A recent video at Fully Charged gave viewers a tour of a crazy micromobility company called Grin Technologies. Instead of just the usual e-bikes and kick scooters, Grin offers a wacky assortment of parts for an even wackier assortment of micromobility devices. If you want to see everything from electric wheelbarrows to penny farthings to unicycles, this video is for you! As usual, be sure to scroll down for a quick summary and some commentary.
Unlike most companies, Grin Technologies doesn’t sell small EVs directly. The owner doesn’t want to build a factory and focus on only one or two types of micromobility. Instead, he’s working to broadly support all sorts of people who want to convert just about anything to electric, or electric assist. He partially credits this to not wanting to focus and knuckle down, and partly to his own personality. He says he “chases candy” and doesn’t like to commercialize things too deeply, or he might have to change the name of the company to “Grimace Technologies,” because it wouldn’t make him happy.
He has cultivated a large community of tinkerers as customers, and seeing the cool and fun things his customers build makes the work a lot more rewarding.
Built in a former film production studio, he’s filled the place with all sorts of fabrication and electronics equipment, but leaves plenty of space for custom projects of his own and for customers. And, frankly, it was surprising just how much variety is possible in the space!
The first vehicle they looked at was the electric land-based rowing machine, where one person rows to generate power and one person pedals. Both people combine their efforts with the onb0ard solar panels to keep the trike moving forward. They built it for a race from Europe to China, where strict limits on battery capacity and a prohibition on any kind of plug-in grid power are the rules. By being able to switch from lower body to upper body exercise, it kept his team from getting worn out as quickly as other racers over the thousands of kilometers they went.
With the solar system, they managed to gather 85 kWh of power over the course of the trip, making it a much lighter and more efficient version of a Tesla car battery pack (in a way).
The next vehicle he showed off was an electric penny farthing bicycle. This project was meant to “breathe new life” into old technology, and negate some of the downsides of the vehicle. The electric motor allows the vehicle to move forward during mounting, making it safer and more stable during takeoff. It also allows for rear-wheel braking, making it less likely to tip forward and dump the rider over the handlebars during stopping.
Next, they look at an electric wheelbarrow. Obviously, you can’t pedal a wheelbarrow, but like an e-bike, the combination of human push-power and some electric assist make for much easier carrying of materials on a jobsite. It has a switch built into one handle to allow control of the electric assist. He only offers retrofit systems for people to install on existing electric wheelbarrows, but there are other companies that offer complete e-wheelbarrows. Once again, he doesn’t want to focus on just one form of mobility, so he sticks to his kits.
Next, they look at a unicycle, which is what looked the most sketchy to me. But, it seemed that it was more stable than a regular unicycle. Without needing to keep rolling on muscle power to stay up, the time between “unplanned dismounts” goes up, allowing for a much more stable and useful unicycle. It’s almost like a unicycle that can “coast” like a bike.
Throughout the video, you see all sorts of other contraptions they don’t go into more detail on. Skateboards, mini-vehicles, modular battery systems for airline carrying, and even propellers for small boats are all in development and sales at the company.
Finally, they go to a sailboat that’s powered by an e-bike hub motor. This seems strange at first glance, but the amount of power needed to move a bike is similar to what it takes to turn a prop, so it’s possible to actually move a boat on a lot less power than you’d think. This enables a 30-foot boat to be moved with a lot less power and no pollution. Between 30 kWh of batteries and some solar shades on the boat, they can get a lot of range. The boat isn’t fast, but it’s a lot more fun.
Some Cool Takeaways
I think the biggest important thing I’d take away from this video is just how diverse electric power can be. Unlike gas-powered vehicles, the small size of an electric motor means that you can do a lot more with it for a lot cheaper. The way he was able to take seemingly useless technologies of the past and make them more viable, just by adding a little electric motor to it, shows us that there’s a lot of room for more electrification in today’s world.
While I’d like to see more e-bikes and kick scooters everywhere, along with more full-size EVs everywhere, it’s important for businesses and communities like Grin to operate and keep the experimentation going. At no point can we ever assume that we’ve invented everything that could possibly be useful, and that commercialization and business are all that’s left to do in the world. While I know many readers are big “stonk” people, there’s a real need for people to be trying and failing like this for future stonks to emerge.
Finally, this video has made me think again about a weird thought that keeps popping up in my head: an electric bicycle RV. I know it sounds useless, but if there are tinkerers building all sorts of weird electric vehicles that re-use e-bike motors in all of these weird ways, perhaps there is some room in the world for exploring and adventuring without all of the bulk and weight of traditional vehicles and RVs.
Featured image: Grin Technologies
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