The locally made electric moped changing how Kiwis commute

A locally made electric moped is changing the face of e-vehicles in New Zealand. With their modern take on a classic motorcycle design, the creators of the Streetdog are hoping to convince more Kiwis to get out of their gas-guzzling cars and embrace a greener commuting alternative. 

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The Streetdog moped is the brainchild of Luke Sinclair and Kendall Bristow, co-founders and co-CEOs of Wellington-based company FTN Motion.

The long-time mates were both growing frustrated by how much time they were spending stuck in traffic while commuting to work each day and "pumping out endless clouds of emissions".  An experience walking the length of New Zealand along the Te Araroa trail a few years prior had also served as a "wake-up call" for them both to take more care of the environment and play an active role in fighting climate change. That desire to do something meaningful eventually led Sinclair and Bristow, both mechanical engineers, to start looking into more eco-friendly ways of commuting to work.

A little tinkering later and they had their first prototype bike - cobbled together from a BMX found in a junkyard, an old motor and some batteries bought on TradeMe. Although it was clear the bike still needed a lot of work, Sinclair says as soon as they took it for a spin "something just clicked".

"It was obvious even then that for urban commuting and doing slow speeds around town, electric was going to be outperforming its petrol equivalents in every way. We just thought that the main problem was how do you make them cool?"

The pair then got to work on fixing that problem while flatting together in Wellington during lockdown in 2020. Once they had their first "aesthetically complete" prototype they then put together a business plan and were joined by their third founder Saskia Thornton, who heads the company's marketing and business strategy.

Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength.

After an initial test production run last year of 10 Beta bikes, which were earmarked for local businesses and investors, the company embarked on its first major commercial production run of 100 bikes. Once that run is complete – so far around 80 mopeds have been delivered – they will start building bikes pre-ordered for their second major production run. 

The current iteration of the Streetdog boasts 3kW of power, 30 litres of storage and a range of 80km (although some people claim to get up to 100km out of a single charge). Orders for this version are open now, with the motorcycles set to be delivered over the summer.

Because the bikes are classed as mopeds, with a top speed of around 50km/h, riders don't need a motorcycle licence to use them, something that adds to their appeal.

Sinclair says he has been surprised by how popular the bikes have been. 

"We're getting more and more traction every week at the moment. It's so much more than we expected as New Zealand hasn't traditionally been a big moped or motorcycle market for inner city commuters."

The bikes are produced in the company's factory in Wellington, with all design components such as software and electronics developed in-house.

Another point of difference for the mopeds is the fact the bodies are made using hemp instead of fibreglass, an idea inspired by a local surfboard shaper and friend of Sinclair's, Jack Candlish of Verdure Surf, who uses the material to make boards.

Using hemp not only has a lower carbon footprint than fibreglass it also leads to a safer and more comfortable working environment for staff.

"In terms of cost, performance and the health of our workers, working with hemp just makes so much sense," says Sinclair.

"It has the equivalent performance requirements that we need, and it's just a much nicer material to work with."

In addition to the environmental and technical features of the bike, Sinclair says right from the beginning he knew it was equally important to produce a product that people could really connect with, and "to find that balance between the familiar and the new".

He says the aim was to essentially "capture something that has that timelessness, that analogue feel of traditional, old-school motorcycles and put it into a modern form".

By offering a stylish, yet practical alternative to petrol vehicles, the company hopes more people will be encouraged to leave their gas-guzzling cars behind and take up a more eco-friendly form of transport.

"It's about changing that perception of electric really – showing everyone that it can be this high-performance machine that looks great."

With two more products in the pipeline and an Australian launch on the horizon, the company has lofty goals for the future. And as well as getting more people to embrace electric vehicles, Sinclair also hopes the company can prove there is potential in Aotearoa for more innovative businesses challenging the status quo.

"There's no excuse for New Zealand not to be a leader in green tech."

Article created in partnership with Contact Energy.