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Electric bicycle receives $150K funding jolt

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Duke City Electro is about six weeks away from selling its first locally made electric bikes, thanks to $150,000 in funding from individual investors.

The Albuquerque company, which launched last summer, was invited to present at Technology Ventures’ Deal Stream Summit in early April to raise venture capital. But it declined the offer because funding commitments already pooled since January will allow the startup to finish building its first commercial model, set up manufacturing and begin taking orders in May, said company co-founder John Cousins.

“The money raised gets us to our second, commercially ready prototype,” Cousins said. “It will be a completely ‘Made in the USA’ electric bike with all parts from U.S. manufacturers and all the design and assembly done in Albuquerque.”

The bike’s creator, Albuquerque architect Clint Wilsey, redesigned the bike from its original model based on feedback received since last fall at trade shows and events. The first prototype, which Wilsey built in his garage and rode for more than 1,000 miles around Albuquerque, could reach 45 miles per hour and had no pedals.

The new model uses a newly designed motor from an Arizona company to dial down power and speed to just 20 mph, Wilsey said. That allows customers to avoid federal regulations requiring faster electric bikes to be registered and insured. It also now has pedals, so riders can legally go much faster on roads when using leg power.

The new design, which uses a lightweight, lithium iron phosphate battery made in Chicago, allows riders to go up to 50 miles on a single charge, compared to 30 before. And the price tag has dropped from $6,000 to under $5,000, Wilsey said.

The company will seek crowd funding in May to raise money to begin building the first bikes based on orders, Cousins said.

DC Electro is targeting the domestic market for customers seeking a high-end but affordable bike made in the U.S. as an alternative to the common, low-wattage e-bikes that range from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars. Most of those are made in China.

“Thirty-three million electric bikes were sold worldwide last year, and less than 100,000 of them in the U.S.,” Cousins said. “They’re very common in Europe and China, so we see an untapped market for electric bikes here.”

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