An electric bicycle that can track physical effort and distance covered, or alert its owner if it's stolen, is being built in Ann Arbor.
The 200-series e-Bike is the newest product from GenZe, a Silicon Valley-based company with manufacturing operations in Ann Arbor.
GenZe, a division of the the global company Mahindra Group, began operations in Ann Arbor in late 2015, first putting electric scooters on the market. The company also put out an earlier model of the electric bicycle, but those were not connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone app in the way the 200 series bikes are.
Terence Duncan, vice president of design and product management for GenZe, says the smartphone app enhances the experience of bicycling, no matter what you're using the bike for.
"People buy bikes for different reasons, like community, recreation, and fitness," Duncan says. "A strong aspect of the app allows you to track the amount of exertion you're putting into the bike. The bike has an electric assist, but you can choose how much assist you want."
Riders commuting to work might want lots of electric assist so that they don't end up sweaty and disheveled when they arrive, but might choose a lower amount of assistance on the way home so they can get more exercise. Riders with low fitness can also start with a high level of electric assistance and gradually lessen that assistance as they get in better shape.
Duncan says the app connection is likely to prove popular with people who already like personal activity-trackers like the Fitbit.
"You can look over the data from the last two months and see how many miles you've ridden and how much effort as a human being you've put in versus the electric motor," Duncan says.
The bikes can also be programmed to alert their owners if they're taken out of a certain area or tipped over. They can also be used in "walk mode," in which the electric bike runs at about one mile an hour to help a rider move the bike up a set of stairs, whether that's a few steps encountered during a commute or a longer staircase.
Tom Valasek, chief marketing officer for GenZe, says it might seem odd to have a headquarters in California and manufacturing operations in the Midwest, but Ann Arbor was an ideal choice because of the automotive expertise in metro Detroit and the engineering talent coming out of the University of Michigan. Southeast Michigan already has a "sophisticated" vehicle industry in place, he says.
"The company was conceived in Silicon Valley, but when it comes to manufacturing prowess and engineering, that talent is coming out of Michigan," Valasek says.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of GenZe.