Hybrid or electric vehicle (EV) makers had better mind their backs: the hydrogen fuel cell could still be in contention.
Brown is a fourth-generation dairy farmer at Ngarua, Waikato.
His company Farmer Brown Ltd operates on 69.5ha effective, carrying 180 dairy cows and 25 followers on a closed-herd basis, relying on pasture.
For reliable farm transport the Brown family has over the years been through two-wheelers, quads and lately side by side machines.
Always interested in emerging technologies, Brown first saw an Ubco 2 x 2 at Fieldays 2015, and taken with its ‘green’ credentials he set about researching the idea. Hence the first Ubco all-electric farm bike arrived in February 2016 and he hasn’t looked back.
The latest Ubco has a light, strong aluminium frame weighing 65kg -- about half that of a typical petrol-engine equivalent. The frame cradles a 48 Ah lithium-ion battery that typically has a 120km range; it has a recharge time of six hours from flat to 90%.
Running cost is estimated at $1/120km.
Electric wheel motors are contained in the front and rear hubs, making the machine two-wheel drive with a top speed of 50kph.
To ride it you turn the twist-grip, and braking is via brake levers to both wheels; these when activated create a regenerative effect to put power back into the battery.
The Ubco 2x2 dimensions — very similar to those of a well-known Japanese step-though machine of the 1980s -- initially appealed to Brown, but the stand-out function for him is the drive layout.
“In wet or muddy conditions, the Ubco just keeps travelling in the direction you point it. Compared to a conventional two-wheeler -- whose front wheel ‘washes-out’ in mud and the bike ends up laying on its side -- the driven front wheel on this machine just keeps things moving and on track.” This makes it safer for farm staff to ride, Brown says.
Of course, the machine suffers none of the issues inherent in using petrol — storage, safety when refilling and the risk of theft. And you never need go looking for a fuel can.
The Ubco, priced at $7995, of course costs much more than a petrol machine, but Brown says the savings on fuel and reduced maintenance soon outweigh the initial outlay.
“Our first machine has been here for just three years and has cost just $700 in repairs and maintenance — a pittance compared to petrol bikes we have run in the past.”
Brown bought a second in 2018.