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Isha Kipp-Cook of Huntington Beach, California, bought her Huck Cycles Rebel in 2020. Her dog rides along in a trailer.
Isha Kipp-Cook of Huntington Beach, California, bought her Huck Cycles Rebel in 2020. Her dog rides along in a trailer. (Provided/Kipp-Cook)

As sales of e-bikes and e-cycles surge, a Cornelius startup rides the wave 

By David Boraks |
February 10, 2022 

Sales of two-wheeled vehicles have surged during the pandemic as more of us take to the roads and greenways for recreation. And the market's fastest growing segment is electric bikes and e-cycles.

"E-bikes, in particular, are just absolutely taking off. So something that was a niche 10 years ago is now utterly mainstream," said Ashley Lovell of the bicycle industry group People for Bikes. "We're seeing them proliferate across all different bicycle categories, whether it's commuters or gravel bikes, or road bikes, or mountain bikes. All of those have e-versions of them."

E-bikes range from electric-assisted pedal bikes to more powerful models that more closely resemble motorcycles. Sales of e-bikes grew 240% over the 12 months ending in July 2021, according to research firm NPD

For some riders, an e-bike or e-cycle replaces a traditional bike or motorcycle. For others, a two-wheeled electric vehicle (EV) may even be a climate friendly replacement for a gas-powered car or truck. 

Brett McCoy founded Huck Cycles in Cornelius in 2019 after he built his own electric cycle. He's here with one of the original models in his showroom. The company has sold more than 700 since then.
Brett McCoy founded Huck Cycles in Cornelius in 2019 after he built his own electric cycle. He's here with one of the original models in his showroom. The company has sold more than 700 since then. (David Boraks/WFAE)

Huck Cycles rides the trend


That's what Brett McCoy had in mind when he founded Huck Cycles in Cornelius in 2019. (He named the company after Huck Finn, a character from the Mark Twain novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”) 

"I wanted something that was better for the environment, that was more efficient, quieter, didn't have the ongoing costs or the smell of gas and oil," said McCoy, who at the time was working as a bank executive in Charlotte. 

At first, he bought a couple of e-bikes. "Everything that I purchased felt small for me. It didn't give me the feeling that I wanted, that I remembered from when I was growing up and had a mini bike," he said. 

So he decided to make his own e-cycle, as a "hobby project." 

His first attempts were inspired by a German e-bike, the 1978 Porsche Magnum, which had pedals and a motor. He made a couple of prototypes out of metal and PVC pipes, with purchased wheels and other components, and took them to metal fabricators. But "everybody laughed at me," he said. 

Finally, he found an automotive shop in Shelby to help. And that's when his "hobby project" got serious and took over his evenings.  

"I'd be in Shelby to like 9:30, 10 o'clock cutting, bending, breaking, welding, trying to make our first bike," he recalled.  He began posting photos on social media of his design ideas, and suddenly, others were interested. 

"People started reaching out saying, 'Hey, if you make one, can you make another one and I'll buy it?' And that one became two became three became five became 10," McCoy said. 

McCoy eventually left his corporate job to form the company. Now, Huck Cycles is riding the e-bike wave. In less than three years, it recorded $2.5 million in revenue and sold more than 700 e-cycles in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., as well as to far-flung places like Latvia, South Korea, Guam and New Zealand. 

Investor Steve Amedio (left) and founder Brett McCoy at Huck Cycles in Cornelius.
Investor Steve Amedio (left) and founder Brett McCoy at Huck Cycles in Cornelius. (David Boraks/WFAE)

Huck Cycles now has 13 employees and can hand-build up to 80 bikes a month. Last year, Charlotte investor Steve Amedio and Clairvoyant Ventures invested $1 million to help the company grow. Amedio says they're planning to increase the investment this year to help the company move to a larger factory. 

Amedio said he first learned about Huck Cycles when he was shopping for an e-bike. That grew into an investment. 

"I love to be involved in things that are a little bit unique and interesting. I love the sustainability aspect. And certainly, there's the EV aspect of it. I love things that are bringing manufacturing back to North Carolina," Amedio said.

So what is a Huck Cycle? 

Huck Cycles look more like small motorcycles than bicycles. They have two models: the Rebel, which has pedals, and the Overland, which looks a bit like a dirt bike and does not have pedals. Both cost $6,200. Future models with two batteries and other features could top $8,000, McCoy said.  

