Scotland business

Drive for electric bikes to replace delivery vans

Alastair Hutchison
Image caption Alastair Hutchison, one of the inventors of the vehicle, said its design was still evolving

A taxpayer-backed firm wants to help end use of petrol and diesel delivery vans with a new electric bike amid rising demand for green transport.

The "Urban 200" was invented by three childhood friends who grew up building bikes together in their sheds.

Their company, Edinburgh-based PeddleSMART, is getting ready to launch its vehicle.

It will be built in a new factory employing ex-offenders and people with disabilities.

The premises at Ravenscraig, Motherwell, has been set up with a £400,000 grant from the economic development agency Scottish Enterprise.

Campus pitch

The vehicle has been developed over the last few years by friends Alastair Hutchison, Brian Craigie and David Field, who bonded over a love of engineering as teenagers in the 1970s and 80s.

Mr Hutchison said: "I do lots of cargo deliveries around Edinburgh - I'm one of the very few who do with a bike and a trailer.

"We wanted to come up with something bigger, more powerful and this was the solution. It's a bit Heath Robinson, but that's exactly where we began.

"It's full electric power, so it's no different from any other electric bike."

The current version can carry 200kg - the same as eight bags of cement or 66 boxes of wine - with up to 40 miles between charges.

Image caption PeddleSMART boss Adam Reid is hoping the NHS and councils will increasingly switch to using greener vehicles

PeddleSMART is initially pitching the vehicle at public sector organisations like the NHS, councils and organisations which run "campus" sites which are home to multiple buildings and companies, such as Edinburgh's Bioquarter.

The firm is also targeting private companies such as food delivery firms and people who want to cut their car use.

PeddleSMART Chief Executive Adam Reid told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme the vehicle's design was still evolving.

"We're developing it to put a weather surround on it, and move it from a three-wheeler to a four wheeler - it can be a freight carrier, a people-carrier and can do work for a council for instance - gritting instance or horticultural stuff in their parks.

Mr Reid agreed that a big cultural change would be needed for products like the Urban 200 to take off, but added: "Everyone's happy about doing something for the climate and saving money."

The company's factory will create 100 jobs paying the £9-per-hour living wage over the next three years, and will take on people facing a range of challenges getting jobs.

"That's something we're really passionate about - helping the community and providing career opportunity for those guys," said Mr Reid.

The decision by Scottish Enterprise to back PeddleSMART comes after it announced a big change in its role, with a move from supporting high-growth companies to ones looking to create quality jobs and tackle inequalities.

PeddleSMART is launching its vehicle in Scotland this year, with an aim to go UK-wide and beyond in 2020.

For the latest business news as it happens, follow BBC presenter Andrew Black's updates each weekday morning on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme between 0600 and 0900.