Ben Silver has dreams of being a global change agent with the duo. This dream is epitomized by the world map on his boardroom wall — with markers in Australia for his local business, design and retail in Italy, and manufacturing in China.
We spoke about how Ben and his then employer, now business partner, Joe D’Ercole operated three retail scooter shops in Brisbane from 2000 to 2015 and sold over 18,000 scooters (we really do need a better word for these vehicles). “We fundamentally changed the way people move in South East Queensland,” he says proudly. “Now I want to do it at a global level, and in electric!”
The Vespa in the boardroom links Benzina Zero to its past as Scooterlife.
To do this, Joe and Ben have designed the duo, so called because it is a bike for work and play. It has also been described as a “hyper-utility” electric scooter.
“Everything must have more than one use,” says Ben. To my eye, unschooled in engineering, it appears like a fusion of a bike and a motor scooter with pretensions of becoming a delivery van. It looks tough and capable.
When I met Ben at the Noosa EV Expo, he was extremely busy answering questions. He introduced himself as the chief plugger inner. He still is, but he is far more. He has a very clear vision of the world’s needs and the gaps that exist in the provision of clean energy mobility provision. The duo is designed to fit between pushbikes and delivery vans. Ben also likes to do things right — he did not want to launch his marketing program until he had a good-quality product in reasonable quantities.
He has made sure that high-quality components are fitted to the duo, which exceeds the demands of the EU standards for batteries, motors, brakes, and wheel size. The duo uses Bosch motors and Samsung batteries. The quality of the bike has to live up to Ben’s standards. “If I wasn’t prepared to ride it, I wouldn’t sell it.”
The first container load of duos (and plenty of spare parts) has arrived and Ben is going over the bikes meticulously so that his dealer network (4 have already signed up and many others are considering the product) will have enough stock. Demand in Australia is expected to be high. The duo is expected to launch soon in the Philippines and Singapore. Negotiations are ongoing with 20 other countries. The global market for this vehicle would be in the hundreds of millions.
Women have responded well to the bike and see it as a utility hero, with a range of around 100 km, a top speed of 50 km/h, and a price on the road of around AUS$5,000. Ben is also in talks with delivery fleet managers. The 20 kg battery can easily be removed from the scooter and taken inside to be recharged from a normal wall socket. The duo comes with a 10,000 km warranty.
For those concerned with the lifecycle of the batteries, Ben explains that Benzina Zero has agreements with Greenfleet and BCycle.
Benzina Zero — which means “no petrol” in Italian — aims to be a big part of the global shift to electric vehicles. The duo is positioned to meet a wide range of needs while simultaneously reducing our carbon footprint. Not only can Gidget go to Rome, but she can do so sustainably!
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