E-bike entrepreneur hopes to help ease Colorado’s traffic problem
Author: Jessica Machetta - December 24, 2017 - Updated: December 24, 2017
Tom Nardi and Kenny Fisher, founders of FattE-Bikes, promoted their new company and the e-biking experience at Denver’s the Sustainability Expo this month. Fisher said the e-bike could easily replace a second car, or even a first one, for commuters of all ages.
“The reason many people don’t bike is because of deterrents,” he said, “like hills, terrain, sweat, and an electric bike can eliminate all of those.”
The fat-tired bikes are designed to handle all terrains and stand up to Colorado’s winter weather, Fisher said, so riders don’t have to worry about cruising along and being taken out by a pebble or a pothole. The wide-profile tires also make the bikes more visible to motorists, he said, so they’re safer than standard bicycles. The removable battery plugs into a standard wall outlet and runs for 20 to 40 hours on a single charge, depending on a user’s pedal power to battery ratio. (Seventy percent of all car trips are five miles or less, he said.)
“What we’re trying to do is not actually promote biking more as much as we’re trying to promote driving less,” Fisher said. “On an e-bike, you can get places faster because you can bypass a lot of traffic, but also, you actually enjoy your commute once again. That’s been lost now that we’re so dependent on cars. Now we’re grumpy from sitting in traffic. It’s also every man for himself at that point. You see motorcycle riders sort of wave at each other … that’s what we’re trying to promote, that camaraderie, that culture.”
The bikes are customizable; Fisher said his has a cell phone mount, bluetooth speakers and an extra seat for his daughter.
“I have about 800 or 900 miles on my bike with her on the back,” he said. “She thinks she’s the coolest kid in school.”
It’s legally a bicycle, so no driver’s license or insurance is needed. Fisher recommends an e-bike for ages 16 and up, but said younger kids can easily ride them depending on their biking experience. His target audience is millennials, who are driving less than previous generations, and baby boomers, who have stopped bicycling because of the physical toll it takes on their aging joints and muscles.
Fisher said the United States is slower to embrace the technology than other countries; about 30 million e-bikes are sold every year in China, another 5 million in Europe. He said 150,000 were sold in the United States last year, mostly on the East and West coasts.
“We’re in the baby stages, but the technology is growing,” he said. “And we’re such an outdoor state, we’re hoping people are receptive to it. Plus the eco side of it is really one of the reasons we’re so supported here. The city supports e-bikes because they know it’s a very environmentally-friendly type of transportation, even more than e-cars.”
Fisher sells his Fatt-E bikes for $1,700 or $2,000, depending on customization options.
Transportation issues are at the top of the agenda for elected officials both in Denver and in the state legislature. In November, Denver voters approved a $937 million bond package to bolster public safety; upgrade streets, bike lanes, and libraries; fund numerous cultural projects; and pay for a new health center.
Lawmakers are looking at $20 billion in transportation needs over the next 20 years, and lawmakers or voters will have to decide where that money comes from.