UBCO Utility Bike

October 2016

The development of an electric utility farm bike

UBCO 2×2 Utility Bike is a lightweight electric motorbike set to revolutionise the way you work on the farm. The bike has just hit the market and is already clocking up some impressive feedback.

Locus Research are experts at developing and marketing innovative products through a partnership model. They partner with clients to further research, develop and deliver products and help commercialise ideas and get them to market.

Anthony Clyde and Daryl Neal both had a background in developing and selling ‘e-bikes’ (electric push bikes) and had come together with a shared goal to develop a multi purpose electric motorbike for the rural sector. Neal himself grew up on a farm riding motorbikes and both men liked the idea of developing a rugged motorbike for use by organisations like DOC when checking on traps in remote locations.

They worked with off shore supply chain partners to develop and engineer the frame.

After four months of work, they decided the perfect place to introduce their motorbike would be the Mystery Creek Fieldays. Looking at the calendar they saw they had eight weeks to get their prototype ready. The prototype to the UBCO, the Steed, debuted at Mystery Creek in 2014 – an unpainted machine fresh from the garage.

Locus sponsors an award at Fieldays Innovations and it was here Timothy Allan from Locus Research first met Anthony and Daryl and their electric motorbike. Timothy said, “We were blown away by their lightweight electric farm bike which debuted in the Innovation Centre. We saw huge potential and awarded them the Locus Research Innovation Award”.

The award gave UBCO the opportunity to work with Locus to develop a new brand for the now named UBCO 2×2 – The Utility Bike. This led to the partnership between the two companies today.

Together they’ve further researched and developed the bike, creating a simpler system and branding it UBCO The Utility Bike. UBCO pre-sales opened at Mystery Creek last year and the UBCO is presently being assembled and shipped across NZ.

The 2×2 is a seriously lightweight bike with an aluminium alloy frame. At just over 55kg including battery, it can be carted around on a car bike rack or lifted over the farm fence. Added to the lightweight structure are the further safety benefits of a low centre of gravity and the electric motors mean no parts that heat up.

The UBCO has a top speed of 70-100km on the flat and 45-80km in rolling country with 2-wheel drive for traction on the hills. Impressively the bike can travel 100km on 88 cents of electricity and the lithium-ion battery will easily last a day on most farms. The lithium-ion battery won’t develop a memory and takes about 6-8 hours to charge on a home power point. Second batteries for those wanting them can be purchased. Running costs are cheap because of the savings on maintenance from having a machine with no clutch, gearbox, drive chain or lubrication requirements.

The environmentally friendly, no emissions motorbike is also quiet as a whisper which is better for reducing stock stress and as one farmer said, “It’s good to be able to hear the dog panting as he runs alongside”.

The lightweight frame has the ability to be added to and adapted for purpose with various attachments points. Timothy refers to them as being “like Lego”.

During testing they have easily added off the shelf panniers to the bike and on one tester, the St Johns Ambulance added a stretcher trailer. DOC have strapped a chainsaw to the back and one user assures that the farm dog can handle the ride too.

While there are plans to develop a line of accessories, the team are keen to allow people to adapt their bikes to their own needs. As such the UBCO comes with 2 ready built cargo racks and a set of accessory lugs and works with standard off the shelf nuts and bolts. Their own work on accessories will be informed by feedback and by seeing what’s happening out on the farm, the orchard or in the bush etc.

One of the more ‘disruptive technologies’ on the motorbike are the USB and 12V ports that allow recharging of power tools and smartphones – this is a ‘go-anywhere’ generator.

Furthermore, the bike is easy to ride and requires no special licence.

Testing to date has been rigorous with tests under load and on different terrain. The UBCO will handle deep mud, wet grass and hilly terrain up to a 30% gradient. The bike was developed for the rural environment and is ideal to go places a car or generator can’t. However the sky is the limit in terms of application with search and rescue, farmers, hunters and recreational users all expressing an interest.

At present the company is working with ex-BMW motorbike mechanic Gareth Hill. Gareth is assembling the bikes and refining the instructions for assembly with a view to different dealerships they’re setting up being able to assemble them themselves.

Presently UBCO are involved in the hard yards to get on road certification which will make it fully legal on NZ roads, though no special motorbike licence will be required as it will be treated like a moped. It must be noted that present NZ law allows minor on-road travel of farm vehicles on public roads when getting from ‘a to b’.

The company is also looking at accessory development. Importantly they want to assess and hear from those that have been buying the bike to see the kind of ideas for modification they have – user feedback will inform any accessory line.

After a listing on the blokes and gear site ‘Uncrate’ in the USA, the team received over 1000 international requests. While present roll out is concentrated in Australasia, they’re working with NZTE to develop a strategy with a view to bringing forward their plans to sell to the American market.