California-based Alta Motors plans to extend its reach beyond the electric motorcycle market.
The startup has been working on lightweight, electric motorcycles since it was founded in stealth mode in 2010. But Alta Motors plans to eventually sell its proprietary battery pack and drivetrain to other companies working on lightweight vehicles and delivery drones, cofounder and CEO Marc Fenigstein told Business Insider.
Alta Motors currently only sells its Redshift MX, an electric, off-road motorcycle that can drive 2.5 hours on average. The $US14,995 motorcycle has been sold in the US since last August, but sales have been limited as the startup works on scaling up production, Fenigstein said.
“The technology, the architecture, and the capabilities that we built as a company in introducing the Redshift have very, very broad applicability across lightweight vehicles,” Fenigstein said. “Really nobody in the market can build a drivetrain for a small vehicle that is as compact, robust, or economical as ours is for a given range and power.”
The Tesla factor
Alta Motors has yet to become a household name, but it has secured backing from some of the most innovative minds in battery tech: Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, two of the original cofounders of Tesla before Elon Musk became CEO in 2008.
After Tarpenning and Eberhard left the electric car marker, the duo invested $US4.5 million in Alta Motor’s Series A round in 2014. Tarpenning and Eberhard remain passive advisors to Alta Motors to this day.
The key technology behind the Redshift MX is Alta Motors’ battery pack, the Alta Pack, and drivetrain, both of which the startup designs in its factory in Northern California.
The Alta Pack is a high-density battery that’s smaller and lighter than others on the market, but it doesn’t compromise on power. Fenigstein has said the battery is five years ahead of the curve in terms of range and power.
“We’ve advanced transportation battery technology I think more significantly than anyone since Tesla,” Fenigstein said.
The Redshift MX, which gets 40 hp and 120 lb.-ft. of torque, is the only Alta Motors bike currently available in dealerships.
But Alta Motors will put its Redshift SM on the market at the end of the summer. The $US15,495 SM is designed for people who want to use a motorcycle for shorter, urban commutes. It also gets 40 hp and 120 lb.-ft. of torque.
The SM, which has a range of 50 miles, is sold out through the end of 2017. But Fenigstein declined to give exact sale and pre-sale figures for the MX and SM.
In addition to selling its battery pack and drivetrain technology directly to other companies, Alta Motors also plans to add two more motorcycles to its Redshift lineup. Fenigstein did not provide specific timing for the pending projects.
The electric motorcycle market is still relatively small. Alta Motors competes most directly with Zero Motorcycles, which sells similarly priced electric bikes with slightly more power.
Alta Motors has a lot of work to do if it wants to scale production for the MX and SM and become a leading supplier in the lightweight vehicle market.
In early June, Alta closed a small financing round of $US27 million led by Grassy Creek Ventures to support those aims.
“We are very excited from this foundation to get our technology in the many corners of the lightweight vehicle market as we can,” he said.
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