New Portland-based e-mobility company Vvolt launches line of electric bikes

Posted by on June 3rd, 2021 at 9:53 am

The new Vvolts, company owner Kyle Ranson, and the office design board. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Say hello to Vvolt, Portland’s newest electric vehicle company.

“The vision is to take it beyond just e-bikes.”
— Kyle Ranson, Vvolt owner

Pre-orders open today at Vvolt.com for a line of four Vvolt bicycles designed in southeast Portland. The person behind Vvolt is Kyle Ranson, who hopes to mimic the success of Showers Pass, the company he’s owned and led since 2012. Both brands are headquartered under the same roof on Southeast 6th Avenue in the Central Eastside.

Showers Pass has carved a healthy niche for cycling apparel that mixes innovative designs and technical fabrics with a mid-level price point. “We can apply that same philosophy to the bike market,” Ranson shared in an interview at Vvolt’s offices late last month. “Which is to configure and design the best possible solution at any given price point and make this technology accessible.”

The four bikes — Alpha, Alpha S, Proxima and Sirius — come with a three-year warranty, a Gates carbon belt drive, hydraulic disc brakes and range in price from $1,399 for a singlespeed with a rear-hub motor, to $2,699 for an internally-geared model (with a super smooth grip-twist shifting system) that’s ready for dirt roads with a front suspension fork and more powerful, mid-drive motor. The bikes are powered by electric motors from Acer, the sixth-largest computer company in the world. Vvolt is the first e-mobility brand in the U.S. to use Acer components.

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With Vvolt, Ranson sees a potential to meld his experiences in the cycling and tech industries. Before his involvement with Showers Pass, Ranson was a VP at computer giant Compaq/Hewlett Packard and a CEO of InFocus. He thinks the bike industry is missing the boat when it comes to creating electric bikes that hit the right notes in terms of functionality, technology, price and design. “A few years ago I started observing what the existing bike vendors were doing. Nobody seemed to have any imagination,” he shared in an interview. “They were taking a traditional bike brand and were sticking a motor on it… You’ve still got a derailleur sticking on there! You’ve still got chains. I thought, this is crazy!”

“I finally said, stop complaining and do something about it. Get out there and solve the problem.”

Ranson’s interest in e-bikes was first piqued about 15 years ago when his brother bought one of the first models available in Europe so his wife could join him on rides up steep mountains in the Pyrenees. The bike allowed them to ride together for the first time. That opened Ranson’s eyes: He realized e-bikes can inspire more people to ride. “This is about inclusiveness,” Ranson said. “This is about getting people to ride that otherwise couldn’t do it. That’s pretty cool. And that’s kind of stuck with me.”

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Bike V (top) and the Beluga CEUV concept.

Because he sees the e-bike market going beyond traditional customers, Ranson doesn’t want Vvolt to offer just traditional bicycles. It’s an electric vehicle company. “The vision is to take it beyond just e-bikes,” he says. Today the company revealed designs for a futuristic looking “Bike V” and a “compact electric utility vehicle” electric trike concept they call “The Beluga”. The “Bike V” is set to launch in 2022 with an integrated, 360-degree LED lighting powered by on-board USB ports, front-and-rear detachable cargo bins and an optional AC inverter to power devices with the battery. The Beluga CEUV can carry up to three passengers or other cargo in a large front-facing cargo bin.

Going beyond the usual bike designs also the reason he’s hired Sawyer Alcázar-Hagen, a University of Oregon industrial design graduate who doesn’t have a cycling-centric background (Vvolt also sponsors a UO e-mobility design class). To round out the Vvolt team, Ranson nabbed former employees of Islabikes, the UK-based company that closed its North American operations in 2018. Vvolt Marketing Manager Nick Wood was the former bike assembly and customer service manager at Islabikes.

While Vvolt and Showers Pass are separate legal entities, employees of the two companies work under the same roof and plan to share other business assets and infrastructure.

With the U.S. market for e-bikes at the start of what’s likely to be a lasting boom, very strong local enthusiasm and political support, and a reputation for Portland as an epicenter of e-bike research, Vvolt is in a good position to paddle into the wave.


Bikes are set to start shipping in August. Learn more about the bikes below and at Vvolt.com.

Alpha

Alpha
• Frameset: Vvolt lightweight alloy, alloy fork with fender, rack and accessory mounts
• Motor: Acer/Xplova rear hub, 350w nominal power, 45Nm torque
• Battery: Celxpert removable internal-mount, 10.4ah / 375wh
• Drivetrain: Gates Carbon Drive CDN, singlespeed rear freewheel
• 2 Sizes: S/M, L/XL
• 2 Colorways- Slate and Chalk White • MSRP: $1399
• Product Page

Alpha S

Alpha S
• Frameset: Vvolt lightweight alloy step through, alloy fork with fender, rack and accessory mounts
• Motor: Acer/Xplova rear hub, 350w nominal power, 45Nm torque, 5 assist levels plus walk mode
• Battery: Celxpert removable internal-mount, 10.4ah / 375wh
• Drivetrain: Gates Carbon Drive CDN Belt, singlespeed rear freewheel
• Wheel size: 27.5”, max clearance 2.4”
• 2 Sizes: S/M, L/XL
• 2 Colorways- Slate and Chalk White
• MSRP: $1399

