Power to the People

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Clean Republic believes it has created an electric bicycle that will change the way people commute. The Hill Topper conversion kit works with an existing bicycle, takes 10 minutes to install and provides enough power for a 10- or 20-mile commute, depending on the size of the battery.

Electric bikes have existed for years, but they usually require an investment of several thousand dollars for a fully equipped new bicycle or a strong DIY mentality to use a conversion kit. CEO Michael Shope and co-founder Yong Hou decided to create a kit for “non-spandexy, regular people” who want additional power while riding a bicycle. Hou has a warehouse in North Dakota and assembles the kits there. Shope and marketing manager Chris Mobley look after sales and promotion in Seattle.

The public seems to be responding. Customers across the United States and in more than 20 other countries, including Kazakhstan and New Zealand, have ordered kits. Shope says Clean Republic (cleanrepublic.com) has sold “thousands” in the past year and its biggest problem is making them quickly enough to meet demand.

The Hill Topper model comes in two sizes. A 10-mile battery, which weighs 11 pounds, sells for $399 and takes two and a half hours to charge. A 20-mile battery sells for $745 and takes 6 hours to charge, but weighs only six pounds. A lighter “featherweight” battery—essentially the 20-mile battery cut in half—is expected to debut later this year. With the kit installed, bikes are capable of reaching 15 miles per hour.

Clean Republic has spread the word about its kit through a combination of social media and traditional paid advertising. The company has several additional products planned, including a solar water-heating system and a small wind turbine, but intends to continue building on the conversion kit’s success.

“People love them,” Shope says. “People want things they can do practically to help the planet. We are not avid cyclists or bike enthusiasts. We are real people who happen to ride bikes.” — Anthony Adragna

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