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The Electric Bicycle Co (TEBCO) celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, meaning it’s the first ebike specialist company in Australia.
Ask founder Tony Morgan for the secret to two decades of success and he has no hesitation in answering,
“Our in house workshop capability is absolutely paramount,” he said. “We get people calling every day asking our technical team of Graham, Roy and George how to fix our competitors’ bicycles. They boys will try to help them out. Even last Thursday Graham went and delivered a bike into a high profile shop with 29 electric bikes on the floor.
“They had another brand that had a fault. Graham spent 10 minutes tracing the fault and fixing it for them, even though it was a competitors’ bike. That’s how we’ve always operated and always will.”
Tony has always been confident to do things differently, perhaps in part reflecting his unique, non-bike industry experience before founding TEBCO.
“My background is meat and livestock,” he recalled. “Our family were involved in this industry for my entire life. I was also in transport, trucks and buses. I had 10 sisters – a very big family! When my parents passed away the business assets were left to all 11 children, so I sold everything then looked for something new to do.”
After some solo business success, a chance TV item was to set Tony’s direction for the following 20 years and counting.
“I had no background in electronics or bicycles, but a saw a program on pay TV, CNBC, about the first electric bicycles produced in China and the penny dropped. I thought, ‘There’s something that’s going to have a huge impact going forward!’ So I decided to get involved.
“I contacted CNBC and they gave me the name of Shanghai Forever. I arranged to buy a sample, got it shipped out here and started testing it. Then we came across Chengdu BGB. They developed the first model that we imported and wholesaled.
“When the first sample arrived, I showed it to some bike shops in Melbourne and everyone said it was a great idea.
“I thought they were going to be the future because of their cleanness. You could take them anywhere, no fumes, no oil.
“The first time we showed them publicly was at the Bicycling Australia Show at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne and some shops said straight away, ‘I want one.’
“They were lead acid batteries in those days, and very heavy. Not all shops appreciated the potential. A lot of shops have taken a long time to convince.”
But rather than be deterred by dealers who could not yet see the potential, Tony worked hard to grow his dealer base and capitalise upon his ‘first mover advantage’ in the ebike market.
“When bought the first container, we had them housed in contract warehousing and I ran the business from home.
“We started to advertise in the major Melbourne daily newspaper and people started coming for test rides. It was obvious we had to have a proper warehouse with a showroom. Within the first 12 months we’d moved from the home garage into leased premises and five years later we bought the two factory units that we’re in now.”
Consistent High Quality and Dealer Back Up Support
“Our TEBCO brand is wholesale only, sold through dealers around Australia,” Tony proudly stated. He highly values the loyalty that TEBCO has earned through years of providing their dealers with next level service.
“Anybody who gets involved with TEBCO doesn’t just get the product. They get the backup service that no-one else offers,” he explained.
“I’m off next week to inspect the next two containers of bikes, while they’re still on the production line. We design the bikes. Not the frame shapes, but we give specific requirements to our manufacturers about the components we want. We attend every bike show and keep up to speed with all the latest technology.
“When the bikes arrive, we unload them into our warehouse. We check everything. If there’s a problem we open every carton and fix it. We also produce detailed assembly instructions with photos for the dealers. If they still have any problems, they can jump on the phone and we talk them through the problem.
Tight, Affordable Range
TEBCO keeps there product offering simple so that dealers don’t have to carry a myriad of models.
“We have three bicycles,” said Tony, “They’re all priced at $1999, the Discovery step through frame, the Explorer diamond shaped frame and the Journey folding bicycle. From day one we’ve set out to ensure that none of our two wheelers retail for over $2,000.
“With tricycles, they go up to $2,500 and $2,800. We sell conversion kits from $1,200 to $1,500. They can convert any bike into an ebike. The kits go into the front wheel so there’s no change required to the real wheel or drivetrain.
“All of our bikes have both twist grip throttle and pedal activation. Most of the bikes are specified to the 250 watt European standard so that the throttle does not work above six kilometres per hour.”
Plenty of Future Upside
“In 1999 I could see that electric bicycles were going to be the personal transportation system of the future, but we still haven’t scratched the surface, 20 years later,” Tony concluded.
“We are working to promote the acceptance of electric bicycles, not just with consumers but with government departments. Hopefully government will wake up that they have to accept more electric bikes if they’re going to solve the transport issue. I still can’t understand why there hasn’t yet been a greater acceptance of ebikes,”
20 Years of Milestones
Here are some key milestones during the 20 year history of The Electric Bicycle Company:
1999 First electric bicycles to be sold into the Australian market.
July 2001 First step thru frame style to be sold in Australia.
January 2002 First electric tricycles to be sold in Australia.
May 2002 First ‘Vespa Style’ electric scooter to be sold in Australia.
February 2003 First electric folding bike to be sold in Australia.
March 2003 First ‘Vespa Style’ electric bicycle (ie with pedals) to be sold in Australia.
May 2003 First ‘Cruiser Style’ electric bicycles to be sold in Australia.
March 2007 First conversion kits to be sold in Australia.
August 2007 First commuter road ebikes to be sold in Australia, which was also the first lithium battery powered ebike to be sold in Australia.
June 2015 First ‘in frame battery’ model to be sold by TEBCO.
April 2018 First purpose designed tricycle conversion kit to be sold in Australia.