All have 3,000-watt electric motors in the rear wheel - larger than most e-bikes. The speed is controlled by a handlebar throttle and has three settings - 20 mph, 30 mph and 45 mph, for off-road use. Batteries offer 35 to 50 miles of range, though that varies depending on the rider, terrain and speeds. And to recharge, you just plug the battery into a standard wall outlet. 

Huck is in an industry dominated by companies that manufacture in Asia or Europe. 

"One of the things that sets us apart from the market is we build and fabricate our bikes here in the U.S.," McCoy said. "We do import components and parts that we can't get in the U.S., but frames, hardbody components, tank, seats, anything like that, we do get locally. 

Huck's motors come from Japan, but the company also works with suppliers in High Point, Shelby, Mooresville, Statesville and Kannapolis. 

"So we try to localize as much as we can. And that allows us to be more nimble, more efficient, and then own more of the design process," McCoy said. 

And as for that Japanese motor, McCoy is currently hunting for a local company that can supply motors.

Ishi Kipp-Cook with her Huck Cycles Rebel in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Isha Kipp-Cook with her Huck Cycles Rebel in Huntington Beach, Calif.  (Provided/Isha Kipp-Cook)

Her dog rides, too

Huck Cycles' customers include recreational cyclists and riders who use the e-bikes to get around town. Isha Kipp-Cook of Huntington Beach, California, was an early customer. She and her boyfriend Eric Agnew studied the e-bike market closely for weeks before buying two Rebels in 2020. 

"So we go just anywhere we can and we also go out to dinner a lot, to the main street here. So we always ride our bikes there. I have a dog trailer that hooks up on the back of it. So my dog goes with us everywhere. And he loves it," she said. 

Sometimes, they ride 25 to 30 miles up and down the beach, she said. Kipp-Cook said e-bicycles are increasingly common where she rides. 

So is this a bicycle or a motorcycle?

"That's a good trick question. It's a motorcycle with pedals," Kipp-Cook said. 

More often than not, she uses the throttle, but the pedals come in handy when battery power is low and there's no outlet nearby, she said.

McCoy said he sees Huck Cycles' main competitors as motorcycle manufacturers. Unlike e-bicycle companies, Huck Cycles come with a Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. That means owners can register and ride them on the road like motorcycles. 

"We don't really sit in the e-bike category. We're just a little above it in a different position, right (in) the moped-motorcycle category," he said. 

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles does not require mopeds and e-cycles to be registered. A spokesman said a records search turned up just one Huck e-cycle registered in the state right now. 

Grace Kennedy owns the Pedego electric bike shop in Cornelius with husband Tom.
Grace Kennedy owns the Pedego electric bike shop in Cornelius with husband Tom. (David Boraks/WFAE)

Expanding competition 

Huck Cycles is a relatively new entrant in a field that's growing worldwide. Competitors include other startups, traditional bicycle brands and global e-bike-only companies such as Seattle-based market leader Rad Power Bikes

Some companies are pursuing a buy or rent strategy, like Pedego, a nationwide retailer based in Orange County, California. Pedego has more than 200 independently owned dealers across the U.S., including one in Cornelius

Pedego sells a line of youth, adult, commuter and mountain e-bikes. They're priced from $1,895 to $4,700, said Grace Kennedy, who owns the shop with husband Tom. 

Tom Kennedy quit his corporate sales job to get into the business, she said. 

"He saw the growing market. He saw what fun it was. He saw that it wasn't a franchise — we would be independent dealers because we weren't looking for a franchise," Grace Kennedy said. 

Not ready to buy? You can rent a Pedego bike for a couple of hours, a day or by the week. "It's a fantastic way to sort of get people familiar with the whole concept of an e-bike, because there's a bit of a fear of the unknown these days," Grace Kennedy said.

Meanwhile, larger e-bikes — electric cargo bikes — also are turning up in businesses or as family transportation. 

"Europe has been insane for e-bikes for the last four or five years," said Arleigh Greenwald of Durham, a spokesperson for Taiwan-based Tern Bicycles. "But here COVID hit and people realized, I'm working from home, why don't I get that e-bike so that I can ride to get my coffee or take my kids to school, you know, replace those shorter car trips?"  

Tern sells a range of e-bikes, from small folding ones all the way up to an e-cargo bike that can carry up to 400 pounds on the back. With add-on seats and even a handlebar, that could include a couple of small kids, Greenwald said. 

