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Can't afford a new electric car? Electric bikes are here - and they're Aussie-built

You can buy a locally-made zero-emissions vehicle if you're willing to ride on two wheels. (Image: Tom White)

Electric is all the rage right now, with demand surging for the most popular cars, like the Tesla Model Y, BYD Atto 3, and MG ZS EV.

However, even the most affordable electric cars are relatively expensive, costing significantly more than their petrol equivalents or rivals.

But what if you’re willing to drive on two wheels? Not only is there an emerging list of electric motorcycles, but there are home-grown options, too.

Hidden in plain sight, in a garden-variety industrial estate close to the heart of Sydney, is Fonz Moto.

This homegrown electric motorcycle manufacturer currently offers three models for sale, the Arthur scooter, capable of 100km of driving range, the NKD motorcycle capable of up to 200km of driving range, and the X1, capable of travelling 80km on a single charge.

Fonz Moto points out that it costs roughly $1 to drive 100km in each of its models. The NKD, for example, is available in four variants, with power outputs between 6.8kW and 11kW, with max speed capped at 100km/h. Prices start from $11,990, still half the cost of even the most affordable used electric cars (mostly first-generation Nissan Leafs) we spotted online at the time of writing.

Options include larger battery packs, higher performance, and even the option to have an onboard AC charger to enable a Type 2 socket for public charging. Fonz tells us most buyers charge up at home, however.

Fonz Moto currently offers three models for sale; the Arthur scooter, the NKD motorcycle and the X1. (Image: Tom White)

Importantly, Fonz’ microfactory in Sydney enables the brand to produce a high percentage of content locally, something which became even more important to the brand during COVID lockdowns, when global manufacturers were handicapped by needing to wait for parts from overseas.

“COVID caused many issues for sourcing overseas parts. For this reason, we diversify as much as we can and build as much as we can here in Australia. If we can source it locally or make it in-house, then that’s what we’ll do,” said the brand’s chief technical officer, Jules Boerez, explaining that roughly 60 per cent of the NKD is sourced locally, in part thanks to the brand’s ability to fabricate many of its own parts using 3D printers from Markforged. This has also allowed the brand to be certified as Australian made.

Not only does this tech allow the brand the ability to turn around parts quickly, with the brand adding the option of a Type 2 charger in two weeks instead of the months it would usually take, but it also increases the ability for buyers to customise their bikes, and allows replacement parts to be easily made at the microfactory.

Fonz Moto has the capability at its Sydney base to build around 20 units a week. Interestingly, Mr Boerez estimates around 15 percent of its customers already have an electric car at home, suggesting a growing market of electric-vehicle enthusiasts with a taste for more than one full EV

Fonz’ microfactory in Sydney enables the brand to produce a high percentage of content locally. (Image: Tom White)

Local manufacturing has not been without its challenges though, with Fonz’ CEO, Michelle Nazzari, explaining the brand has had virtually no assistance from the government.

“Government policy around EVs leaves out two-wheeled vehicles. We’re not recognised as an electric vehicle for the purposes of government benefits,” she said.

“We’re not asking for anything major, not like the $3000 subsidy big car manufacturers are getting, and obviously we don’t base any of our decisions around potential government handouts, but even a $500 discount would help our customers, would help with uptake."

“Motorcycles and scooters are such an important part of bringing down congestion and emissions in our cities. We really want to highlight how they’ve been ignored by regulators and by the government. We got a stamp duty exemption [for the Arthur scooter] in New South Wales, but we had to lobby for it - it took us nine months to get that, and now finally we’re getting a bit more traction in other states.”

Fonz is currently the largest seller of electrified motorcycles in Australia. (Image: Tom White)

The brand estimates a stamp duty exemption on the NKD can save NSW buyers up to $600.

Fonz is currently the largest seller of electrified motorcycles in Australia, although expects to lose that title as larger international manufacturers enter the scene. Despite the challenges in front of it, the Sydney-based outfit has more global aspirations.

“This microfactory is a blueprint for manufacturing overseas. There will still be some parts made here in Australia, but we’re hoping to have a localised final assembly,” its representatives said.

Tom White
Senior Journalist
Despite studying ancient history and law at university, it makes sense Tom ended up writing about cars, as he spent the majority of his waking hours finding ways to drive...
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