But seen here:
Jonathan Schultz for The New York Times
Andrew Templar, Wes Cox and Jim Carden, with their prototype electric motorcycle at the offices of the Brooklyn Motorized Corporation
Last December, Neil Young played a venue opposite the offices of the Brooklyn Motorized Corporation, an electric-motorcycle start-up situated among the red brick warehouses of Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Considering Mr. Youngâ€™s well-documented interest in electric vehicles, an enterprising BMC employee could have summoned the chutzpah to get backstage and invite the musician to view some prototypes after the gig. But for Jim Carden, the chief executive of Brooklyn Motorized, such bravado might have been construed as poor form; he also owns the concert venue.
Mr. Carden and Andrew Templar, co-owners of three popular Brooklyn bars and music halls â€” the Bell House, Floyd NY and Union Hall â€” founded Brooklyn Motorized in 2009. The entrepreneurs later brought on Wes Cox, a product designer and lifelong motorcycle tinkerer, to help realize their vision of a purely electric city bike for New Yorkers who valued personal transportation and who appreciated the simple, stylish lines of 1960s cafe racer bikes.
Not coincidentally, many of these same New Yorkers might also patronize Mr. Carden and Mr. Templarâ€™s nightlife establishments.
â€œWeâ€™d seen the impact that Vespa had on New York, getting people onto two-wheelers who had never rode them before and thought there was potential that hadnâ€™t yet been fully met,â€ said Mr. Carden in an interview at BMC headquarters, which is on the third floor of a rehabilitated mercantile building. The new iteration of the Piaggio Vespa, of course, has been colonizing city streets and curbs for a decade.
Development began on BMCâ€™s prototype about a year ago. From the outset, the partners intended the bike not just for any urban rider, but a New York rider.
â€œItâ€™s got the short wheelbase, the tight turning radius, but we also designed it so the batteries could charge in somebodyâ€™s apartment,â€ Mr. Carden said.
â€œWe looked at the competition and realized their bikes werenâ€™t suited to riders who werenâ€™t able to charge or park in a garage,â€ Mr. Cox added.
To that end, the BMC prototypeâ€™s battery packs, which nest beneath the storage box (a fuel tank on a gasoline-powered motorcycle), can be lugged upstairs like twin briefcases and charged overnight through a conventional 110v outlet.
Portable batteries, something that other electric-motorcycle manufacturers â€” the California-based Zero Motorcycles, for instance â€” have experimented with, presents a number of engineering challenges.
â€œThermal management is probably the most difficult thing about designing a pack,â€ said Mr. Cox. â€œAnd itâ€™s especially difficult with removable packs, because that eliminates any possibility of liquid cooling.â€ The BMC prototype packs use a nonliquid system, but the company principals declined to discuss their cooling solution in greater detail.
They have, however, tested the 230-pound bike to sustained 60 m.p.h. runs, and achieved 35 miles of range â€” admittedly below the quoted performance of electric motorcycles from West Coast manufacturers like Brammo and Zero, but within the projected needs of Brooklyn Motorizedâ€™s target rider. â€œWeâ€™d expect most people to have to charge their batteries only twice a week, if that,â€ Mr. Carden said.
The company was recently awarded a $500,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to help build a new prototype. But with Zero having recently closed $26 million in financing from its primary investor, BMCâ€™s founders understand that only with more investment can they hope to meet the sub-$6,000 target price for their cafe racer. In keeping with their New-York-first ethos, they expect to sell directly from a BMC retail studio in Brooklyn next year.
Provided they deliver the bike on schedule, the partners say their vision will find a broad ridership.
â€œWeâ€™ll probably pick up some people off of Vespas, some off of vintage bikes, some who never rode before,â€ Mr. Cox said. â€œA bit of a grab bag â€” kind of like New York itself.â€