Bicycles (as we learned when Tel Avivians got naked last month to protest local laws) are great for the environment, but you can’t arrive at work or school dripping with sweat. A new earth-friendly solution hitting the streets in New York and Tel Aviv this summer comes in the form of electric powered scooters.
With little noise, no fumes and low power needs, green hipsters everywhere are looking for Trekker, an Israeli-made and relatively inexpensive solution to get around town.
You can’t yet buy a Trekker in New York – the ones on the streets were bought in Israel and taken back by plane or shipped over – but Trekker factories are about to open in pilot sites in Europe, as a step to bringing its production one “putt” closer to the United States market. Inventor Arik Yehuda, 41, is taking it step by step because parts and service centers need to be close by in order to provide customer service.
The electric-powered Trekkers were first conceived about five years ago in south Tel Aviv. After investigating what’s on the market, Yehuda, an engineer, developed his line of scooters, which he claims are the fastest and best. Sales began about three years ago. Today they are selling like hotcakes.
Designed according to a buyer’s specifications in hot pink, turquoise, or anything in between, “we have the knowledge to make it gas or hybrid if we want. I can make something for elderly people or for extreme people,” Yehuda tells ISRAEL21c.
Long, tall, short or small
“We can customize them for short people, or long people. We can customize from the bottom to the top,” he says. “You can pick the color and we will paint it. You can choose your rims, brakes, and suspension. Like a car. You choose whatever you want.”
As a result, the Trekker, either an electric stand-up scooter or a model that comes with a seat, can match your personal style and taste.
Yehuda’s two electric models, the 560 and the 560s with a seat, weigh in at about 66 pounds and can drive up to 18 miles an hour, even if Israeli law says they should drive no faster than seven miles an hour.
And if you want to soup up your ride, no problem, says Yehuda. Customers can order parts to make their Trekker a speed demon. “I produce the components and have the fastest scooters in the world,” says Yehuda. “And all you need to ride one is a smile in the morning.”
Yehuda, a graduate of industrial engineering at Connecticut University in the United States, has a model that can reach about 75 miles an hour within 15 seconds. “But that one’s not for sale,” he warns.
Buying a Trekker is good for the pocket book too, Yehuda points out. It costs about one seventh of a cent to drive it a mile. “We are selling a recession machine,” he says.
Born with a set of wheels
You can already find his colourful electric scooters on the streets of New York, says Yehuda, because people come to Israel, fall in love with them, pack them in a box and take them back home.
You don’t need a license to drive one, which makes it the best way to get to work if it’s close by, says Yehuda, and perfect for getting to the point of commute at a bus stop or train station.
Yehuda first got the idea for an electric scooter after seeing the Go-Ped, developed by American evangelical Christian Steve Patmont who visits Israel often. After leaving university he began tinkering with the idea, trying to come up with his own version.
At Connecticut Yehuda learned how to mass produce, not how to create “wheels” he says. “I was born with wheels. I know about wheels. And don’t think what I created is connected to my studies. There are things I knew before school. I went there because I wanted to learn how to [mass] produce, not do things one by one.”
There is a philosophy behind the Trekker brand. “What’s the reasoning of taking one and a half tons of metal to transport a 70 kilogram person?” asks Yehuda.
“Usually we’re driving with one person in a car. We need to use more mass transportation and we can get you to that mass transportation on a Trekker. You don’t need to know something to drive one. Just step on it. If you can level yourselves you can ride one.”
So simple you can fix it at home
Each machine is built by one person from start to finish. Yehuda believes it is the simplest and most reliable piece of transportation out there. It’s so simple people can even fix it at home, if parts break down.
Trekker now has a staff of 18 in Tel Aviv, and is speaking with possible partners in Switzerland, Holland, South Africa and Greece for developing the Trekker line in these countries. Yehuda isn’t ready to mass-produce without planning ahead. Customer service, he asserts, has to come first.
“I have a lot of people that are interested. But we aren’t expanding into America just yet. On the first day of opening there, we’d need to be able to merchandise for 350 million people. Since all these machines are based on service, we’d need to have the factories and service centers in America so people can get spare parts and service close to home,” he explains.
While you might have to wait a little while to buy a Trekker if you live in the US, the other solution is a trip to Europe or Israel, to pack one for the flight home.
(This story was first printed on ISRAEL21c – www.israel21c.org)