of fossil fuels, e-mobility is creating a massive shift in the lifestyles of North Americans. E-bikes are widely known and potentially the most significant leader in the future of e-mobility. However, e-bikes are just one mode of electric transportation. ENVO aims to create a spectrum of electrical products to suit all lifestyles, from e-bikes to eScooters, on-road to off-road, and water to snow.
We have already started to develop ideas in different segments and curate them into product concepts and eventually release them to the market. Below are some examples:
FLEX: FLEX is an innovative 2022 product release from ENVO that features a common platform of frames and components engineered to be converted from one riding application to another. There are a total of four models, each specialized for a specific purpose and serving a particular niche with versatile add-on accessories. The modular design helps ENVO dealers manage the uncertainty of demand, as they can stock parts that offer customers vast customization with minimal investment in inventory.
eCity: eCity is an innovative product to be released. eCity Bike weighs just over 42 lb and can be easily carried around in condo staircases, public transit and more, but looks and behaves like a regular bike used to whip around the city. We challenged ourselves to design a bike that puts aesthetics and pleasure first yet does not sacrifice motor performance and our beloved torque emulation software.
Hydra Water Bike: Last year, we were able to identify optimized parameters that allowed the water bike to move at the speed of 19km/h. In comparison, the same water bike without the hydrofoil only went up to 12km/h. This year, we focused on making a mature product and changing the single pivot feedback mechanism to provide a smoother transition and more control.
Velomobile: Last year, we were able to develop a successful prototype of a light pedal assist weather-protected tricycle with a modular design which can be easily disassembled and shipped around the world for the same shipping cost as a recumbent tricycle. Picking up from the last year, ENVO worked on the aerodynamic design. We have also conducted theoretical and experimental studies to develop a drop-stitched inflatable material (DSIM) which was thinner in width than most available options in the industry. This development allowed ENVO to design a more aerodynamic body.
We are eager for new thoughts, ideas, and talents. That’s why we are expanding our tech and engineering team and inviting ideas through social media, community build-up as well as design and ideation contests such as ENVO NEXT MOVE contest.
ENVO Next Move is a design contest organized and held by ENVO Drive, aiming to design the next generation of sustainable personal transportation. The objective is to encourage leading minds to shape the future of the electric personal transport industry in various contexts of use, ranging from navigating the city to exploring nature.
In addition, we look to partner with other companies active in the industry with similar goals to accelerate their growth.
We are also getting prepared to go public in the stock market to support our ambitious plans financially.
Micro electric mobility will be the next big domain, and ENVO aims to be a global leader.
How many employees do you have and where do you see your company going in the next three years?
We have 30 full-time employees plus a dozen Canadian contractors now. In the next three years, we definitely aim to develop an optimal team size by increasing the number of staff and collaboration with strategic partners, according to our growth path & areas of expansion.
Your company was the first in Canada to be awarded UL 2849 certification. Why is that important?
Usage of e-bikes and other electric mobility solutions has risen in recent years due to climate concerns and new fossil fuel regulations. Most would see this as a good thing, with some city-dwellers even swapping out their automobiles for an e-bike that can get them from point a to point b.
However, e-bike incidents are increasing as well because more people are using e-bikes now. In May, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said it has recorded a five-fold increase in lithium-ion battery fires over the last six years.
ENVO believes that manufacturers share responsibility for safety as the electrical components can be built cheaply or to a high level of quality.
Safety engineering, testing and controls in all aspects of e-bike design need to be addressed by manufacturers seriously. More attention and quality control are also needed in the supply chain, production, and user education.
The UL 2849 certification is the highest industry standard for the electrical safety system of e-bikes. The certification process assesses a wide range of aspects of the electrical system of e-bikes, ranging from battery management systems to controllers, chargers, and electric batteries.
With the distinction of being awarded the first UL 2849 Electric Bike Certificate in Canada, ENVO’s passionate team of in-house engineers lead the industry by providing safe e-mobility solutions that offer best-in-class value, outstanding quality assurance, and an exceptional customer experience.
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