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Pedal-power hybrid vehicle set for Vancouver

Jan 28, 2015

Velocar Management of Technology MBA alumnus Kody Baker aims to revolutionize Vancouver’s urban transport.

It’s rush hour on another rainy day in Vancouver and you are running late for your next appointment across town. It’s too far to walk, and there is no skytrain stop near your destination. If you cycle, you will be drenched by the time you arrive, and there are no taxis in sight.

What choice do you have other than to resign yourself to being late for an important meeting?

Thanks to Beedie School of Business Management of Technology MBA alumnus Kody Baker, a solution is about to hit the streets of the City of Vancouver in the form of an alternative mode of sustainable transport. A cross between a car and a bicycle, the new vehicle – called a Velocar – is set to transform Vancouver’s urban transport scene.

Baker is one of the co-founders of VeloMetro Mobility, the company responsible for the Velocar. The vehicle is a three-wheeled, fully-enclosed bicycle that takes the power input of the rider and multiplies it through a battery pack, resulting in speeds of up to 32km an hour.

Able to operate on bicycle lanes, the Velocar does not require users to posses a driver’s license to operate it – something some fifty percent of Vancouver residents under the age of 25 don’t possess.

Through an energy-recovery brake system, the vehicle will help users climb hills and travel longer distances, and the amount of electric-power assist can be adjusted according to the user’s preference. The finished model will also feature a tablet for navigation and storage space behind the seat for luggage or groceries.

“The Velocar essentially combines the best of an electric vehicle, a bicycle and a car2go,” says Baker. “It multiplies your power input giving you the feeling of having the legs of two Olympic athletes. We plan to introduce it to market through a car2go-style urban sharing network. For around 25 cents a minute, users will get from point A to B without having to return the vehicle to point A.”

Currently in beta testing, the company is working with the City of Vancouver on the project. A pilot project with the city will see a handful of Velocars unleashed on Vancouver later this year initially, before a full launch in 2016.

Their business plan is also boosted by the ease with which members can join and access the units. A non-member could be sitting in a coffee shop when it starts to rain, see one of the vehicles across the road, and within less than five minutes have used their smartphone to register and access the vehicle.

Baker, who graduated from the MOT MBA program in Fall 2014, co-founded VeloMetro during his second year in the program, and has since worked with SFU Venture Connection and Venture Labs Accelerators to further develop the business model. He says that the knowledge gained from the MOT MBA and Venture Connection provided the skills he needed to commercialize their invention.

“The MOT MBA program gave me a great understanding of how to launch, run and grow a business, as well as how to properly position a new product for development,” he says. “I discovered Venture Connection after only a few months at SFU and was paired up with a great mentor. The MBA and Venture Connection complemented each other perfectly – I learned business theory in the MBA and focused more on the practical side through Venture Connection.”

The VeloMetro team recently presented at the prestigious VERGE Accelerate event, a clean-tech focused showcase that provided them with access to officials from progressive-thinking cities, venture capitalists, and business executives from across North America. The response, Baker says, was universally positive and affirming.

“We had people from Costa Rica to Kamloops contacting us to say they had seen us at VERGE and wanted to learn about getting our product operating in their cities,” he says. “It was very exciting for our Velocar to hit an international stage and receive such amazing feedback.”

As the company continues to prepare itself for launch, Baker has not forgotten his SFU roots. VeloMetro recently hired an SFU mechatronics graduate and a Beedie School of Business MBA intern to help cope with the increasing workload.

Learn more about the Velocar at www.velometro.com/