Nov 292010
 
Authors: Allison Sylte

Josh Kerson, the manager of Small Planet E Vehicles, is passionate about one thing: electric bicycles.

“They really have so much potential and are truly my life’s work,” Kerson said. “I could seriously talk about them all day.”

Kerson became enamored with electric bicycles in 1998 after attending a trade show where he saw 25 Asian manufactured electric bicycles that hadn’t yet caught on in the U.S. Seeing an untapped market, he immediately quit his job and went back to school at age 30, studying the mechanics of electric vehicle design and business.

This ultimately bloomed into Small Planet E Vehicles and Run-About Cycles, two businesses owned by Kerson that focus on bringing eco-friendly, electric cycling technology to the masses.

“It’s really catching on,” Kerson said. “At some European bike shows, over half of the bikes shown are electric. In Fort Collins, I’ve gotten interest from about 100 people looking to create an electric bike club.”

Kerson chose Fort Collins to house his business after assessing cities across the U.S. for their “biker-friendly” reputations. He said he was attracted to the health conscious and eco-friendly community, as well as the countless miles of bike lanes and trails the city has to offer.

Small Planet E Vehicles has two shops that employ six full-time employees: one in Longmont and the other at 244 North College Ave. in Fort Collins.

Kerson’s electric bikes are run partially by a lithium battery that has an energy efficiency equivalent to about 2,000 miles per gallon of gasoline.

They are also powered by the pedal strokes of the rider, with the battery lasting longer the harder the rider works. Most units cost between $2,000 and $3,000.

“Riding an electric bicycle on a regular basis means being able to avoid depending on oil and cars and really being able to support sustainable energy and to have a healthy lifestyle,” Kerson said. “In the end, they’re an investment.”

In addition to supporting eco-friendly transportation, the electric bicycle is also a product meant to help disabled citizens who would not be able to enjoy bike riding otherwise.

“Electric bicycles are partially for transportation, but also have great recreational purposes,” Kerson said. “It’s great to be able to help out the disabled, and it’s a really big part of our business.”

For Fort Collins resident Tommy Klender, the purchase of an electric bicycle has been more than worthwhile.

“I’m a quadriplegic, so riding a traditional bicycle tended to really hurt my joints,” Klender said. “Someone recommended that I go to Josh’s shop, and I’m really happy that I did. It’s amazing how great of a difference it makes for me to be able to ride. I can stay healthy and get exercise. It has changed my life.”

Electric bicycles are mandated by law to generate less than one horsepower of energy and to only reach top speeds of 20 mph without the rider’s assistance.

They are classified in the same category as bicycles under Colorado law, and as a result, all laws pertaining to conventional cyclists also pertain to electric cyclists.

“It’s a burgeoning market, and we’ve seen a great deal of success,” Kerson said. “I can only see electric bicycles getting more popular and more widely used in the future.”

Outdoor Life Beat Reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at news@collegian.com.

  • Cost: $2,000-$3,000
  • Miles per gallon: 2,000
  • The bike runs for approximately 40 miles per charge
  • Powered by a lithium battery
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