Published October 12, 2012
A visionary vehicle has gone vintage.
Voltage Cycles in the small Northern California city of Grass Valley is building electric bikes with a classic twist. Its high-tech battery-powered two-wheelers sporting a style that hearkens back to the board track motorcycles of the 1920’s.
Company founder and former BMX freestyle professional Marty Schlesinger says it all started with an order for a small fleet of electric bicycles from a rental shop in Hawaii. When he and his brother Chris tried to come up with a design they realized there was nothing currently on the market that they’d want to ride themselves.
“We wanted to offer something unique that you could not find anywhere else,’ Schlesinger tells FoxNews.com. “The bicycle industry helped to usher in the motorcycle over a hundred years ago. The electric bike category is going through a similar progression today. I wanted to pay respects to those vintage bikes of yesteryear.”
What they came up with is a long, low design with fenders, a sprung saddle and a faux gas tank on the top tube hiding the 48-volt lithium-ion battery pack that can power the bike on its own or offer assist while pedaling.
Schlesinger says they didn’t expect the project to turn them into electric bike manufacturers, but response to the rentals was so strong, word of mouth quickly spread and orders started coming in.
Each one of the bikes is custom made and can be altered to the rider’s specifications, depending on whether they are interested in urban commuting or long distance cruising. Schlesinger says they can be built with an electric range of between 20 and 40 miles per 2-3 hour charge and a top speed up to 36 mph, although 20-25 mph models are more common.
“It's about creating a bike that works for the rider’s lifestyle,” he says.
Prices can be as steep as some of the climbs they might be used on, up to $4,475 for a top of the line Board Tracker: Golden Ticket model, but not out of line for a custom creation. Voltage also offers do it yourself frame kits and if you like the look but don’t need the power, pedal-only versions are available starting at $995.
In the three years they’ve been in business, Voltage has sold about 100 electric bikes out of what is essentially a two man shop, but they’ve shipped them around the world and have more retro-modern designs in the works.
With over 30 million electric bikes sold globally today, and one forecast saying that could grow to 47 million by 2018, going back to the future could turn out to be very green, indeed.