Mo' betta mopeds
BY Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
It's easy to hate mopeds. If their exhaust doesn't send you around the bend, their constant whine surely will. Most drivers stuck behind one will simply change lanes and speed away.
But not Henry Jiao, a one-time bioengineer turned businessman. He decided instead to offer a solution that was both eco-friendly and easy on the ears: Battery-powered scooters and bikes.
Jiao's Aloha E-Bikes, which he started in early 2007, stocks a variety of scooters and bicycles that are all powered by batteries you can charge by plugging them into a standard wall outlet.
"We believe that electrical vehicles can make a difference in people's lives, help the community save money and protect the environment," Jiao said. "It makes the community quieter and produces less pollution."
His efforts to create a cleaner, greener Hawai'i even caught the eye of Gov. Linda Lingle, who last year gave Jiao an award for innovation.
Jiao moved to the Islands from New York in 2004 to join the research faculty at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. At the time, his focus was photosynthesis. Jiao was trying to improve plant productivity by altering the process of photosynthesis, he said.
But Jiao quickly grew tired of finding himself sucking fumes from mo-peds and decided to import electric bicycles which you can pedal, too and electric scooters.
"Even if you run out of power, if you can pedal, you can get home," he said. "You don't have to call someone to pick you up and you have a chance to exercise."
Initially, customers sought out the electric scooters, which were familiar in form and function to their noxious moped cousins. But last year, more and more people went for the hybrid electric bicycles, Jiao said.
Either way, battery power has proven to be a hit with riders.
"It's old technology, but when you put the technology to use in transportation, people are surprised how good it is," Jiao said. "It is so smooth and easy to ride."
Keeping them ready to ride is simple.
Several models are fitted with batteries that can be removed and carried indoors to your desk at work and plugged into a standard, 110-volt wall outlet, Jiao said. The better batteries weigh 2 pounds or less, he said.
And the scooters have range up to 35 miles. The farthest Jiao has ridden is from McCully, where his store is located, to Pearl City. And back.
But cruising along with the fresh air in his face wasn't the only benefit Jiao found on an electric mo-ped.
"I now enjoy having a connection with the community," he said. "Before, for 20 years, I never knew so many people. At a university, all you know are students. Now I know most of the community leaders, the neighborhood people. It's a different lifestyle."