A former boat captain might not seem like the most likely person to start the next big electric mobility company, but sometimes, it is just that kind of outside the box thinking that creates the perfect storm.
Mat Rauzier launched his career designing watercraft for several companies before taking a left turn when a new adventure presented itself and found himself at the helm of a boat. As captain, he shuttled clients around the world on their adventures, exploring the wonders of the seven seas day after day. After several years on the water, he found that it was not actually the siren song of the sea that called to him, but rather, an innate desire to create, to explore, and to bring his own style of change to the world that was his true passion.
That desire boiled up inside of him and led him to a degree in nautical engineering, which provided the structure and the technical cred to frame up his ideas in the real world, but it was not boats he would ultimately be creating. Rather, his dissatisfaction for the status quo and the pollution created from the vehicles that moved him around in the world led him to build something new. What it was at the time was not clear, but after some tinkering in his workshop and with the advice of friends turned business partners, Rayvolt was born.
From the glossy pages of its catalogs and the beautiful pictures that adorn the Rayvolt website, it is not immediately clear what kind of company Rayvolt is. So when they invited* CleanTechnica out to their headquarters to meet the team and to see their new lineup of ebikes for 2019, we were excited to get a look behind the curtain at what it was that really made them tick. *Rayvolt paid for our travel to and from Barcelona for the meeting.
After winding through the twisted alleys of Barcelona, I cracked the door to their showroom that also served as the company headquarters and R&D facility, and caught my first glimpse of what they stood for. A lineup of beautifully crafted electric bikes stood in a row to the right in what was clearly the showroom, but it was clear that it required an intentional effort to keep the handful of bikes polished up and pretty amidst the fray that lay beyond. A closer inspection revealed that two of those bikes were actually partially assembled prototypes that I later found were actively being developed for a huge new deal for a local bike-sharing company (more on that later).
As I looked up from the row of bikes that signaled that I was indeed at the right place, several desks full of smiling faces looked up to greet me. I caught a glimpse of CEO and founder of Rayvolt, Mathieu Rauzier, and Rayvolt co-founder and CTO Jaime Pla Vallve De Aviles, whom I had shared a lengthy Barcelona-style welcome dinner with the night before. Mat excitedly came over and welcomed me to the space before taking me on a tour of every nook and cranny of the facility.
The workspace was strewn with bolts, batteries, motors, and partially assembled (or disassembled) bikes. It felt comfortable and made a lot of sense to me, as I love tinkering with just about anything and everything to better understand how things work (or don’t) to try to make them work better, with varying degrees of success.
Mat introduced me to the diverse team of experts behind Rayvolt that handle sourcing, sales, engineering, and the more technical aspects of the business. They were enthusiastic and clearly felt at home in the space. In the days that followed, I saw each of them pushing their respective parts of the business forward in their own ways, whether it was tearing down and rebuilding the latest Rayvolt motor to integrate the another improvement or negotiating a change request with a parts supplier.
We went down a set of stairs into the basement of the building they clearly outgrew months ago and entered into the workshop, and that’s when everything changed. Bike parts were laid out on and stacked up in every nook and cranny of the workshop like docked boats in a harbor. Each bike clearly had its place, but the sheer volume of the barely organized chaos was imposing and I tread carefully, so as to not accidentally disturb the one bike that might be holding everything else in place. Mat looked back at me as we covered the last few steps and the glow on his face made it clear that this was his domain.
A row of early prototypes lined the wall on the right. To the back, a few older Rayvolt Cruisers were in the middle of being upgraded with some new tech. Mat reached around a corner and as if pulling a rabbit from his hat, whipped out a hybrid bike frame that he was working on as one of his pet projects. His passion for design, electric motors, batteries, quality, and technology overflowed out into room as if trying to paint his vision onto the empty frame as he spoke.
The workshop and Mat’s passion for combining classic bicycle and motorcycle lines with the best electrification technology available to create the ebikes that will pull new riders into a new take on an old school mode of getting around. The challenge was clear: what is the best way to harness the firehose that is Mat’s passion for ebikes each and every single day and shape it into beautiful ebikes for customers.
Mat and his team of creators, of doers, of engineers, have built up a line of ebikes that continue to improve with each generation. On our first night in town, Mat shared that Rayvolt had initially struggled to bring its vision for technology-powered classic bikes into reality as they met with supplier after supplier in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Their volumes were too low for any suppliers to be willing to make the changes Mat and his team wanted, but after many long weeks in China and a lot of pushing from his Chinese-born wife and now Chief Operating Officer Ying Zhang, they found a handful of suppliers to work with.
These new suppliers were willing to customize parts to Rayvolt’s specifications and to the high quality standards they needed. Strong relationships forged through long days spent not just at the factory, but out on the factory floor with suppliers followed by drink-sodden business dinners, stretched out from days into weeks of what could best be described as Undergrad Engineering school meets the Hangover.
Putting in the time to design and build their bikes from the ground up without compromise meant designing their own motors, instead of using the off-the-shelf motors that find their way onto many electric bikes around the world. Rayvolt’s motors are optimized for efficiency and power, and building them from the ground up allows them to be constantly improved with numerous small improvements. Mat shared how the next generation motors will move from rectangular to curved magnets to allow for a seamless ring of magnetic field versus a sub-optimized design.
Rayvolt has built up an impressive lineup of ebikes for its customers including its flagship bike, the Cruiser, which pays homage to the early days of motorcycles. The seat sits low on the long frame and pushes the pedals to the front of the frame. It’s a sight to be seen and as we toured Barcelona’s most famous sites on a pair of Rayvolt’s bikes, we felt like the talk of the town as numerous bystanders gawked at the unique ebikes.
Mat also showed us an early build of a bike cover that he is working on that uses a set of integrated solar cells to recharge the battery. The solution folds up neatly into a briefcase sized package for travel, then unfolds to cover and power the bike. Stay tuned for more about this as it develops, but we are excited at the prospect of riding more bikes, powering them with batteries, and recharging it all from the sun. Beautiful!
Bike-friendly cities like Barcelona make electric bicycles an even more obvious alternative to gasoline vehicles and the injection of Rayvolt’s ebikes into an already bike-centric city like Barcelona is sure to fuel the flames even further. In addition to Rayvolt’s impressive lineup of ebikes, the company has a number of irons in the fire, so stay tuned here on CleanTechnica for the news as it breaks.
We worked with Mat and the team on a special win-win deal for CleanTechnica and our readers. If you buy a bike using our link and our affiliate code KEEPSAFECT, Rayvolt will give you a free classic helmet with purchase of one of their ebikes. On our end, Rayvolt kicks down a few bucks to CleanTechnica through their affiliate program to help us keep the lights on. To get the deal, you do need to use our referral link to complete your purchase, then drop the coupon code ‘keepsafect’ in when you’re ready to checkout. The best part is that doing this costs you absolutely nothing extra and supports CleanTechnica at the same time.