Did you know that half of all trips within cities are 3 miles or less? According to CLIP, a Brooklyn, New York-based clean mobility startup, if all urban commuters switched to e-bikes, from gas cars, electric cars, and even public transportation, 5% of global urban carbon emissions would be cut each year.
And while public transport has far fewer emissions than gas cars or even EVs, for short trips, bikes account for a fraction of what would be released. However, biking through steep streets is strenuous. While fear of injury from cars is the biggest reason people report not riding bikes to work according to a 2023 study that was conducted in Melbourne, Australia, 20% of respondents reported not feeling physically fit enough to commute via cycling, while a third were put off by the distance and time of riding.
E-bikes solve these two major deterrents, but they are expensive, with the average cost being between $2,000 to $3000. Not to mention, at least 2 billion bikes are already floating around the world, Somnath Ray, the co-founder and CEO of CLIP said.
Ray was in a predicament that many people find themselves in while commuting to work. He liked riding his bike but after a month, “I was like this sucks,” he said. Steep hills made it “miserable,” and he could see the same feelings in the other commuter cyclists around him.
Plus, “I had my own bicycle. I loved my bicycle. I didn’t want to buy a new expensive, e-bike,” he told FootPrint Coalition. As opposed to fully and permanently converting his bike to electric with the many kits that exist, he wanted a solution that gave him the e-bike experience only when he needed it.
So he thought: “What if we could have a small engine that you can attach to a regular bicycle and turn it into an e-bike and use that to commute to work?”
Thus the Clip, a removable and portable device that can be connected to the front wheel of bikes to electrify them on the spot, was born. In 2018 it was founded by Ray and Clement de Alcala out of the climate-focused deep tech innovation platform, Newlab. Announced last week, the startup raised $2.8 million in seed funding to scale its patent-pending device. Additionally, CLIP also announced a strategic partnership with Motovolt Mobility, a global EV manufacturer from India, to scale in what Ray calls, a “massive market.”
While the climate impact in India would also be huge, according to the company’s impact report, in the Big Apple alone, if all commuters switched to CLIP’s technology, 12,900 megatons of CO2 equivalent could be prevented, and if just car drivers commuting short distances switched, the savings would be 1.5 million gallons of gasoline.
On top of its climate-driven mission, “the ultimate goal of the company is to be the most affordable mobility platform,” Ray said.
According to the startup, its flagship device, the “Commuter,” which starts at $499, delivers up to 15 miles per hour of power from its 450-megawatt motor. Its products, which fit nearly all bikes, increase in price with range, with its Commuter providing 4-6 miles on a 30-minute charge and its $599 “Explorer” providing a 10-15 mile range on an hour charge. Both of these options can recharge while the user rides and be operated via remote.
Image courtesy of CLIP
The startup is also working on a less expensive version: the Bolt, a $100 moonshot device that is designed for commuters in emerging economies like India, where the two-wheeler market reigns supreme. With Motovolt, the startup plans to pilot in India in 2024.
"India sells around 15 million standard bicycles every year with around 200 million on the road at a given moment,” Tushar Choudhary, the founder and CEO of Motovolt Mobility, said in a statement, “We are committed to making a huge positive impact by bringing all these bicycles into the future with CLIP.”
In India, state governments provide free bikes to workers to commute to work, which according to Ray, is one reason the market for the Clip would be huge there. In addition, the team at CLIP also hopes to work with a bicycle bank group in India that helps provide kids, especially girls, who have to commute long distances to school with bikes. Currently, they are looking at financial schemes and ways of reducing the costs so the entire price of the Bolt isn’t loaded up front. These schemes could look like rental or monthly options that emulate India’s month-to-month phone plans, so there would be, what Ray calls “a small cost” to recharge monthly.
“With Motovolt’s manufacturing expertise, supply chain experience, and cost reduction capabilities, CLIP has serious potential to not only disrupt but also redefine urban transit as we know it.” Sandiip Bhammer, the founder of Green Frontier Capital, one of CLIP’s investors and India’s largest climate-focused fund, said in a statement.
Right now, all of CLIP’s units are built in India, and while the startup currently only ships in the States — with 230 units currently on American bike lanes and 1500 preordered — it also plans to expand to Europe.
“Europe is a really exciting market for us because bicycling is a lot more normalized as an urban commute activity,” Ray said, adding that with the funding, the startup is also focused on marketing and raising awareness.
“Our thesis is that because most people only need to cover 3-6 miles, let’s not go in the direction e-bikes are going,” Ray said, pointing out that e-bikes are getting heavier, with bigger batteries to compensate for “non-existent” range anxiety. According to him, the size doesn’t make sense as city commuters are mostly going a maximum of 10-15 miles from the Bronx to Manhattan, for example. “We’re focused on keeping our lithium footprint very tiny,” he said, which keeps its environmental and carbon footprint lower than other options, as less mining is involved.
“Everybody in our office commutes using Clip,” Ray said, and outside of its New York office, he said the product is really “sticking with customers.”