24 Dec 2019

Invercargill man's homemade electric bikes go global

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:27 pm on 24 December 2019

When Bill Blakie's 'crook hip' made it too hard to get on his bike, the born-and-bred Southlander created his own low-to-the-ground electric bike.

Bill Blakie with his sustainable transport bike

Bill Blakie with his sustainable transport bike Photo: Supplied / ODT

Bill built his first three-wheeler bike prototype in his garage back in 1996. Since then, he's has constructed over 40 VERY ECO bikes and shipped them as far as Switzerland and Ukraine.

Bill's e-bikes weigh just 45kg, are powered by a 300W motor and can travel at up to 24-25 km per hour.

"For all intents and purposes, it's the same size as a mobility scooter but with 16-inch bike wheels," Bill says.

It's also a healthier way to get around.

"I'm well past retirement age but I'm still very fit and healthy. And that's the only exercise I do is get out on the bike most days ... I generally go as fast as I can, no dawdling."

Bill customises his bikes for special orders.

"The one for Ukraine, I had to make a heavy-duty one 'cause he was something like 160 kilos.

"Made one for a woman in England and she wanted a tow hook on the front so she could get her dog to pull her along."

Because Bill's e-bikes are classed as bicycles, you're supposed to wear a helmet and be on the road. But he sometimes swerves that rule.

"If I'm shop-hopping and things like that, I pedal on the footpath. I haven't had a problem … you adjust your speed accordingly, of course."

A VERY ECO bike with an electric motor sells for NZ$3,750 – or about $6,000 with the optional canopy, Bill says.

"Down south here you have a look round the corner and see what the weather's gonna be like, and decide whether to take the bike or take the car … but with the canopy, you don't need to worry."

He hopes others will cotton on to this healthy and eco-conscious way to get around.

"I find it enormously beneficial for me so I'm trying to encourage other people to do likewise."