Proxima

Proxima
• Frameset: Vvolt lightweight alloy, alloy fork with fender, rack and accessory mounts
• Motor: MPF Drive, 250w nominal / 500w max power, 80Nm torque, 4 assist levels plus walk mode
• Battery: Celxpert removable internal-mount, 10.4ah, 375wh
• Drivetrain: Enviolo CVP gearhub, 380% gear range, Gates Carbon Drive CDX Belt
• Wheel Size: 700c, max tire clearance 45mm
• 2 Sizes: S/M, L/XL
• 3 Colorways- Slate, Chalk White, Mars
• MSRP: $2599

Sirius

Sirius
• Frameset: Vvolt lightweight alloy, 100mm travel air-sprung suspension fork w/ lockout
• Motor: MPF Drive, 250w nominal / 500w max power, 80Nm torque, 4 assist levels plus walk mode
• Battery: Celxpert removable internal-mount, 10.4ah, 375wh
• Drivetrain: Enviolo CVP gearhub, 380% gear range, Gates Carbon Drive CDX Belt
• Wheel Size: 27.5”, max clearance 2.4”
• 2 Sizes: S/M, L/XL
• 3 Colorways- Slate, Chalk White, Mila
• MSRP: $2699

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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David HampstenJames CalhoonSarah JeanJason Brunebjorn Recent comment authors
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David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

Where can we find out about the weight of each bike model? Most companies refuse to show such info or they lie about it.

squareman
Subscriber

I’m curious about this. On the one hand, it matters less what the weight is of a bike when it has powered assist – that is, it matters less to your human output exactly what it weighs. That said, all power-driven machines have a power-to-weight ratio so I would like to see open and honest disclosure on this as a standard too.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

It matters to those of us without garages or light rail, those of us who have to lift the machine over our doorstep or load it onto a city bus rack.

Sarah Jean
Guest

Hey David! Sorry it was hard to find the weights– appreciate your comment and will work on making them more visible so others can find them too!

For reference:

  • Alpha – 44 lbs
  • Proxima – 52 lbs
  • Sirius – 54 lbs

…give or take a few ounces based on size.

And totally hear you on the weight mattering on transit! Would love to hear any additional input or feedback you have regarding your experiences there. Please feel free to reach out any time!

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Thank you for the follow-up, this is very helpful!

joan
Subscriber

These bikes look great! I was surprised to see the recommended height ranges for the different bikes, though. Each frame comes in two sizes, S/M and M/L. The step-through Alpha has a S/M recommended height range of 5’2″ – 5’8″, but the Alpha S/M starts at 5’6″, the Proxima S/M at 5’5″, and the Sirius S/M at 5’8″. These last three bikes list recommended height ranges of up to 6’5″ for the M/L frames.

CDC data (2015-16) says that American women over age 20 have an average height just under 5’4″, and the average height of Asian and Hispanic women is just under 5’2″.

Given their language about creating bikes that are inclusive and accessible, and especially given the story about the sister-in-law using an ebike in the mountains, I’m surprised they seem to be excluding so many women in their frame sizing. Is this intentional or an oversight in a company that seems primarily or exclusively led by men?

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

My spouse, a sub-5’0″ Asian woman, would really love something like the Proxima, so I’d second Joan’s suggestion of a smaller XS size. In Vvolt’s defense, shrinking the frame would also benefit from having 650b wheels instead of 700c. For a new brand/product launch during a pandemic with myriad supply chain problems in the bike industry, adding another size with a different part spec would be an additional challenge during an already difficult time. Hopefully 2022 could see an expanded range.

As an archetypal mid-sized 5’10” male that bike commutes 90 miles a week year round, the Proxima (mid-drive motor, internally geared hub, and room for decent sized tires with fenders) ticks all the boxes for my next commute-y type bike.

bjorn
Guest
bjorn

Two sizes fits all is pretty ambitious, although I find it weird the way they label the two sizes S/M and M/L it seems clear it is just 2… Those heights do appear with a quick google search to cover around 90% of all people. They could probably shift them down a bit but not more than a couple inches before you start losing as many people as you gain.

Sarah Jean
Guest

Hi Joan,
Thanks for your comment– I appreciate your examination of our sizing, and we hear you. We’re taking the opportunity to reexamine our sizing recommendations, realizing we may have been overly conservative.
We also recognize we’re currently falling short of our goal of offering bikes that fit a wide range of riders. I want you to know that we are working to correct that with additional sizes of our current bikes and more accommodating designs on our future vehicles.
Please get in touch at 503.308.1152 if you’d like to continue this conversation with the women (or men) on our team!

Peter Koonce
Guest
Peter Koonce

I see a Showers Pass conspiracy that these bike don’t have fenders, so the user has to buy good rain gear 🙂 I am already looking forward to the Warehouse Sale.

Jason Brune
Guest
Jason Brune

My first thought too. Portland bike company without fenders.

dan
Guest
dan

Exciting to see a new cycling business open in Portland! Best wishes for their success.

Samia
Guest
Samia

Suspension forks are not just for off-road! Anyone riding at E-bike speeds on Portland roads will want shocks.

James Calhoon
Guest
James Calhoon

In the mid 90s I benched my road bike and switched to a GT hybrid with front suspension and 700 wheels. Many of my rides around St Helens and Scappoose had a lot of rough pavement and it was more a comfortable ride. It served me well as commuter bike as well.