Neal Saiki describes his mission as making clean technology fun. His impressive resume includes founding Zero Motorcycles, creating the first human-powered helicopter and revolutionizing full-suspension bicycle design with his work for brands including Santa Cruz and Haro. So when Saiki decided to launch a new bicycle project, his goal was to create a machine that is fun to ride but also addresses societal and environmental issues. Thus was born the 2×4 electric cargo bike, a car-replacing pedal-powered machine that hauls heavy loads with ease.
The 2×4 has received accolades from CNN and many other media outlets since launching this month. The front-loading cargo bike features innovative touches including: a proprietary steering system that allows cargo weight to be centered over the front wheel without affecting bike handling; a lifetime service warranty on the battery pack; and a Gates Carbon Drive for grease-free and low-maintenance durability. The front wheel is powered by a high-torque electric motor, while the rear has an eight-speed transmission. The 2×4 even has a USB charging port for your phone, a motorcycle-style center kickstand for stability when parked, plus two cup holders for staying caffeinated.
Saiki designed the lithium ion battery pack (it uses advanced cylindrical cells similar to those used by Tesla Motors) to be easily serviced, durable, light, affordable and efficient. He says cyclists can go 30 miles on a charge and ride 10,000 miles for $30 worth of electricity–costing virtually nothing compared to the high expense of driving a car. The 2×4 is ideal for replacing that second family car and is a low-cost delivery solution for small businesses seeking an affordable alternative to a van or delivery car.
“We think that this battery technology is the breakthrough product people have been waiting for,” Saiki says. “The foremost advantage is that it is serviceable. Being able to easily replace one of more cells is a huge advantage. Huge EV battery packs are prone to having one or two bad cells. Nobody wants to throw out an entire EV pack just because there is one bad cell. Our technology facilitates thermal tracking of every cell in the pack. Any bad cell can be identified and replaced in minutes.”
Listen to Saiki describe the bike in this video:
NTS Works is based in Santa Cruz, Calif., where Saiki lives with his family. He and his wife Lisa can be seen pedaling their 2×4 around the city on grocery errands or carting the kids about town. Technological and environmental innovation aside, Saiki says his real motivation for building the 2×4 was personal: With young children, neither he nor Lisa have time to go mountain biking. Now they exercise while doing errands. Time stress is why Saiki decided to use Gates Carbon Drive.
“Like many parents I don’t have the time, or desire, to maintain a chain,” he says. “Our bikes will also be sold to businesses, and the Gates belt drive is a low-maintenance solution for them. You don’t have to worry about cleaning and lubricating a chain. Just hop on and go.”