Icoma shows off a suitcase-size electric Transformer-style motorbike

Icoma‘s Tatamal bike goes from a suitcase-sized square to a tiny electric motorcycle in a few seconds. Charge it for three hours, and it’ll zip you 18 miles or so. The price tag is $4,000, which puts it in the range of extremely high-end electric kick scooters (such as the Apollo Pro) without the portability benefits. It’ll be very curious to see whether it finds an audience and if so, who that audience might be.



As an avid motorcyclist, I find myself a little confused by the device. At 110 lbs, it’s fantastically heavy, and you’re not going to lug it onto a train or throw it in the boot of a car. It has tiny little 10-inch wheels, which is better than some of the kick-scooter alternatives, but on pothole-ridden roads, you’re not going to have a good time. The company says the bike is still under development and will be launched to the public properly later this year.

The bike has a 40 kph (25 mph) top speed and is powered by a 600W motor (max output 2,000 watts), with a 12 amp-hour, 51-volt battery pack. The bike also has USB and (optional) AC output so you can use it to power other devices – charge your phone, power your laptop, or run your margarita blender in a pinch.

Overall the electric motorbike seems a little unsure of what it’s for or who needs one. It’s neat looking, but you’re going to look pretty silly riding around on it, and it doesn’t seem particularly competitively spec’ed or priced compared to some of the alternatives out there.

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Icoma shows off a suitcase-size electric Transformer-style motorbike by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

MAX.ng raises $7M round backed by Yamaha and pilots EVs in Nigeria

Nigerian motorcycle transit startup MAX.ng has raised a $7 million funding round led by Novastar Ventures, with participation of Japanese manufacturer Yamaha.

Based in Lagos, the company’s app-based platform coordinates motorcycle taxi and delivery services for individuals and businesses. Six-million of the investment is in Series A capital followed by $1 million in grants.

MAX has an extended menu for the round. “We intend to invest massively in our technology capabilities,” including the company’s payment infrastructure, CFO Guy-Bertrand Njoya told TechCrunch.

The startup will also expand to 10 cities in West Africa (starting in Ghana and Ivory Coast) and add new vehicle classes—including watercraft and three-wheeled tuk tuk taxis.

And in what could be a first in Africa’s growing motorcycle ride-hail market, MAX will use its new funding for EV development. “We’re piloting electric motorcycles in partnership with EV manufacturers and working with grid operators across Nigeria to deploy charging stations,” Njoja said.

He would not name EV partners, except to clarify Yamaha is not currently part of the e-pilot. The the research also includes renewable energy as an e-moto power source, according to Njoja. MAX’s current fleet consists primarily of Yamaha Crux Rev and Indian manufacturer Bajaj’s Pulsar motorcycles.

Co-founded in 2015 by MIT Sloan alumns Adetayo Bamiduro and Chinedu Azodah, MAX has completed over 1 million trips and is one of the largest delivery partners in West Africa for Jumia—the e-commerce unicorn that recently listed on the NYSE.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Zrosk Investment Management, and Alitheia Capital joined Novastar Ventures and Yamaha in the $7 million round—which takes MAX’s total funding to $9 million.

Yamaha confirmed its investment in MAX to TechCrunch. Part of the company’s interest in the startup connects to market research and Yamaha’s existing Nigeria operations. “We want to work with good entrepreneurs in Africa to develop new business in Africa,” Shoji Shiraishi of Yamaha Motor Company’s New Venture Business Development Section told TechCrunch.

He added that Yamaha sells and manufactures motorcycles in Nigeria. “We really want to understand local needs for motorcycles and…to support [MAX] expanding their business,” he said.

This is Yamaha’s second move in less than a year in an emerging market ride-hail company. In December it invested $150 million in Grab, a Southeast Asian two and four-wheel on demand transit company.

Yamaha’s investment in MAX suggests global interest in Africa’s two-wheel ride-hail space. Overall, the motorcycle taxi market is becoming a significant sub-sector in the continent’s mobility startup landscape.

