From solar energy to biofuels to hydrogen cars—sustainable solutions have become some of the hottest topics in the scientific community. While much of the focus in alternative forms of transportation has been automobiles (see Tesla and Toyota), ECS member Telpriore Gregory Tucker is shifting his attention in another direction: electric bikes. While Tucker’s bikes hold promise for the future of sustainable transportation, they could also potentially have a much greater impact.
“I don’t just sell electric bikes, I actually provide people with sustainable solutions,” says Tucker, founder of the Southwest Battery Bike Co.
Inspiration through education
The idea behind Tucker’s Phoenix, Arizona-based electric bike company started back in 2010 when he began volunteering with the youth at his church. As a mentoring program began to emerge, Tucker volunteered to addresses topics in STEM education.
“One of my personal goals is helping kids. I’ve been in a lot of programs as a child to help me get to where I am now,” says Tucker. “Giving back is important to me because I see a lot of kids in situations I’ve been in or environments that I’ve come from where a lot of the time, you don’t get that opportunity.”
Besides food, water, air, and shelter — you HAVE to have transport to get to where you NEED to go –… https://t.co/CJJcRa30f1
— Sw Battery Bike Co. (@swbatterybike) October 16, 2015
Through interactive experiments and a reverse scientific teaching that starts at application and ends at the fundamentals, Tucker saw a huge boost in interest and excitement from those he was mentoring.
“With that excitement they end up learning about something that seems foreign to them,” says Tucker.
As Tucker saw interest for STEM grow, he continued to teach through the presentation of practical items that were electrochemical in nature. Of all his presentations, the demonstration of electric bikes and energy conversion and storage was one of the best received by the youth groups. From this, Tucker found the inspiration to start the Southwest Battery Bike Co.
From books to business
“It’s refreshing to get away from bench-top chemistry and out into the real world,” said Tucker.
As an Arizona State University (ASU) alumnus and current Arizona resident, the idea of starting an electric bike company seemed to be a perfect fit. Tucker’s background in energy working with Austen Angell at ASU paired with Phoenix’s ideal landscape for electric bikes helped Tucker grow his business into the success it is today.
“What makes Phoenix unique is that it’s actually larger than the city of Los Angeles but over 50 percent of its lots are vacant. Everything is very sprawled out and there’s not a lot of population density,” says Tucker. “After Los Angeles, Phoenix is the number one city for electric bike usage.”
Electric bikes are a popular form of transportation in Arizona due to its optimal weather, relatively flat landscape, and the state’s recent push towards a new transportation system. With the passing of Proposition 104, Phoenix alone is set to add over 1,000 miles of new bike lanes.
With Tucker’s electric bike, riders can reach a speed of 20 mph and commute up to 30 miles per charge.
“Besides food, water, shelter, and air—I say the fifth basic need is transportation, especially in Phoenix,” says Tucker.
In the end, Tucker brings all of this back to his essential work with the youth. From the success of the Southwest Battery Bike Co., Tucker hopes to launch a K-12 STEM program as a culmination of everything he’s been doing.
“We initially have that fire of science and curiosity,” says Tucker, “it’s just figuring out how to keep it ignited.”