A Daily Hampshire Gazette Magazine article on Amped-Up! Electric Rides.
HADLEY — Two years developing a campground in Rhode Island prompted Diane Kirby to consider the idea that camping families might like using electric scooters to traverse the 400-site, 75-acre property.
While the campground never became reality, despite the time and money the South Hadley resident invested in the project, all was not lost, as Kirby learned the potential for electric rides.
“In the process of investigating that I fell in love with the idea of scooters,” Kirby says. “They’re definitely green, and they’re so quiet.”
Returning to Massachusetts, Kirby is now putting the concept into practice by opening Amped Up! Electric Rides, which is selling scooters, motorcycles and various other electric-powered ways for people to get around efficiently and without needing to buy gas.
“It’s a wonderful product and so affordable, but electric vehicles are still so new in the United States,” Kirby said as she sat inside the showroom at 299 Russell St., the former Rocky’s store.
“These are for people who want consistent mobility,” Kirby said.
But the biggest selling point may be not having to fill up an engine. “Never having to pump gas is a wonderful feeling,” Kirby said.
The batteries, plugged into conventional outlets, take six to eight hours to charge and, because they use no fuel, there is no maintenance, such as tuneups or filter changes. “Just keep the battery charged and it will last five to six years,” Kirby said.
With inflation and other factors putting even inexpensive electric cars out of the price range for many, what she is offering, keeping the price down without having brand names, could be appealing to, as she puts it, the “everyday working man and woman.”
Perhaps the most unique items for sale are the electric chopper bikes, which have 12-volt, 60-amp-hour lithium batteries, that can go up to 62 mph and travel about 62 miles on a full charge. Those are selling for $4,599.
“If you want a chopper, and you don’t want to spend $35,000, I’m the next best thing,” Kirby said.
Then there are the RZ sport bikes, which have an appearance more like a conventional motorcycle. These have 72-volt, 120-amp-hour lithium batteries, and can get going up to 75 mph and travel about 200 miles on a full charge. Those are selling for $4,999.
“Because they are a new age motorcycle you don’t need to know how to ride a motorcycle,” Kirby said, pointing out that they have no clutch. “Just twist the throttle and go”
Kirby said her research indicates many of the rules surrounding the use of the electric rides, including the licenses and registrations needed, are not yet well-defined by the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Significantly cheaper are the three wheelers, or “trikes,” that sell for $1,499. Kirby said these are great for campground and golf courses, but there is uncertainty about their operations on public roads. They can be ridden in the breakdown lane so long as they stay under 25 mph.
Not yet in stock are the self-balancing electric unicycle, which Kirby describes as a realistic alternative to the stand-up scooter, and electric skateboards. The skateboards will be in stock by the time college students return in the fall, and she sees them as popular to ride on the trails or the edge of the road, and on campuses. Students, she said, should be able to store them in their dorm rooms and plug the battery into conventional outlets.
While the business is not doing electric cars, Kirby said she hopes to have a miniature electric dump truck, and possibly other smaller utility trucks, that businesses might be able to use. “Hopefully by the fall I’ll be able to offer that to landscapers,” Kirby said.
Kirby understands that she is starting the business with the challenges of the pandemic continuing, including that all product is coming from China, where lockdowns have still been in place. She is using sub-suppliers so she doesn’t have to meet what would otherwise be high minimum orders, and anticipates that flow will increase. “A lot more machines are coming in,” Kirby said.
When the electric rides get to the store, generally in sturdy metal containers, Kirby does all the assembly on her own, using her skills as a certified motorcycle mechanic graduating from the American Motorcycle Institute in Daytona, Florida. The business closes Monday and Tuesday for assembly, but is otherwise open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.
“I’ll be the only one doing this for a while,” Kirby said.
Kirby is no stranger to the town’s business community, running Southern New England Spice Company for 18 years, the last 11 in Hadley, with co-owner Larry Sherman.
“Larry and I decided to retire from that business,” Kirby said.
Kirby said the Route 9 location for Amped Up! should be ideal due to the traffic volume, though conditions set by the town limit her display outdoors.
Similar dealers already exist in both Florida and California, but hers is the first of its kind in New England. Still, and even in the climate, she said people can get at least a seven-month riding season. She will set up a booth at the Eastern States Exposition in September and attending various auto shows, including in West Springfield and Hartford, and will participate in a motorcycle show in Palmer.
She knows it could take some time to catch on, even if some people are not convinced that conventional gas-powered rides are going away.
“I think it’s safe to say that electric vehicles are here to stay,” Kirby said. “The future is now.”