If one of your goals for the year is to be kinder to the earth, then this sustainable transport solution with an SFU connection needs to be on your radar.
Q: What can go anywhere a bicycle can (with less effort), has three wheels, and will keep you dry while zipping around on a wet Vancouver day?
A: The Veemo™, hitting local streets this year, brought to you by VeloMetro Mobility.
Kody Baker, an alumnus of the Beedie School of Business MBA program, is one of the company’s co-founders. By taking advantage of programs offered through SFU Innovates, he learned how to optimally position his unique take on the velocar and how to launch, run and grow a startup company.
A velocar is essentially a recumbent bike inside a protective shell and, although it’s been around since the late 19th century, it was eclipsed in popularity by gas-powered automobiles. This human-powered transport method has been experiencing a resurrection as of late as the world clamours to find more sustainable ways to get around.
A handful of years ago, Baker connected with a few others who were similarly intrigued by electric vehicles. They were convinced that replacing bulky, energy-intensive cars with three-wheeled, electric-assist trikes could be a vastly more efficient solution to navigating Vancouver’s dense downtown core. And so, VeloMetro Mobility and the seed for the Veemo™ was born.
With the assistance of SFU’s Venture Connection® incubator program and program mentor Jim Derbyshire, Baker was able to hone the company's business plan. Baker then entered SFU’s VentureLabs® accelerator in 2014, which gave him access to continued mentorship from Jim as well as from both director Ian Hand and other VentureLabs companies.
VeloMetro dubbed their creation the Veemo™, and put a new twist on the velomobile by featuring an electric assist drive and automatic transmission, allowing riders to travel at speeds of up to 32km an hour with minimal effort. Otherwise, it maneuvers quite similarly to a bike with its lightweight body, handlebars and pedals.
As another bonus, the Veemo™ is officially classified as a bicycle in North America, so no driver’s license is required and it can travel along bike lanes. It is also fully enclosed, shielding the driver from the elements and nixing the need for a helmet. Plus, it includes storage space behind the seat for luggage or groceries. Baker notes, “And for riders who aren’t familiar with cycling routes, a 7-inch in-dash tablet provides turn-by-turn navigation and displays nearby parking spaces.”
VeloMetro will follow the car share model popularized by the likes of Modo and car2Go, and, at about 28 cents a minute, a Veemo rental will cost you over a third less than existing car shares. The company is working with the City of Vancouver to launch a pilot fleet later this year and interested users should subscribe to the company’s mailing list for a chance to take one for a ride.
“VeloMetro envisions Veemo in multiple cities around the world, providing a practical solution for urban modal shift by getting people out of fossil-fueled vehicles and into electric-assisted active transportation,” says Baker. "By providing Veemos via a low-cost sharing network, soon everyone could have access to personal transportation in the form of a modern electric vehicle.”
VeloMetro Mobility co-founder Kody Baker is an experienced technology manager and entrepreneur with a strong vision for technology trends. With a broad range of deep experience in engineering, project management, and manufacturing within several cleantech and high-tech companies, he has brought to market products such as electric vehicles, biomass energy systems, and process control systems. He holds a B.Apsc. (Mech) from UBC and a MOT MBA from SFU.
Q & A with Kody Baker
What motivates you as a researcher?
I am motivated by our need to shift away from a dinosaur-fuel based economy. Climate change is real and entrepreneurs and engineers are well-suited to build solutions.
How important is collaboration in advancing new ventures?
Collaboration is incredibly important for a startup company to be competitive today. We work with top experts from academia and industry to improve our designs beyond what our in-house expertise would be able to produce.
How is your research making an impact in our lives?
The technology we are developing will bring true modal shift to our cities. That is, getting people out of cars and into active transportation. This has huge potential to improve air quality and people's wellbeing.
How would you sum up the value of university research in a word?
Evolving. Universities exist to produce students that are hirable by industry, and are therefore directed by industry. However, they also are able to direct industry through their internal research efforts. This constant back and forth results in an ever evolving entity that is extremely valuable for continued advancement.
Do you believe that training students and young faculty in entrepreneurship will help Canada’s innovation performance?
Yes. Giving students the skills needed to become entrepreneurs will encourage more people to take the risky jump of starting a new business.The more entrepreneurs we have, the greater chance we have at launching truly impressive new companies.