Introduction from SE Alaska

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queensland's picture
Last seen: 6 years 1 month ago
Joined: Thursday, May 29, 2008 - 16:33
Points: 55
Introduction from SE Alaska


Well, I have been interested in some type of EV for a while now and as I just paid the last bill on a home improvement project started looking at electric bikes and scooters. After lurking around on this forum I've gotten fairly discouraged. I am an electrical idiot who is quickly subdued by the technical talk and descriptions of all the problems with e scooter quality control and general reliability you all seem to experience. I also live in a pretty challenging place for all things electric; SE Alaska where it is wet most of the time as well as being near the ocean. Much as I'd like to leave the car in the garage. I've got some orthopedic problems that make daily bike commuting difficult (so I don't do it).

I'd like to list my conditions and expectations and get your wise comments on whether or not to pursue this.

Gustavus, AK is very small and remote. Only about 420 people and quite a few more moose and wandering inbred labrador retrievers. My daily commute is just 9 miles each way, mostly on 2 lane pavement but about 1 mile on graded dirt. Speed and traffic volume is low; nothing like urban commuting. I don't need something that matches car speeds...20 would be fine. We have a saying around here. You can tell the drunks because they drive straight. Sober folks go around the chuckholes. Primarily flat ground with 1 1/4 mi hill near work. Late fall through early spring it's dusk or dark for the commute. It also rains a lot...80+ inches a year not counting the snow. Of course I can use the car during the worst of it, but if scooters are unsafe even on wet pavement and if the electrics would die every time they got wet...I'd never get the use out of the purchase.

I'm getting up there age-wise, I'm 6' and heavy at 200. Cost of gas isn't the big issue. It's always been expensive politics or not (you think its expensive down south? Try $4.70 per gal). I want to reduce my carbon footprint, promote clean power and demonstrate that not all Alaskans require an 8 cylindar 4x4 to survive up here. I don't really care about the looks, just the design, reliability and reality of use.

I have seen one scooter that might be an option but wanted to know what you much more savvy people think about it. The Forsen Sportster type of thing. Any thoughts?

Many thanks!

reikiman's picture
Last seen: 1 month 3 weeks ago
Joined: Sunday, November 19, 2006 - 17:52
Points: 8447
Re: Introduction from SE Alaska

Welcome to the club!

Clearly with your local conditions a vehicle with good waterproofing is essential. It can be done, of course, but given the amount of rain you have this has got to be the top priority for you.

The Forsen scooters have a good reputation FWIW.. I've just never seen one in person so can't comment on it.

However here's a suggestion you might not have thought of. The Xebra (check it at It's more like a car, it rides on three wheels and it registers as a motorcycle. It's more expensive than the scooters, of course. There is a Xebra group on Yahoo Groups and I recall that a few months ago an Alaskan living in ??Juneau?? (or elsewhere in the Alaskan panhandle) bought a Xebra. It was quite an adventure getting it delivered up there but they are happy with the result.

The Xebra has the kind of speed you suggest plus since it has an enclosed cabin it can be used in more weather than a scooter could plus the Xebra pickup can be used to haul stuff.

dogman's picture
Last seen: 12 years 2 months ago
Joined: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 - 15:41
Points: 830
Re: Introduction from SE Alaska

I agree that an ebike may be a poor choice for your climate, but on nice days, it may be fine for you. Just keep it as cheap as possible so if if doesn't get much use it didn't cost so much. A cheap mountain bike and a hub motor kit will be fine for what you want to do on most days. And a lot can be done to waterproof the electrical connections pretty easy. A Neighborhood electric vehicle may be a better way to go for you in non freezing weather. These are essentially golf carts with break lights headlights and can be used in all weather, but they need to have the batteries warmed in really cold weather. Since air quality is not such a big issue for your city, maybe a gas scooter, or motorcycle would work for you. It will pollute a litte, but not so much co2.

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Last seen: 10 years 7 months ago
Joined: Wednesday, March 5, 2008 - 15:43
Points: 78
Re: Introduction from SE Alaska

Wasn't some one (Mountain Chen???) working or a 3 or 4 wheel electric ATV. check the forum subjects for more info, I no longer have the link. That might meet your needs, and still be a bit of fun.

queensland's picture
Last seen: 6 years 1 month ago
Joined: Thursday, May 29, 2008 - 16:33
Points: 55
Re: Introduction from SE Alaska

Thank you so much for all your suggestions! Just what I needed. Just wish I could find a Forsen user to review it. A motorized mountain bike won't work for me as I have some ongoing hip problems that make riding it an issue. That's why I was pursuing a scooter. I work for Glacier Bay National Park and we have 4 GEM cars in use so I am sort of familiar with that option. The cost to get something like that up here is a real problem on top of the purchase. Can't park it in a heated area so the batteries will suffer. Quick change batteries on a scooter mean I can bring them inside. I'll check out the Zebra but it will probably be outside my budget. I agree that keeping it less expensive will be easier to swallow if I find it doesn't get used as often as I'd like. My long term idea is to supplement my car until replacing it with an established, viable alternate energy car is possible but, its a Subaru so that might take a while!) I'd like to stick to something street legal so I can use it if/when I move out of the bush.

I emailed a Forsen dealer in western OR about the weather problems. He has suggested moving the motor up over the rear wheel and that the other electronics are pretty well sealed against everything but plowing into a lake. In his words of course... "we sell them to farm owners and OR commuters who ride them in mud and rain and off pavement. I am 6'3, 260 lbs and I ride one". Shipping one up here would cost about $200 which is reasonable.

Also talked to the guy who repairs and maintains our GEM cars and asked him to read about the Forsen and asked for his opinion. Again, I really appreciate your help.

"Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." Abraham Lincoln

Last seen: 13 years 6 months ago
Joined: Friday, June 1, 2007 - 13:01
Points: 14
Re: Introduction from SE Alaska

I don't comment here much but here's my 2 cents:

It sounds like you are saying that you are not knowledgeable enough to build your own and are looking to buy something ready to go. I don't think you are going to find something that will withstand the conditions of SE AK for very long so I would not recommend that route. I would however recommend that you build something from the ground up either with help or just pay someone else to do it. You are (I am assuming) a ferry ride away from Juneau and there is probably a honda shop there and one or two bikes that are being parted out that would be suitable for your size and comfort requirements. Buy an Etek motor and a controller/throttle kit, batteries and put it together. It will take longer but you will have something that will withstand your conditions. Because you only have to travel 18 miles roundtrip you could get by with the cheaper, although heavier, lead acid batteries and because of your physical size and the gravel roads I would not recommend anything smaller than a motorcycle frame.

Or you could do like me and ride a gas bike until it wears out and then convert it. I have a honda ruckus that I plan on converting when I wear out the motor but in the mean time I get about 100 miles to the gallon and the 4 stroke motor is relatively quiet and cleaner than a 2 stroke. I started with an XB500 peddle electric but found it too slow and I know it would fall apart under the conditions you have up there.

Hey, just another opinion.

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