On a related topic, Greenwald thinks electric bikes — especially larger ones that can replace cars and vans — should get tax incentives like electric cars to spur adoption. Electric motorcycles get a 10% credit and that would triple under the proposed Build Back Better Act. The BBB also has incentives for e-bikes costing less than $900 — but leaves out costlier bikes that might actually be a viable alternative to a car, Greenwald argues. She recently posted a commentary on YouTube

Reporting that shifts and uplifts conversations on race and equity across the Carolinas. Launching in 2022, you can sign up for free today.

Class system emerging 

As the e-bike industry evolves, Ashley Lovell of People for Bikes said the group and its manufacturers have been campaigning to standardize e-bikes through a three-class system organized by motor size and maximum speed: 

  • Class 1 - up to 20 miles an hour, pedal assisted only. (Pedal assisted means the electric motor kicks in to help as you pedal.) 

  • Class 2 - up to 20 miles an hour, but also has a throttle in addition to pedal assist. "You don't have to be pedaling for the motor to be engaged," Lovell explained. (Pedego's bikes are all in this category.) 

  • Class 3 - up to 28 miles an hour, pedal assisted only. 

Lovell said 36 states have now adopted the model in their bicycle laws. (The Carolinas are not among them, she said.)  Last year's bipartisan federal infrastructure bill also incorporated the model into federal law.  

Some manufacturers are designing bikes with the three classes in mind. But there are still many other two-wheeled electric vehicles that don't fit. Huck Cycles' Rebel would be a Class 2, but its higher-powered model does not fit any of the categories.

A tiny home.

Tiny houses get a break on electricity 

Tiny houses have been growing in popularity as a lower-cost housing option and a way to reduce your carbon footprint. But in many places, they exist in a gray area of laws and regulations. 

Duke Energy, for example, has charged a higher rate for electricity in tiny homes. The utility has lumped them into a category with non-residential buildings and also has required them to be on permanent foundations. Many tiny homes are on trailers. 

But things are about to change. In a Feb. 1 order, the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved Duke's request to update its rules. 

That means rates will come down, foundations are no longer required, and the way tiny houses are treated in Duke's separate eastern and western North Carolina territories will now match, spokesperson Jeff Brooks said in an email.  

"This change really just helps modernize some of our language around residential dwellings, and better align our residential rate language for Duke Energy Carolinas with language used in Duke Energy Progress. The change also acknowledges that the landscape of residential homes in our state is changing, and so we want to reflect that in the rates that we offer," Brooks said.

Brooks said the switch to a residential rate schedule could save owners of tiny houses "a few dollars per month and gives them more flexibility on the types of rates they can participate in."

For one thing, the monthly fixed customer charge will be about $5 lower. And the residential rate for electricity is about 2 cents lower per month per kilowatt hour, he said.

"This change attempts to more clearly define types of residential dwellings we encounter today from a utility standpoint, recognizing some of those homes look a bit different than they did in the past," Brooks said.

Regulators said about 245 North Carolina customers are affected.

Date set for Duke Energy's next Carbon Capture Plan meetings 

Duke Energy will hold two more stakeholder meetings on Feb. 23 and March 22 as it develops its proposal for a Carolinas Carbon Plan. They follow an initial meeting Jan. 25. The three meetings are required as part of the North Carolina Utilities Commission's year-long process to draft a statewide carbon plan. Duke must file its proposal by May 16.

See more about the Jan. 25 meeting in last week's climate newsletter. 

For more about the Duke Energy meetings or to register, visit  

 (CAPA Strategies And North Carolina State Climate Office/Provided)

Urban heat studied in Raleigh-Durham  

A study of urban heat in Raleigh and Durham has found big temperature differences between neighborhoods. In general, suburban areas tend to be cooler, while urban neighborhoods are hotter — in some cases nearly 10 degrees hotter. Celeste Gracia reports on WUNC that the data suggests people of color and lower income are disproportionately affected. 


Maeve Kelly of the Jacobs environmental consulting company bags a soil sample taken near a runway at Bogue Field, a small Marine Corps installation on the North Carolina coast. 
Maeve Kelly of the Jacobs environmental consulting company bags a soil sample taken near a runway at Bogue Field, a small Marine Corps installation on the North Carolina coast. (Jay Price/WUNC)

The military is looking for PFAS pollution at NC bases, but cleaning it up will take decades

The Pentagon has begun a long process of trying to identify and cleanup PFAS contamination at hundreds of military sites around the country. Critics say the process will take too long. (Read the full story.)

Thank you for reading!

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— David Boraks, climate reporter

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