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Bermudian fulfils his electric dream

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Sitting on his scooter in a traffic jam on a windless winter's morning, Bermudian Scott Mello was overcome by the amount of gas fumes he was inhaling and it sparked an idea.

He decided he was going to go electric but all the electric vehicles (EVs) on the market were either too powerful for Bermuda's roads or were poorly designed using low-quality materials.

So he set himself a challenge to convert a traditional gasoline bike into a custom-designed electric bike — a project that has been three years in the making.

He told The Royal Gazette: “I couldn't get over the fumes. I thought this is insane.

“My concept started eight years ago as I was not impressed with the designs on the market and those sold locally. I did the initial design and sketches, but then left it as it would have been an expensive undertaking.

“Three years ago the pricing and technology changed so I searched for the specific model scooter I needed for the conversion, a Derby GP1 scooter, and imported it second-hand from England. I started the project and used components from second-hand electric bikes along with improved parts from overseas.

“There are other EVs on the island, but basically none have lasted long because of the poor quality or because when the batteries eventually die it is too expensive to replace them. There might have been 50 sold on island over the years. The current challenge is EVs are duty-free, but new batteries get 33 per cent duty charged to them, so it makes replacement uneconomical. This needs to change if smaller EVs are to be successful.”

Mr Mello has already had discussions with the Department of Energy about the possibility of introducing tariffs on scooter batteries and he has been invited by the department to bring his bike to an energy summit in July.

“The big picture is Bermuda doing its bit in the global community for the environment. The batteries can be reformatted to be used for solar energy, which can be stored in the batteries. The department is supportive because it is what needs to be done in terms of better local air quality.”

Aside from the environmental benefits, Mr Mello says there is potential for significant economical benefits to going electric.

“The energy cost of an electric bike is about $1.80 per 100km versus about $6 for gas and that is going by my bike, which is quite economical.

“A new set of batteries would cost anywhere from $2,200 to $3,000 depending on the range a person wished for. These would be good for six to ten years depending on usage and how they were cared for. On the flip side, electric bikes don't need the yearly servicing so would not require the belt, rollers and oil change gas scooters do, which is probably around $150 to $200 at a local garage.

“People don't think about the external costs — when you drive on the roads you are sucking in fumes from the gas vehicles and the break dust. That goes into healthcare costs that you don't see directly.”

Asked about the experience of custom designing his own electric bike, Mr Mello added: “I had a lot of challenges — there were a lot of things I had to learn and rethink. It is very technical in terms of the batteries. Mine were second-hand, but you have to treat them like gold. You pay a lot of attention to them. I have had lots of ups and down. You build it up and think everything is working but it's not so you have to pull it all apart again. A lot of fun engineering. I enjoyed it especially when people ask where I bought it from — that is the greatest compliment.”

Scott Mello spent three years customising and fine-tuning his electric bike. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
A wheelie great idea: Scott Mello has spent three years customising and fine-tuning his electric bike. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Scott Mello spent three years customising and fine-tuning his electric bike. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Green machine: Mr Mello used components from second-hand electric bikes along with improved parts from overseas
Labour of love: Mr Mello says you have to treat your electric batteries like gold

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Published June 09, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 09, 2016 at 8:22 am)

Bermudian fulfils his electric dream

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