It was a product whose timing seemed just right when Sonny Vu, CEO of 3D printing company Arevo, announced his Indiegogo campaign for the Scotsman, the world’s first unibody, all-carbon fiber electric scooter. “Everything is carbon fiber,” Vu explained to Electrek, “the handlebar, the stem, the deck, the baseboard, the chassis, everything.”
The material is so light and strong it’s been standard for decades on premium bikes, and now e-bikes. In fact, Arevo’s first attempt to crowdfund a 3D-printed carbon-fiber vehicle was a bike called the Superstrata.
But if you followed the saga of the Superstrata last year, you may not be surprised by news about the fate of the Scotsman.
The huge task of moving from concept to prototype to production vehicle may have overwhelmed the company. “The journey we embarked on together has proven more complex than we anticipated,” Team Scotsman announced October 3rd. “Significant hurdles remain.”
The issue seems to be 3D printing a frame to fit each rider – the promise that both the Superstrata and Scotsman held out to funders, and a huge leap forward from standard-sized factory frames.
Getting a factory carbon-frame bike properly fitted can be expensive and time-consuming. Having a frame 3D-printed to suit one’s individual body type and riding style seems ideal. Why not do the same with electric scooters, which usually only come in one size, anyway, and aren’t often adjustable for different sized riders?
Arevo promised much more than size customization for the Scotsman. Backers had very good reason to get excited about light, springy bespoke carbon frames in seven colors; 3 choices of motor size (500W, 1000W, 2000W); dual battery bays with removable batteries and external device charging; 4G cellular and BTLE connections; large display with integrated GPS; built-in dashcam, auto-lock/unlock, etc. These features justifiably received a lot of press.
But given Scotsman’s timeline, ESG’s managing director Chase was skeptical from the beginning. Crowdfunded campaigns don’t always work out, especially when they’re reliant on a new technology and in the wake of the multiple supply chain issues introduced by the pandemic.
Ideally, companies are able to refund their backers or offer some compensation in kind — see, for example, Unagi’s refund options for backers of its defunct Model 11. Scotsman has instead offered its backers a survey and some vague way forward.
We wanted to take the pulse of our backer group to plot a plan for the future. Basically, two paths stand before us: keep up the hard work, or cease development and retain funds for whatever refunds are possible. Neither option is a quick fix, and either would take us into 2023 to complete.– The Scotsman Team
Backers of the campaign have until November 30th to decide whether to keep supporting Scotsman’s development or take what they can get back from their investment, if anything.
What can we take away from this outcome? For one thing, there’s a lot of interest out there for the high tech, premium features the Scotsman touted, from full carbon-fiber, unibody frames to GPS and dashcam integration and auto locking/unlocking, all ideas whose time has come. As for 3D printing a bespoke carbon frame for every buyer…. Well, this tech might need another 5-10 years to develop before it’s ready to roll out to consumers.