The crack team at ENVO in Vancouver, Canada has been developing personal electric mobility devices like there’s no tomorrow. Their quest started with electric bikes and a desire to put low cost, creative electric designs into the hands of consumers in completely new ways.
From there, the business plan evolved rapidly, extending the functionality of their core technology into more two, three, and four wheeled vehicles that take an increasingly wide range of customers to all sorts of new locations.
ENVO invited CleanTechnica up to Vancouver to see first hand just how transformative their personal electric mobility vehicles can be. Disclaimer: travel and accommodations for the author to attend this event were paid for by ENVO.
A Long History With E-bikes
ENVO emerged from decades of work in the electric bike space by founder Ali Kazemkhani. He first discovered the potential of electric motors and batteries back at home in Iran where he assembled a kit to help owners electrify manual bicycles using lead acid batteries.
The venture ultimately proved unsustainable, but the concept of personal electric mobility remain lodged in Ali’s head for years after. After moving to British Columbia in 2014, that same passion rose to the surface and Ali began assembling and selling electric bike conversion kits using lithium ion batteries.
Batteries had progressed in leaps and bounds since his initial venture, allowing Ali to ditch the heavy lead-based batteries in favor of the more energy dense lithium ion chemistry. The improvements in lithium-ion batteries in the intervening years made the resulting electric bikes not only lighter and more productive but more cost effective at the same time.
The origins of ENVO was in electric bike conversion kits but it naturally evolved into a full line of electric bikes ranging from compact folding bikes. ENVO sells its mainstream folding e-bikes at scale through standard retail channels like Costco and Best buy with its lower volume full suspension mountain rippers sold direcly to customers across North America from ENVO’s website.
ENVO built their business on their mastery of the core electric bike technologies underpinning the personal electric vehicles they sell. It is from this solid foundation and stable business model that ENVO has broadened its horizons to a wider array of possibilities.
Founder Ali Kazemkhani shared ENVO’s unique strategy that encourages innovation and opens up new product lines while minimizing the fundamental business risk. For example, ENVO built a compact electric snowmobile to increase the mobility of people looking to get out into the snow who don’t want the committment and cost of a full sized snowmobile. ENVO leveraged the same motors and batteries it utilizes in its electric bikes and quickly whipped up some prototypes. They are then able to push these concepts out onto the internet to get feedback from potential customers and even launch crowdfunding campaigns to gauge customer interest.
When its time to move them into production, ENVO uses the same established supply chains and relationships to source the vast majority of the components including frames, batteries, motors, and motor controllers. These incremental vehicles can be designed by the same team of designers ENVO already employs for its bicycles, then ship them to customers with the same logistics teams from the same warehouses where ENVO already funnels hundreds of bikes per day through.
Having the solid foundation of income and operations from its electric bike business allows ENVO to explore niche models that might not otherwise be profitable on their own, Ali said.
It is this key linkage that has allowed Ali and his team of mad scientists to stretch the limits of what’s possible in the personal electric mobility space. They have built out a range of personal electric mobility vehicles around their core e-bike business including the aforementioned personal electric snowmobile as well as an electric pedal boat. ENVO’s electric bike ski conversion kit adds a track to the back and a ski up front, allowing for the seasonal conversion of an e-bike into an electric bike ski.
As COVID ate away at the foundation of many companies, ENVO saw an opportunity to save an electric velomobile style, electric bike called the Veemo. The Veemo utilizes a tadpole style design with two wheels up front and a single wheel in the back. The seating position is upright in an extremely comfortable office style chair that is far more comfortable than it seems like it should be.
ENVO saw an opportunity to take what they saw as an overbuilt vehicle and simplify it. They overhauled the design and built it back up using their core e-bike components. By doing this, they were able to cut the cost nearly in half, from upwards of $11,000 to a stripped down version called the ENVO Veemo LT that sells for $5,999. The fully built Veemo with the aerodynamic, weather protection shell is also far more affordable with ENVO’s optimizations at $7,999.
We test drove some of the early frankensteined prototypes of the ENVO Veemo that utilized the overpriced electric power trains and a hodgepodge of frame components. They rode extremely well and with their narrow footprint and weather protection, the design and concept are attractive. We’ll keep an eye on the Veemo and the work going on at ENVO as they finalize plans to manufacture and bring it to market at full production volumes.
Building an electric personal snowmobile or an electric velomobile might seem extreme but they only scratch the surface of what Ali and his team at ENVO are working on. During the press event we attended, Ali unveiled a very raw prototype of ENVO’s new Universal Personal Transport (UPT) vehicle platform which aspires to fill the gap between electric bikes and electric vehicles. It was designed to deliver a flexible electric mobility platform that can be customized for dozens, if not hundreds of potential business applications.
At its core, the UPT takes ENVO’s work on an electric ATV and distills it down to its bare bones. Improvements integrated into numerous revisions of the ENVO ATV resulted in the UPT platform which is equally at home on city streets, farm roads inside business campuses and on full-blown off-road trails.
It was not designed to be a stand alone vehicle on its own but rather, a platform. Its design represents the bare bones of a compact vehicle that, as you might have guessed, leverages ENVO’s experience, supply chains, designers, components, and logistics teams to bring it to market.
The minimalist design starts with four ATV style wheels and a staggering 12,000 watts of power being pushed out of four motors ENVO designed in house. These fit inside each wheel and were designed to be waterproof and durable, for whatever customer might throw at them. The motors pull power from 8 bicycle style battery packs that clip into the frame in a waterproof enclosure.
The batteries, motors, controllers, and central computer will keep everything playing nicely while the four motors offer unprecedented control over traction and power output, regardless of whether it’s being put to use on a flat concrete path or a steep uphill gravel road. ENVO plans to make the case and motors fully waterproof so that it can be submerged deliver unprecedented performance in all types of weather, terrain and conditions. They’re also building a completely new controller that will keep all four hub motors playing nicely with a vision of adding more complex motor tuning like traction control, torque vectoring, and the like into the new controller.
A double wishbone suspension with horizontal coilovers nestled into the frame buffer the vehicle and rider from the road and provide travel that’s somewhere between that of an ATV and what you’d find on a more traditional urban vehicle. These images we’re sharing are a very rough prototype that was finished just the day before we saw it. It has not gone through the full product testing and refinement process and represents the proof of concept of what ENVO has planned for this vehicle platform. They’re going to beat it up over the next few months with plans to bring it to market in about 12 months.
The vision is that the UTP will have additional accessories bolted on top of it. For instance, a cab for a compact 2 or 4-seater vehicle, a dump truck style attachment that would allow farmers to load it up with compost or rocks and move it around the farm, or even a stretcher for search and rescue operations. Their vision is really to build the ultimate platform for others and to send it out into the world to see what and where the demands truly are and scale up from there.
ENVO is thinking big and with the UPT, has developed a platform that aspires to fill the gap between e-bikes and full sized electric vehicles. It was designed with flexibility, durability, utility, and affordability in mind. It’s still early days, but it looks to have the potential to be truly transformative and could redefine how we think about personal electric mobility. The price tag for the UTV is currently listed as $14,000 on ENVO’s UPT page though that will likely change before it actually hits the market sometime in 2025.
The introduction to the ENVO leadership team and product portfolio were enlightening. We’ll definitely be watching to see what they’re doing moving forward, what products they build, and what new markets they create within their extrapolations of today’s electric bike technologies. The UPT platform is one of the most exciting pieces of personal mobility tech we’ve seen in years and if they can tackle the immense task of bringing it from concept to production, the world will be a better place for it.
For more information about ENVO and their creative, personal electric mobility devices, head over to their website.
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