Kiwi eco-tech pioneer UBCO is gearing up for wide spread adoption of its tough, safe and clean utility electric bikes across New Zealand farms, businesses and households thanks to funding from government-backed Carbn Group.
Carbn Group, with investment from New Zealand Green Investment Finance Ltd (NZGIF – also known as the ‘Green Fund’), a crown-owned company established to accelerate low emissions investment in New Zealand, is partnering with Tauranga headquartered UBCO to provide asset finance for a new subscription service model.
The partnership will fast-track UBCO CEO Timothy Allan’s vision to have an UBCO electric utility vehicle on every farm in New Zealand, which represents a $1.4 billion per year opportunity for the global company.
“After introducing the subscription model to the urban environment with our partnership with Domino’s, it made sense to extend this to the agricultural sector which is where our business was built.
“This coincides with the introduction of the off-road 2x2 Work Bike and now with the backing of a finance partner that is dedicated to the transition away from carbon fuels, the offer makes sense for farms’ cashflow and planning,” says Allan.
Instead of buying an EV outright, UBCO’s subscription model means businesses and consumers can pay a fixed monthly fee covering the bike, battery and servicing while UBCO retains ownership and stewardship of the product.
“Subscription means low upfront costs, and it includes servicing and maintenance so there are no unplanned costs. It’s basically a no hassle way of running a bike or a fleet of bikes. And the bikes are a more sustainable transport option, both during use and at the end of life.”
Almost 50 per cent of UBCO sales historically have been from the agricultural sector. Latest data shows there are approximately 51,000 farm holdings in New Zealand. There are 175,000 registered motorbikes in New Zealand, with the unregistered market operating primarily on farmland estimated at over double that. Based on New Zealand’s energy profile, the UBCO 2X2 has 80 per cent less CO2 emissions than petrol vehicles during life and removes all particulate emissions during use.
Allan notes that the Carbn and Green Fund deal will help set the stage for large-scale farming operations committed to carbon reduction, such as the Government-owned Landcorp or Pāmu, to lead the way in sustainable practice.
“An UBCO on every farm in NZ would make a significant improvement to the carbon footprint and subscription opens the opportunity for wider spread ownership.”
One such farmer leading the sustainable farming transition is Waikato-based Grant Coombes, who has owned a fleet of UBCO 2X2s for the past five years across his 350 hectares of land. When it came time to upgrade to the new 2021 Work Bike model, moving to subscription was an easy choice.
“UBCO subscription means we can continue our journey to going green using these environmentally friendly, safe and easy to ride vehicles hassle free, and the model gives us peace of mind the bikes and batteries will be disposed of safely at the end of their working life.
“With energy costs of under 20c a day it makes for efficient work, we’re only charging the bikes every three or four days. And now we can upgrade our fleet without paying the upfront costs – it’s a no-brainer,” says Coombes.
Allan says fleet subscription is a key part of its global business growth moving forward. Demand is not limited to agriculture, with demand from postal, freight and last-mile delivery sectors like food delivery. Subscription is available for both the off-road 2x2 Work Bike and the road registrable 2X2 Adventure Bike.
Momentum is building globally for low emissions transport technology adoption and UBCO, operating in Australasia, Europe and the United States, is among a growing cohort of vehicle designers leading this charge.
In New Zealand, the transport sector accounts for around 19 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Transport is New Zealand’s fastest growing emissions sector and emissions have risen by more than 70 per cent since 1990, with heavy farm bikes and machinery a notorious repeat-offender.
“There is no point doing a stellar job at reducing emissions and eliminating the use of fossil fuels if we don’t take responsibility to manage the product right through to its end of life,” says Allan.
“That means designing and making products to last, then putting systems in place to enable them to be reused and recycled when they are worn out.
“Our funding from Carbn Group to expand our vehicle subscription model is critical and comes at a time when interest in carbon emissions is at an all-time high. We’re thrilled to be leading the charge from Aotearoa in a matter of global importance.”
The partnership with Carbn Group is for NZ and Australia. UBCO is currently investigating similar partnerships across the rest of the world.