New electric minibikes draw crowds in Amsterdam

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The crowd swelled on the Damrak in front of Amsterdam’s old stock exchange when the three low-riding choppers pulled up. Nobody complained about the noise from the bikes, because there was none. “Everywhere we go, the crowds swell around us so much,” said Allan Rosenberg a car mechanic and telecom salesman. He is one of three founders of Chop-E, an Estonia-based firm developing all-electric scooters designed in the style of chopper motorcycles. “It gets to the point where we have start telling people we can’t talk to them anymore.”

The story was no different Saturday at the Beurs van Berlage, where one person after another asked to test one of three Chop-E prototypes. Traffic slowed to a crawl as cars, bicyclists and even trams slowed down a bit to so drivers and passengers could get a look. The team made a pitstop in Amsterdam on their way to the Web Summit in Dublin. Despite the fact that the minibikes might not be allowed on the city's myriad of bike paths, it's Amsterdam's love of bikes that drew the trio to the Dutch capital. “We really love how full of bikes Amsterdam is, and the culture here,” co-founder Eugene said. “We’re looking to start selling these minibikes in the U.S., and it would be great to also get them on the market here.” Amazingly, the bike can race down the street at just over 35 kilometers per hour. Chop-E prototypes have a Chinese-made lithium ion battery built into the rear wheel that powers a one-kilowatt motor at the front wheel. The two-wheeler can carry a rider for 75 kilometers before needing a recharge. Recharge time is around three hours.

Development of the Chop-E happened very suddenly when Rosenberg had an epiphany while on sick leave from his day job. He called up friend Dmitri on April 1, and the two created their own designs individually. Neither was happy and they kept at it, hitting the drawing board time after time until April 20th when they felt they struck gold. Just one week later, the first prototype was completed. Soon after, they found their first financial backer in friend Eugene, an Estonian banker who has a big vision for the project. “I joined the project because I see a future in it,” he said. “I hope this can become my permanent job.” Though Chop-E is still getting ready to launch on the market, they are taking pre-orders. The vehicle is priced at 3,500 euro.