Why don't you hop on your bike?

2nd February 2018
Lanna Cooper

Following the Government’s commitment to serious investment in battery tech innovation, the future looks bright for all things electric. There seems to be no end to the disruptive potential of fuel-free energy, as the Founder of Eskuta discovered when he launched his fresh take on electrically assisted pedal cycles. As new markets continue to open up, Ian O’Connor shares the buzz about the electric transport revolution.

When Eskuta was founded two and a half years ago, Managing Director, Ian O’Connor expected that his innovative new electric bike would find its natural home in the leisure market.

Boasting many of the benefits of the petrol scooter - proper lights, brakes and suspension - but not requiring tax, insurance or a CBT licence, Eskuta’s models seemed perfect for those who wanted a little extra performance without the outlay. Caravan fans, motorhome owners, Sunday afternoon riders, young people making their way to college - the perfect fit for those seeking a relaxed and not-tootaxing ride.

Although this demographic certainly snapped up the SX250 and the SF250, it turned out there was an even bigger market that was hungry for a new transport solution.

“We went along to quite a lot of freshers’ fairs at universities because when we first started we were aiming at the youth and leisure market,” O’Connor said. “Pizza company Dominos are very prevalent at fairs at the larger universities. We met a major franchisee, who said that our product was something very special because he was having some real issues with delivery costs.”

A meeting with Dominos resulted in 25 bikes going on trial at 20 of their stores initially. This was subsequently increased to 35 bikes across 25 stores and Dominos recently announced that Eskuta is now their approved supplier of EAPCs.

It seems that all the benefits that appeal to the leisure market hold the same draw for takeaway delivery businesses - particularly the 10p-percharge price point. Although innovation in food ordering technology has made life easier for customers, this new convenience has brought extra challenges for the food retailers.

“What we learned from Dominos and attending events like the Takeaway Innovation Expo is that takeaway food restaurants have trouble with using mopeds for deliveries,” O’Connor said. “Online food portals such as Just Eat and Hungry House are getting a lot of business for the restaurants that sign up to them. But the portals take quite a large percentage of the order and the restaurant then has to deliver on it.

"Ordinarily they’d put someone on a moped, but the insurance especially is very expensive and the rider has got to have a CBT licence, so the costs associated with that are high. If they put someone into a car, they have the tax, insurance and MOT to cover, and the driver will probably need to be over the age of 21. So they’re getting more business but their margins are being reduced.”

The Eskuta models have really struck a chord with restaurants, who have been ordering in droves. Usually the company keeps up to 150 bikes in stock at any one time, but they sold over 240 during the two-day Takeaway Innovation Expo alone.

“With a top speed of 15.5mph, a trial with Dominos showed that our bikes were two minutes faster than a car and one minute faster than a petrol moped on delivery routes, because we could use bike lanes and get through the traffic,” O’Connor said. “We’ve also learned that recruitment is a real problem for takeaway restaurants.

"For example, one franchisee put out an advert for a CBT rider and received two applications. When he advertised for a bike rider, 83 people applied in just one week. Businesses using this bike only need public liability insurance and people as young as 16 can ride it. Because you don’t need a licence for it, it allows them to have more flexibility with their staff, so it offers a far larger resource pool.”

The environmentally friendly nature of the EAPC is also a big attraction for companies that want to enhance their eco-credentials. With the impending ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK, it’s no surprise that the takeaway market sees a strong future in pedal power.

What’s making all this possible is battery tech, something that has made great strides forward even in the last couple of years.

“When we started out, lithium ion batteries were very expensive, especially when you were trying to hit a particular price point that made your product more attractive,” O’Connor said. “But as we went through the development process, lithium ion batteries became more prevalent and so the costs reduced dramatically.

Where previously, the range on the SX250 model was 25 miles, that’s now gone up to 50 miles - another reason why our bikes have become so successful in the delivery market.

“If you say to any company, ‘we’re going to create an environmental solution for you’, usually that costs the company money. But with our product, we’re saving them money. The battery is unique to us and the design of the bikes is patented. We share the patent with our suppliers, who manufacture the battery element; they have the patent for Asia and we have the rest of the world.”

With the electric bikes market growing by about 100% per year, the sky is the limit for battery-driven transport. Eskuta are currently developing a bike designed specifically for the takeaway delivery market and plans are afoot to create a three-wheeler that can take even more of the strain.

“There’s a term in the delivery industry that refers to ‘the last mile’, that last push to get goods to the customer,” O’Connor said. “Although I’m biased, the idea of driverless cars and drones as a solution saddens me a bit. What we’ve got is a cost effective, environmentally friendly solution for the small business, giving them an opportunity to deliver themselves and to give that personal service, which marks them out from their competitors.”

Eskuta has worked with Breakthrough funding, a company that helps UK SMEs achieve R&D tax credits - a government scheme created to enhance and reward innovation amongst UK businesses. Could you be eligible? Click here to learn more.

For more information, click here.

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