This Solar-Powered Electric Bike Aims to Make Commuting Eco-Friendly and Fun
Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Sean Lupton-Smith. I was born in South Africa and immigrated to the U.S.A. I am the owner and founder of the Electric Bike Company which is located in Newport Beach, California.
What inspired you to create this product?
After retiring from a successful restaurant career in Atlanta, Georgia, I became interested in creating affordable transportation and mobility to disadvantaged people in Southern Africa. Seeing the advent of electric bikes, particularly in Southern California, I thought that the concept of adding a motor and battery to an affordable frame and enabling the bicycle to be powered by solar panels, rather than relying on regular bicycles with range and power limitations, would be a great way to mobilize people and make traveling to work, school, and hospitals far more efficient.
The “aha moment” came for me after many years of R&D. An independent reviewer of electric bikes saw our bike and awarded it the top-rated cruising bike in the U.S. and I thought this was the ideal opportunity to compete and therefore raise money to fund the philanthropic dream.
Photo credit: The Electric Bike Company
What was your first step from taking this idea from your head and getting it into production?
The first step was to purchase an affordable beach cruiser style single speed, sturdy, reliable and classic bike and add an off-the-shelf motor, battery, and throttle. This process was significantly more time-consuming and complicated than I initially perceived.
How did your background play into developing this product?
Being born and raised for almost 30 years in a developing country, I witnessed the vast discrepancies in not only wealth but also effective mobility in society. I have always believed that efficient and affordable transportation to work, school, or to the hospital is a key component to prosperity and to living a happy and fulfilled life.
What was the hardest lesson to learn?
One of our very first bikes had a battery fire. The hardest lesson we’ve learned was that you cannot trust third party manufacturing of critical parts of the bikes. We also learned about the ruthless and unscrupulous nature of competitors and how they are willing to expose and exploit any issues we have faced
What steps have you taken to differentiate yourself from competitors?
We have taken several steps. First, we have invested in our own battery manufacturing. Second, we now fully build our product in the U.S.A. with local talent, bike builders, engineers, designers, painters, inspectors, testers, and packers. Thirdly, we offer our customers the unique opportunity to design their bikes, from any frame color, trim choices, RiM colors, seat and grip options, etc. To our knowledge, every other electric bike comes premade in a packaged box shipped in from another country.
What did you learn about fundraising that you can share with other startups?
To date, I have 100% financed the company. I believe that having your own skin in the game and putting your own hard-earned money into the business has given me extra motivation to ensure success. At this stage, however, I would be open to raising additional funding to increase EBC’s marketing reach worldwide.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
“Every detail is vitally important.” I have been accused of being knit-picky. I often drive my team crazy in my quest for perfection with respect to every single bike part and component, down to the smallest of screws. I can say with confidence that every part, every detail on every EBC bike, has been scrutinized and is of the highest quality. Building our own bikes allows this “fanatic” in me to study each “detail” “part” component before it is put on a bike – and I think that makes the quality of the bike as a whole untouchable.