It should not come as any surprise that the Electric Bike Company builds e-bikes, but it may come as a surprise to learn that they build them in Southern California. Lower cost overseas manufacturing has made drop-shipped e-bikes par for the course, and right along with the business model comes the challenges with shipping and quality when the bike finally arrives on your doorstep. We stopped by the Electric Bike Company headquarters and manufacturing facility in Newport Beach, California to get the inside scoop straight from the mouth of founder Sean Lupton-Smith.
After a successful career as a restaurateur in Atlanta, Georgia, Sean started looking for a passion project he could work on in his now empty schedule. Originally from South Africa, he remembered the significant disparity in wealth and mobility and felt he could make a significant impact by bringing bikes to developing countries. He started tinkering with low cost bikes from local bike shops in Southern California, but quickly found them to be lacking in quality and durability.
Then he discovered electric bikes and his view of the opportunity changed right then and there. E-bikes offered all the simplicity and utility of the bicycle while the addition of the motor and batteries significantly increase the value to the end user. Growing his idea one step at a time, he dallied with retrofitting existing bikes with a motor, batteries, and all the supporting bits and bobs only to discover the extra stress from the power of the electric motor and the weight of the full kit broke them down even faster.
With e-bikes locked in stone as a non-negotiable moving forward, Sean contracted with an ex-NASA and Boeing design engineer to bring his vision into the world. Sean found a space in Newport Beach where he could create and tinker with varying form factors of e-bikes under the Electric Bike Company (EBC) name, wrenching away at one creation after another until the resulting bike ticked all the right boxes for him.
Sean’s vision was simple: start with a beautiful, classic bike design, then seamlessly integrate the battery, motor, and other perks that bicycle electrification enables. He landed on the classic beach cruiser look, using lightweight 6061 aluminum to build out the robust frames that would support both the rigors of the electric powertrain and larger riders.
He has been at it 7 years now, and in that time, Sean has taken his fair share of bruises, learning the hard way over and over again the challenges of e-bike design and manufacturing. One of the early lessons was around batteries. The team had initially outsourced batteries and the battery management systems that keeps them humming along happily. One of the early packs failed rather catastrophically, leading Sean to dig into battery technology to find not only the best performance option, but the safest configuration.
No longer does the company simply spec out a battery pack and expect everything to be fine. Instead, the EBC shop has a dedicated battery room where pack designs are regularly torn down to validate performance and assembly quality. That one incident turned batteries from an unknown quantity into a core competency for the company, with the latest battery pack featuring individually fused cells.
From the first frames, he and his team built out a handful of robust bikes, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 depending on the quality of the components, the amenities selected, like an optional anti-theft alarm, and more. His now fully developed line of quality bikes fit right into his beachy neighborhood in Newport Beach and have found their place in nearly two dozen local bicycle shops that complement the Electric Bike Company’s online storefront.
Roping the story around to where we started, the Electric Bike Company stands out by assembling and shipping bikes from its Newport Beach, California facility. It might not sound like a big differentiator, but the difference is significant for customers. Every EBC bike is built from the frame on up at its shop in Newport Beach. A team of experts, many of whom have been with the company since the early days, build the bikes to order one at a time, by hand. We took a few bikes out for a spin during our visit and they performed like well-oiled machines.
It’s not just the quality of the assembly, but building the bikes on the other side of the wall from the entire sales, design, executive, and logistics teams keeps everyone tuned into how the bikes are performing, to assembly issues, to supplier quality issues, and shipping challenges. The result is a line of affordable e-bikes that offer features like 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes that you just don’t see on a $2,000 e-bike. It is a significant difference that you can just feel when riding the bike.
Shipping is also a better experience all around, with bikes strapped into shipping boxes in California and delivered to dealers and customers across the country. Direct shipped bikes from overseas are regularly thrashed and abused by one shipping company after another, resulting in damaged boxes and bikes. That’s not a great way to start off a relationship with a new bike or a new company, especially when the Electric Bike Company offers a 30-day no questions asked return policy, including shipping. It might not sound like a lot, but we receive and ship back lots of review bikes and shipping a massive 70-pound e-bike at various stages of assembly is no easy task.
We’re excited to see another high quality company in the e-bike business and with Sean fueling the company with not only his personal passion, but with his personal funds, and the skills he has amassed over his career managing restaurants, the company appears to be on a trajectory to make a serious impact. We’re looking forward to spending more time on an Electric Bike Company bike for an in-depth review, so stay tuned for that in the next few months.
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