If you have been burned on Kickstarter or Indiegogo (as I have), you tend to look closely and ask if things are too good to be true. If you follow the bike scene, you get a bit of an idea of what things cost. So when I saw this tweet from a bike blogger I follow:
Apparently there are many folks who aren't nearly as skeptical of the Storm e-Bike as I am. https://t.co/YhyqNHERPT— Kent Peterson (@kentsbike) February 3, 2015
I had a look and had to wonder, how can they do this? A full e-bike for that price? But the Storm electric fat bike has blown through its target, raising $3.363 million on a $75K Ask, with 27 days to go! But rear wheel and hub motor on its own costs $ 390 from the factory in China, electric bikes start at $390 and those water bottle batteries are $200. I was skeptical too.
There are lots of crowdsourced projects that don't work out because they underestimated the costs and the difficulties in mass production and where the proponents blow their brains out trying to meet their commitments. And there are others where they take the money and run. According to Dan Tynan at Yahoo, it looks like this is one of the latter.
First of all they get a cease and desist letter from another e-bike company that already has trademarked the name Storm, whose CEO Robert Provost tells Tynan:
About three days ago we started getting phone calls and emails from people asking, ‘Where’s your $500 e-bike?.... What they are claiming is highly suspect,” Provost says. “We’re afraid a lot of people who think they got a great deal will be disappointed with the bike and it will reflect poorly on us.”
Others note that the specs are too high and the price is too low. Also, it is a fatbike, with big tires and a lot of road resistance and weight, yet they are promising range and speed better than many regular e-bikes running on the same battery.
There is a whole website devoted to electric bike reviews, logically called ElectricBikeReview.com, where Court Rye spends 18 minutes questioning this bike and the specs, right off the bat noting that a comparable aluminum framed electric fat bike costing $ 6,000 weighs more.
And then there are the proponents themselves, who seem to have disappeared, leaving no mailing address.
Information about the company’s two co-founders is scant. Storm Sondors has left virtually no trail behind him on the Internet, save for a seldom-used YouTube account. Jon Hopp is a film editor working for a Los Angeles marketing firm. His Facebook account displays photos of two fat-tire bikes virtually identical to the Storm eBike, sporting logos from different manufacturers.
On the Indigogo website, some purchasers are shocked and disbelieving, suggesting that that the article in Yahoo is a plant by the competitor and they are confident that they will get their bike. Others are waiting for Storm to respond to the article, which he has not as of the time of this writing. Given that the Yahoo article was written yesterday, this is not a good sign.
It's a shame, because there is no reason why there can't be a good affordable fat e-bike and it would be a nice thing to have for those of us who try to ride all winter.
It's also a shame that Kickstarter and Indiegogo have so many "funded but failed" projects that never delivered, with no possibility of the investor getting their money back. Surely there must be some way to have an insurance plan that would protect the public. Surely this causes problems for the whole model of crowdfunding.
I was burned on a Kickstarter, still waiting for my Jorno keyboard, and have not invested in another one since. I suspect that the people who bought into this electric bike won't do it again either. That's too bad, it was fun while it lasted.