Motorcycle transit ventures are vying to digitize a share of Africa’s boda boda and okada markets (the name for motorcycle taxis in East and West Africa)—representing a collective revenue pool of $4 billion (now) that’s expected to double by 2021, per a TechSci study.

Uber  began offering a two-wheel transit option in East Africa in 2018, around the same time Bolt (previously Taxify) started motorcycle taxi service in Kenya.

Last month MAX competitor Gokada (also based in Lagos) raised a $5.3 round and announced it would expand in East Africa. Rwanda has motorbike taxi startups SafeMotos and Yegomoto. Uganda-based motorcycle ride-hail company SafeBoda expanded into Kenya in 2018 and recently raised a Series B round, co-led by the venture arms of Germany’s Allianz and Indonesia’s Go-Jek.

On the question of how MAX (a 2018 TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa participant) will compete in a market with more players, co-founder Chinedu Azodoh named diversification and satisfying drivers. “We’re a very driver-centric business and at the end of the day the driver is where the business is at,” he said, highlighting the ability of MAX’s platform to deliver market-share to those drivers.

Azodoh also believes MAX’s mix of business delivery and personal transit offers an advantage over competitors. He noted that MAX.ng has local developer team and is always looking at new revenue opportunities. “Strategic for us is making sure we’re doing the right thing at the right time,” he said, indicating the company has already scaled up and scaled down certain service offerings in response to market needs.

“If we find that maybe there’s something else we’re missing out on, we’re happy to jump into that,” Azohdo said.

One of those areas could be development of EV mobility services for Nigeria and Africa. “The economics are promising and could offer significant value to the drivers and end-users,” MAX CFO Guy-Bertrand Njoya told TechCrunch.

So electric motorcycle taxis in African cities powered by renewable energy could become a reality. That would definitely place the continent in a unique position in the transformation of global mobility.








Harley-Davidson is opening a Silicon Valley R&D center to power EV production

Harley-Davidson, the American symbol for internal combustion, chrome and steel, is going all in on two-wheeled EVs.

The Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer is going electric and coming to Silicon Valley. Harley announced it will open an R&D space in the Bay Area by the end of 2018 to support its commitment to build electric vehicles.

“The real reason is talent,” Harley-Davidson’s Group Chief Engineer Vance Strader told TechCrunch. “We’re after people who really have a passion for and understanding of electric vehicles and the systems that make them great. [That] sort of culture we’re more likely to get in Silicon Valley: the entrepreneurial, agile, nimble culture,” he said.

Strader also offered a preview of some of the features riders can expect from the company’s first electric motorcycle, expected later next year. Specifically around Harley’s world famous engine sound — something it attempted to trademark at one point. Strader said HD’s EVs would have their own distinct sound, “but there’ll be nothing fake about the sound. It will be entirely generated by the vehicle.”

As we reported earlier this year, the company jolted the motorcycle world by announcing it would create an EV for sale by August 2019 — a production version of its Project LiveWire concept moto.

Harley-Davidson went further in June when CEO Matthew Levatich announced an expanded lineup of EVs, including lighter motorcycles and the possibility of scooters and bicycles.

To achieve these goals, the facility in Silicon Valley “will initially focus on electric vehicle research and development, including battery, power electronics and e-machine design, development and advanced manufacturing,” according to a company release.

Harley’s Silicon Valley move comes as e-motos could be at a pivotal moment in shifting the motorcycle industry toward electric. Three startups — Alta MotorsEnergica and Zero Motorcycles — have revved up promotion, distribution and sales in the U.S. They are betting on pulling more gas riders to the e-moto experience and attracting more young folks and women to buying motorcycles — after years of contraction in the American market.

Shortly after announcing their 2019 electric production target, Harley-Davidson took an (undisclosed) equity stake in Alta and entered into a co-development partnership.