Archive for October, 2018

China’s Youon expands into Europe as other bike startups backpedal worldwide

A little known Chinese bike company is riding into Europe as its peer Ofo has applied the brakes to its global expansion strategy in recent months. Youon, which gets by manufacturing public bikes for city governments across China, has formed a joint venture with UK-based bike-sharing startup, it says in a statement. The deal allows the Chinese firm to sit back in its headquarters in eastern China while its British partner deploys its bikes and takes care of on-the-ground operation. Youon’s fleet of 1,000 public bikes will start appearing in London next March, making the UK the fourth country in its international expansion after Russia, India, and Malaysia. Youon’s name may not ring a bell, but its subsidiary Hellobike is increasingly turning heads as its dockless bikes win over users in China’s smaller cities where its larger rivals Ofo and Mobike lack a presence. This is in part thanks to Hellobike’s partnership with its investor Ant Financial, Alibaba’s financial affiliate, which lets users skip Hellobike’s standalone app and access the service on Ant’s Alipay wallet, which has over 500 million MAUs. While Hellobike’s mobile penetration recorded a 20 percent month-over-month increase (link in Chinese) in September, Mobike and Ofo barely saw any growth in the same period, according to data service provider Jiguang. Away from home, Youon’s partnership approach is also noticeably different from that of Mobike and Ofo, which have chosen to run their own overseas operation. Teaming up with local players gives Youon insight into customers abroad, suggests market research firm Analysys. “User behavior in Europe and North America is very different and it will be reckless for a [Chinese] firm to abruptly set up its own operations overseas,” Sun Naiyue, an analyst at Analysys, tells TechCrunch. China’s Youon partnered with peer-to-peer bike-sharing startup to expand to the UK [Image via Youon] Having a local ally also helps Youon avoid government protectionism and regulatory meddling in the foreign market, Sun adds. London has already greenlighted the company to place bikes in the city and the company will “follow local demand and rules to deploy bikes accordingly,” says of its partner. Contrasting the prospects of Youon’s latest push is the bleak outlook of its peer. The past few months have seen Ofo retreat from its overseas markets to prioritize profitability. To date, Ofo has shut down in Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Israel, and scaled back operation in a host of other countries.

Tarform debuted new e-motorcycles but is there a U.S. market?

With more failures in the electric motorcycle industry than going concerns and a contracting American motorcycle market, now would seem to be an odd time to launch a new bike into the EV arena. But Tarform, a new startup that unveiled its first vehicle last month in Brooklyn, is undeterred. That’s despite the fact that the company will likely face an uphill ride selling its high-end, higher priced e-motos. The EV upstart recently pulled the cover off its first e-motorcycles—prototype Café and Scrambler models at Brooklyn’s NewLab. The 295 and 320 pound machines bring 7 kilowatt-hour (KwH) Lithium-ION batteries, 43 horsepower, a top speed of 93 miles per hour, and 92 mile city riding ranges. With the debut, the New York and Stockholm based startup now moves into testing phase and taking orders for its first production electric two-wheelers, expected to manufacture by late 2019. Before getting back to the sobering EV topic of achieving scale and profitability, Tarform is committed to bringing a fresh design aesthetic to the motorcycle world. The startup’s stated mission is “to set a new standard for two-wheeled transport by developing fully electric, zero-emission premium motorcycles, using sustainable materials and smart connectivity.” For its prototype debut, the company did more than source parts and slap batteries into motorcycle frames. Launching Tarform Motorcycles “In order to distill the form to only the essentials, we were challenged to redesign every component,” said CEO and founder Taras Kravtchouk—an industrial design specialist, former startup head, and passionate motorcyclist. From the swingarm to the pegs, speedo, fairing and handlebars—the company custom engineered a large portion of the Café and Scrambler prototype parts. Each also has a custom sound produced by a transducer inside the tank that matches a low pitch hum to motor revs. A lot of the important stuff—such as the battery, suspension, and current power regulation system are sourced—but Tarform looks to shift toward more proprietary features, including a digital power delivery system with AI functions.  “Were talking to a company in Sweden to do a custom vehicle control unit to integrate Bluetooth connectivity [and ultrasonic proximity sensors],” Kravtchouk told TechCrunch. “You’ll be able to sync your ride to an app…and get inputs on your riding behavior…to become a better rider.” Tarform will offer two variants of its production motorcycles. Version one will be a 9kWh, 53 horsepower, 350 pound two-wheeler with a 95 mile per hour top speed and 129 mile range. A larger 13.5 kWh battery, 80 horsepower, 395 pound model will be good for 168 miles. Charging time will be 3.5 hours to 80 percent and 8 hours to full power using a standard electrical outlet. A fast-charger option will get the bikes to 80 percent in less than an hour. The starting price to pre-order one of Tarform’s first production motorcycles is $18,000. That compares to $8K for an entry level FX from Zero—America’s highest selling e-motorcycle manufacturer—and $24K for an Eva EsseEsse9 from Energica, a high-performance Italian EV startup with a U.S. sales network. As for market positioning, Tarform aims […]