Gary Fisher is back, this time wading into the e-bike segment in a new venture with the electric bike start-up Morelle.
Morelle is a subsidiary of Ionblox, a battery company that’s focused primarily on technology for battery-powered aircraft. Ionblox, which has raised $32 million in Series B investment, has developed lithium-ion batteries it claims offer 50% higher energy density than traditional li-ion cells, five times more power, and the ability to fast charge much faster. The cells are produced in a “pouch” format, rather than the cylinder cells commonly seen.
According to an interview with Bicycle Retailer and Industry News at this month’s Taipei Bike Show, Fisher met Morelle co-founder Dr. Kevin Hays at an e-mobility conference in California last year where Fisher was giving a talk. Fisher said the company founders were interested in micro-mobility because electric aviation is a relatively small market that serves the richest 1 percent of the population. “We want to be able to provide a battery that serves everybody,” Fisher said.
Fisher, who left Trek Bicycle last year, is known for mountain bikes but has been a strong proponent of e-bikes for well over a decade. He and Hays went to Taipei to meet with vendors and manufacturers to build a bike; a finished product is at least a year away.
Morelle’s plan is to offer e-bikes on subscription, or perhaps $100 a month to start. That program will allow the brand to put quality bikes in the hands of people who might balk at the retail cost of a top quality bikes and be tempted to buy a cheap bike. The Morelle program might roll out first in a region like California’s Bay Area, where Fisher and Ionblox are based. The program would include a physical presence to provide delivery, assembly and service (included in the subscription). Fisher also hopes to offer charging stations around the area, where subscribers can fast charge their bikes while they shop or visit a coffee shop.
Fisher’s plan for the first bike is a relatively simple aluminum-framed bike with a mid-mount motor with integrated electronics, including lights and sensors like wireless tire pressure gauges. He wants to use standard bike parts as much as possible so the bikes are easy to service, adjust and modify.
“I want to make stuff that lasts, that I know you can work on and actually get a replacement part that fits in there nicely,” he said. “It will be a mix of the old and the new.”
Eventually he’d like to see Morelle offer other models including an e-cargo bike.
“I want to Americanize the electric cargo bike,” he told BRAIN. “Most of these things were designed for Europe where things are different.” He said for example that German regulations limit the brightness of bike lights. He thinks cargo bike riders in big American cities will benefit from brighter blinky lights that can be adjusted for some conditions. He also has ideas on how to improve cargo bike kickstands and to borrow some of the ideas that American auto companies have used for SUVs. “SUVs are the result of the world’s biggest market research programs by the car companies; we can learn a lot from them,” he said.
Fisher said he’s also planning to use 3D printing for some parts, including a lightweight fender design. “(3D printing) can help the industry’s inventory problem. Now you don’t have to have inventory that is out of date,” he said.
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