Hamilton start-up EGO New Zealand is on a quiet two-wheeled mission to improve the future of transport.
Currently focusing on urban areas, EGO (short for Electric go) develops robust electric mopeds that only need between four and six hours of charging - on a household power socket.
Designer Corrado Ramada from Auckland is the creative head behind the bikes, supported by local businessman Willie Waters and business partner Rahina Shah.
Willie says: "Corrado is an incredible designer with an eye for detail. He used to design products in the audio and aeronautics fields for big companies overseas, so in a way, he was always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Now we are his bridesmaids supporting him and his vision."
Corrado designed his first electric bike five years ago and licensed it to an overseas company for a couple of years. After that, he decided to market it himself - with the help of Willie and Rahina.
The EGO New Zealand showroom in Hamilton opened in September and currently has five different bike models, all for urban use with maximum speeds between 65 and 80km/h. Designed in New Zealand and built in China, the bikes run between 50 and 80km per charge depending on the model, however, EGO is currently looking at some changes.
Willie says: "We are in the process of finding a way to produce the bike in this country, because the New Zealand brand is very strong. We are also working on a way to allow people to ride from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South without charging, but with a battery swap system like there is with gas bottles."
At the end of the year, EGO will also release a new electric motorbike which will have a maximum speed of 160km/h. Another two motorcycle models are already under development and will be released next year.
Originally from Ngāruawāhia, Willie has a background in engineering before working in car sales at Royale Cars and Motorcycles in Te Rapa for 17 years. Rahina has a background in business and finance working for First Credit Union.
She says: "We know each other for 10 years through our jobs. Since 2017 we have been business partners also, owning motor dealership SES Cars and Finance and commodity distributor NZ Global Distributor."
Willie's friend and former colleague Emmanuel Richards knew of Willie's lifelong love of motorcycles and put the two business partners in touch with Corrado. Emmanuel and Corrado were work colleagues in Auckland before Emmanuel moved to Australia.
Willie says: "I like the New Zealand attitude of giving things a go and you might be successful. After a long time of being employed, I wanted to do something for myself. My boss at Royale, Chris Gibbs, taught me everything I need to know. He taught me to be courageous and not to be afraid to try something new."
With the growing demand for alternative and more environmentally friendly transport all over the world, electric vehicles have become a point of interest.
Willie says: "It's a new market, you have to create it. Our products are new and look different, so we want to change novelty to normality. Currently, our customers are using their EGO bikes to commute or just for fun, but we want people not to see it as just a toy, but as a quality vehicle that can be used every day throughout the year."
Apart from his professional relationship with motorcycles, Willie also has an interest in bikes outside work.
"I come from a horse-riding family, I was even part of the Ngāruawāhia pony club. My father built my first motorbike when I was 4 and as I grew up, I realised a bike is easier to control than a horse."
He now owns a Harley and lives up to the phrase "being a vegan who eats meat". "I really like that saying because although I have a Harley, I still love electric. Maybe one day I will give my Harley away."
Rahina doesn't have a motorbike background, but she and her two kids love their EGO bike. "I don't think I could get myself on an actual motorbike, I'm too scared."
Willie says this is quite a common case.
"I'm not sure about the reason, but the interesting thing about electric bikes is that there seems to be no fear compared to a petrol-powered bike."
So far, EGO has sold 30 bikes to customers ranging from a finance manager at Westpac to the vice president of a gang. Rahina says that as soon as people hop on an EGO bike, they love it.
"The Westpac finance manager is based in Auckland and uses his bike to go to work. He said it costs him $2.50 a week and he is saving over $150 in parking. And you can skip the traffic which also saves you the traffic headache."
Says Willie: "Another customer of ours is a paraglider who was paragliding at the Mount. From up in the air he saw a couple of bikes riding around. He looked it up on the internet and found us. We later found out that the group of bikes he saw at the Mount was actually my family."
During his visit to Hamilton, Minister of Transport Michael Wood, together with Hamilton East and West MPs Jamie Strange and Dr Gaurav Sharma, also visited EGO and tried the bikes.
"The minister had a great time. I had set out road cones for them on the property, but as soon as they were on the bikes, they went straight out onto the road," Willie says.
EGO's long-term goal is to eventually go worldwide and potentially produce cars as well.
"We are still learning, but we want to make things better, improving ourselves and the future itself. We are a small piece of the puzzle, doing our part to provide a solution to traffic congestion and high petrol prices."