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'Tomorrow's motorcycle' is heavy on flair and light on the environment

Metal. Rubber. Leather. When it comes to motorcycles, the materials used to make them are as elementary as the experience of riding them.

Pineapple, flaxseed and algae? They sound more like the ingredients of a vegan salad than a two-wheeler, but a new start in Brooklyn hopes to change that.

It's called Tarform. What Tesla has done to bring zero-emission transportation to the mainstream, Tarform hopes to do for zero waste, to build electric motorcycles that are recyclable and made from natural materials that can be biodegradable.

"The idea was to make tomorrow's motorcycle," said Taras Kravtchouk, founder of Tarform and a New Yorker using Stockholm. If you were to build a bike with sustainability in mind, he said: "What principles would it be? Electrically, but also with the least damage to the environment.

Instead of using polyvinyl chloride, Tarform makes its vegan leather seats from pineapple, mango, corn or other naturally derived fibers. Flaxseed replaces the plastic on the side panels. And the pigments that color the body are derived from natural algae instead of toxic paints. The aluminum frame is of course recyclable. And the battery pack can be replaced as the technology improves.

Available later this year as a customizable Starter Edition model starting at $ 42,000, and Tarform Luna coming into production next year with a $ 24,000 version. The company already has 1,500 orders, of which 54 are for the handmade founding editions to be built in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

"Today we design things for obsolescence," Kravtchouk said. "In the 60's we used honest materials. That's why vintage bikes from that era still last if you take care of them."

Classic, timeless elegance also helps. Beauty is its own form of sustainability; no one wants to waste anything

It was a chance encounter with a retrieving Triumph Bonneville from 1972 that inspired Mr. Kravtchouk to start Tarform and build his retro-futuristic cafe racer, running a design agency during the day and replacing his own bikes at night. when one of his clients – the motorcycle clothing company Belstaff – asked him to adapt a bicycle to the Los Angeles store, which led to other customs for Belstaff stores around the world and to Mr. Kravtchouk's recognition that it was boring to build individual motorcycles.

"I was covered in oil, and I loved it, but I thought, & # 39; This is a dying world, & # 39;" he said. "Looking at what Tesla did in the automotive industry, it completely changed human perception of what s whether is a car and what is pure technology. "

He began researching electric motorcycles with the idea of ​​building a brand instead of unique. He hired an engineer, requested investors and by October 2018 had a working prototype.

"For a very small sum of money, they had built an incredibly beautiful bicycle with a unique electric riding experience," said Karl Alomar, a partner with M13, a Santa Monica, California, venture capital firm.

M13, which has invested in SpaceX, Lyft, Bird and other technological start-ups for mobility, gave Tarform $ 300,000 last year after Alomar saw the prototype in person and the reaction it began to be online.

"They were nonriders – young, wealthy people inspired by the technology and design aspect who had free cash flow to be able to buy these luxury items," said Alomar. "It led us to believe that it is an opportunity to build a truly beautiful luxury brand oriented around environmentally conscious thinking and the ability to create true first-class beauty."

Many motorcycle brands are pursuing the same audience, including Harley-Davidson, which introduced its first electric motorcycle, LiveWire, in 2019, and Zero Motorcycles, the 12-year-old company in California that has seen interest in its electric motorcycles double the last year.

"We feel very strongly about the growth potential of electric motorcycles," said Andrew Leisner, senior director of the Bonnier Motorcycle Group. The company publishes Cycle World and Motorcyclist magazines and introduced the website Cycle Volta for electric two-wheelers last year.

"The traditional baby boomer cyclist does not think much about motorcycles that burn gas and rubber, or about the sustainability or the organic nature of the components that the bike comes with. But it is very important for Gen Y and even more so for Gen Z," said Leisner. "Sustainability is going to be a huge priority for the generation that is really entering the workforce right now."

This generation is already transforming the motorcycle industry, as baby boomers age out of the sport, replaced by younger riders and more women. percent of millennial riders are interested in electric motorcycles, according to the ownership survey from the Motorcycle Industry Council 2018. Women, who make up 20 percent of motorcycle riders, make up 40 percent of owners of electric motorcycles.

Like electric cars, battery-powered motorcycles make up about 1 percent of the national market for new cars, but the segment is expected to grow as battery prices sight and reduces the total price. They currently cost about 50 percent more than their gasoline-powered counterparts, but are expected to reach price parity by 2025.

Brammo, Alta Motors, Mission Motorcycles. The last 12 years have been littered with unsuccessful motorcycle startups, but Mr. Kravtchouk is betting that a new generation of motorcycle buyers will want products based on sustainability rather than convenience.

Modular design plays a role. Like many electric motorcycles, the Tarform is limited by today's battery technology. Currently, the Tarform can travel around 90 miles per charge.

"If there's a new battery pack coming out in three years with a much higher energy density, you can simply change the battery and suddenly you get 50 to 100 percent more range," said Kravtchouk. "It makes a lot more sense than constantly pushing new models and pushing people to get rid of something that is perfectly usable. "

After all, the earth has only so much to give.

" There is a lot of interest in renewables right now because we have a limited amount resources, "said Martin Thuo, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State University.

Old-fashioned engineering – mining resources, painting them, smelting them and turning them into shape – is not the answer." It is very expensive, energy consuming and it is not sustainable, "said Thuo." The minerals we use right now, nature has taken thousands of years to put together. We do not have that time.

Plant-derived products that Tarform uses, said Thuo, are part of a push towards materials that can be reintroduced or delivered faster, with far less damage to the planet.

"Science and technology are driven by the demands of society," he said. "With seven billion people in the world growing, we have no choice."

Mr. Kravtchouk procures many of its bio-based motorcycle parts from other start-ups in other corners of the world – including Thailand and Italy – in a strong belief that it is a company's responsibility, rather than the consumer's, to be as sustainable as possible.

“People are tired of being constantly told to buy, recycle, to be green. In the end, they do not know what to do, ”he said. "What is ultimately the most sustainable is what you do not throw away."

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