The K1D, Super73’s “Electric Balance Bike”
Source：The New York Times
From：Taiwan Trade Center, New York
Super73, a California-based company selling electric bikes, has recently introduced a new product called the K1D – an “electric balance bike” that lacks pedals, in the spirit of a training bicycle, and has a throttle. This diminutive motorized bike, which looks like a mini motorcycle, can reach speeds of up to 13 miles per hour in normal mode and 15 miles per hour in race mode. Aimed at riders 4 years old and up, Super73’s e-bikes are “cool” and designed to offer more than a riding experience but a lifestyle without restrictions as no license, registration or insurance is required. Despite criticism from biking trade groups and safety experts, Super73 aims to sell more than 25,000 units this year, primarily to teenagers. Is the K1D an e-bike or a motorcycle for children? Could requiring e-bike training harm an industry that is currently booming and promoting more sustainable transportation?
In 2016, LeGrand Crewse co-founded Super73 with Michael Cannavo and Aaron Wong, with the aim of selling more stylish motorcycle-like e-bikes targeting younger generations. According to Mr. Crewse, Gen Z and millennials are not interested in taking time to learn something, and, therefore, “if they can’t have instant gratification, they want nothing to do with it.” With a promise to “ride without restrictions”, Super73’s e-bikes seem to match perfectly with the ethos of the younger generation.
However, this relaxed oversight is not to the liking of some retailers, law-enforcement officials, safety experts, and trade groups (e.g., PeopleForBikes). Although state and federal laws treat e-bikes as traditional bicycles as long as they stay within speed limits – even if many e-bikes can easily be altered to do so – many safety specialists have concerns about e-bikes being too fast for sidewalks and not suitable for road use. As most of Super73’s models can be reprogrammed to function as motor vehicles, this half-bike half-bicycle vehicle blurs the lines of regulation and safety. As a result, some retailers refuse to carry Super73 e-bikes and similar models, arguing that they may endanger young, inexperienced riders. While some e-bikes can reach speeds that may qualify them as motor vehicles and have recently caused the death of several teenagers, federal regulation has not kept up.
LeGrand Crewse acknowledges the need for improved safety measures and floated the idea of e-bike training for young riders and adding parental controls in future software releases (for the models that offer a re-programmable option). However, he is cautious about imposing too many regulations, as he believes the e-bike industry plays a role in promoting sustainable transportation while expanding youth transportation options. He advises parents to invest in high-quality helmets and safety equipment when buying e-bikes for their children, emphasizing the importance of understanding the risks associated with vehicles traveling at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
Public awareness of these safety issues is especially important given that the popularity of e-bikes isn’t slowing down. According to the market research firm NPD Group, the pandemic bike boom boosted e-bike sales 145% from 2019 to 2020 in the U.S., more than double the rate of classic bikes. Industry experts declared that around half a million e-bikes were purchased by Americans in 2020 (in comparison, they bought 231,000 all-electric cars in that time period, according to the Pew Research Center). And this trend has been continuing since, with 130 million e-bikes sold worldwide between 2020 and 2023 according to Deloitte. This growing popularity of e-bikes has the potential to revolutionize urban transportation, especially in places like New York City, where over half of all car trips are less than three miles. However, it is important to note that in the U.S., there are challenges to encouraging more people to use e-bikes. First, e-bikes do not qualify for commuter tax benefits that cover public transit and parking. Secondly, e-bikes can be relatively expensive, with prices ranging from $1,000 to nearly $10,000.