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We’re one week out from our first Maker Faire Detroit, taking place July 31 and August 1 at The Henry Ford, and the excitement is building. Among the over 250 makers showcasing their projects at the Faire are the fine folks of Current Motor Company. From their site: “Founded by engineers tired of wimpy electric vehicles (EV), Current Motor Company (CMC) fills the unmet need for practical, affordable, zero-emission electric vehicles. Current develops and manufactures all-electric motorcycles and motor scooters in Ann Arbor, Mich.” Today we chat with Founder & Chief Engineer Erik Kauppi to learn more.

1. Tell us about the project you’re bringing to Maker Faire.
It’s an electric motor scooter. You can ride 50 miles on a charge at up to 70 mph with very low emissions and a “fuel” cost of about a penny per mile. It’s a great way to commute and a great example of a technology that will rapidly change the world.

2. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate?
We’re part of the A2 Mech Shop, a co-working space in Ann Arbor, Mich. Ideas are always percolating around the shop. We like to show what can be accomplished by dedicated makers with limited resources.

3. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
I’ve been making or improving things, usually vehicles, since before I can remember. My earliest memories are of wiring my kiddie car before kindergarten. My inspirations are my dad, Soichiro Honda, and Colin Chapman.

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4. Is your project strictly a hobby or a budding business? Does it relate to your day job?
It’s a business — we’ve spent way too much money to be doing it just for fun. But strangely enough, coming to work every day is great fun! Working on a cool project with a bunch of really smart, creative people, what could be better?

5. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
We can change the world. Each of us acting alone and all of us acting together can make a difference. The interesting thing is that each of us can do what we want — we don’t need a government initiative or a plan. Just do it and the world changes.

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CMC uses larger battery pack to give riders the juice they need. Their C130 has a 5.75kWh pack.

6. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just getting started?
The classic advice is “find what you love to do and spend your life doing it.” I would add “find what you love to do, and find others who love doing it with you.”

7. What do you love most about Detroit?
There are so many talented people here. Really smart, creative folks who are just looking for a cool project to work on.

Thanks, Erik! We’ll be looking forward to checking out the scooters in person. For all the information you need on the Faire, including buying tickets online, check out the Maker Faire Detroit website. See you there!

Goli Mohammadi

I’m senior editor at MAKE and have worked on MAKE magazine since the first issue. I’m a word nerd who particularly loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon as a whole. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for the ideal alpine lake or hunting for snow to feed my inner snowboard addict.

The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. The specific beat I cover is art, and I’m a huge proponent of STEAM (as opposed to STEM). After all, the first thing most of us ever made was art.

Contact me at goli (at) makermedia (dot) com.


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Comments

  1. Alan says:

    While visiting China a few years ago, I noticed that about every fifth vehicle passing me on the roads and sidewalks (yes, there are vehicles on the sidewalks there) was a zippy little electric scooter that looked strikingly similar to the ones above. It seems to be the standard upgrade from the ubiquitous Chinese bicycle.

    On returning to the States, I tried to find one of these cool rides. They weren’t available. Given that China is the world’ manufacturing center anyway, why not just import some of these vehicles that are obviously already developed and working?

    While you’re at it, maybe you could also get a few shipping containers of those awesome rain cloaks the cyclists all wear over there – it’s a poncho shaped to cover the rider, handlebars, and seat, with a cutout for the wheels. Those are also nigh impossible to find here, but someone in China is obviously cranking them out by the billions.

    I know this is a series about the remaking of Detroit, but a key part of that process will be innovation, not copying what overseas competitors are already doing.

    1. Jhn Harding says:

      Hi Alan,

      John here – the other founder of CMC. You make some good points – and I think you’ll find we’re closer to your position of “not reinventing the wheel” than you might expect.

      The reason we’re doing this is because when we looked at importing bikes the available bikes were deficient. Mostly in terms of performance (but also in quality) – the Chinese use cases for their electric scooters are different than the average US owner. They use these mostly in high-density urban environments at low speeds. Speed and range need to be higher to be considered competitive in the US market.

      When getting into higher speeds and ranges you also need better batteries and better battery management systems (BMS). The BMS is one of the things we bring to the table – as well as creating chassis dynamics suitable for riding these bikes at speeds appropriate for US roads.

      We’re firm believers in not reinventing the wheel. That’s exactly why we chose a “glider” (a scooter with no powertrain) from a major Chinese manufacturer and we concentrate our efforts on the electrification, quality improvements and entire ownership experience for the US market. We could of started with a blank sheet of paper (think Vectrix and Brammo) but that would have been wasteful of resources (mostly time and money).

      We’re not copying the competition. We’re evolving the product and creating something that is better suited for the target market.

      Maybe that helps explain our position?

      Now, as far as those awesome ponchos go – I’d suggest ebay… ;-)

      All the best – hope to see you at the Faire.

      John Harding
      http://www.currentmotor.com

  2. Laura Allen says:

    Cheap electric scooters are also very quiet, so you don’t have to worry about making too much noise and annoying your neighbors.