Kimberley-based company eTrikes Canada has been around for a couple of years now, but they’ve recently started to discover ways their product can be utilized by other local companies to enable them to conduct their business in a greener way.
Ray Smith owns and operates Kootenay Energy Advisor, providing professional energy advisory services and doing energy modelling for construction projects around Kimberley and beyond.
“Ray has been poking his head in and out of the shop for over a year now and once he saw us rolling around with these he’s been quite interested to see if we can come up with something that would work for his business,” said Jim Cunnington, co-owner of eTrikes Canada.
Cunnington has been in Kimberley for a little over a decade now, moving here from Australia to be closer to family and formerly running a web design business. He and his business partner Grant Sharam began discussing alternative ideas for a new venture to start in Kimberley, something the city was lacking.
“Long story short, we came across trikes,” he recalled. “Normal trikes, not electric trikes. Then the conversation led a little bit further and we realized that electric trikes were something that was being manufactured and nobody was doing it here and so that led to this. Two years later, we’re now in our second season of bringing these in, importing them and selling them across the country.”
After Smith expressed interest in obtaining an electric trike and trailer setup, eTrikes Canada got to work and after a while consulting what model would work best, and then about a year to get it built and into the country, Smith got his just a few weeks ago.
“He was one of the first people here to try this new model that he’s got riding here now,” Cunnington said. “Ray has been a great ambassador waiting patiently for this and he’s jumped on it and he’s been out cruising around like a madman now I think.”
Smith said that this type of electric transport fits perfectly with both his desire to further green his business and his desire to lead a more active lifestyle.
“This type of thing is a perfect fit for what I do business wise,” he said, “and on top of that, I used to be a builder and in construction all my life before I come to Canada, I come here and now I’ve been sat in front of a laptop for the last god knows how many years, too many.
“At this stage of life you need to be doing something a little bit more [active], you really need to get out a little bit more, and we go for walks local, me and the wife, but I thought this would be perfect. because every time you go out here in Kimberley on a bike you’re having a workout. There’s just no way round that. I live in Forest Crown so you’ve got to make sure you’ve got enough in stock to get up that hill when you get in.”
The trikes, as described by Cunnington, are basically what you get if you were to combine a fat tire mountain bike with the tricycle you had as a kid, but adult sized and with a pedal assisted motor rigged up to it.
“They’re great, not just for people like Ray in business, but we have got a range of people using these with mobility/balance issues, MS, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, we’re bringing mobility back for people who can’t balance on a normal bike so it opens up a whole other window of opportunity for people.”
Another big use for his trikes is the Canadian commercial greenhouse industry, which utilizes these vehicles to more efficiently navigate their massive spaces.
“We’ve been shipping these across the country since last summer and that’s really picked up in the last couple of months for us,” Cunnington said. “We’re shipping internationally now as well, almost a trike a day pretty much is going out and right across the country for us. So we’re based here in Kimberley because we live here and we love it, but we’re certainly not just based to cover the Kootenays.”
They’re always looking for new ways to make their business greener.
“We participate in B.C.’s SCRAP-IT program, which is an incentive program for trading in old vehicles and getting a credit towards and electric bike or an electric trike,” Cunnington said. “And also there’s a new special utility vehicle program that’s just been announced which is up to $1700 back per electric bike for businesses, so we’re applying to be a member of that as well.”
With the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this relatively new business has actually seen an uptick in sales and are also seeing a lot more traffic on their website.
“I think people are looking at alternative ways to get around,” Cunnington said. “Maybe also spending a bit more time in front of a computer, but certainly as an alternate mode of transportation for people who are maybe looking at options to a car or getting on public transit, maybe people are a bit nervous about that but I certainly now that even just the visits to our website are huge compared to what they were even six months ago so it’s been great for us in that sense.”
The other side of the double-edged sword that is COVID is that business has been booming for bike shops worldwide, and the biggest challenge for Cunnington now is getting more stock.
“Our manufacturing times have gone from two to three months delivered to five to six,” he explained. “That’s demand on everything, we use standard bike parts, it’s just global demand on everything bike related so unfortunately we’re in the queue like everybody else.”
By making connections by other local business people such as Smith, who now has been sharing his experience with taking this step to make his business practices greener and his lifestyle healthier, Cunnington hopes to see his Kimberley-based company continue to grow around the world.
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