Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers in Taupo, New Zealand have a new tool to carry out their work – two wheel electric off-road motorbikes.
The two wheel electric off-road motorbikes are proving to be efficient, environmentally sustainable and safe to use.
With hundreds of kilometres of popular walking and mountain bike tracks in the district, it is important to be able to respond quickly to windfalls and other issues. Quad bikes are no longer used by DOC due to safety risks, and other side-by-sides are unable to navigate the narrow tracks and tight turns, making the new Ubco 2×2 the ideal option. It can go where mountain bikes go, but can carry chainsaws, fuel, gear and other tools.
“The real plus with the Ubco bikes is allowing us to work more efficiently” says DOC Operations Manager for the Central Plateau Dave Lumley.
“Not only will high-use tracks like Huka Falls be attended to quickly, but on our backcountry tracks in the Kaimanawa Forest Park we will have easy access to windfalls, completing work in one day, where previously it involved either tramping or flying in, camping and doing the work over several days.”
The use of electric powered bikes (e-bikes) is a relatively new activity in New Zealand, and raises questions about what bikes can legally be used on public conservation land. The 2 kilowatt Ubco 2×2 and any other bike with more than 300 watts of power is classed as a motorbike, and subject to the same regulations as motor vehicles.
DOC is able to use the bikes for maintenance purposes, but they cannot be used by the public on standard DOC mountain bike or walking tracks. However, there are plenty of options for pedal assisted e-bikes below 300 watts, and these are being seen more often on Taupo bike trails.
The prototype was debuted at the 2014 Fieldays as a farm utility vehicle, where the two Kiwi designers received hundreds of pre-orders and two innovation awards. Local ranger Roy Baker saw the bike there, identified its potential and spent time trialling and developing the bike to ensure it was the right tool for the Department.
Features attractive to DOC include being battery powered, making it quiet, cost effective and environmentally friendly. It has a range of 100 km and is both powerful and agile enough to navigate our range of tracks. The Ubco is lightweight meaning there’s no risk of being crushed, and with its low centre of gravity and step-through design it is easy and safe to manoeuvre.