Check out our 1/2 second of Discover Kalamazoo fame! Fido at 1:47.
As seen on Second Wave
February 19, 2015
An old buggy chassis factory in Kalamazoo's Edison neighborhood is the new home for a practical means of gas-free transportation: an electric scooter.
Electric scooters should be zipping out of the Edison neighborhood's old factories this spring.
Fulford Street was thick with unplowed snow when we met him, so Jeb Gast had to stay inside to show off his Fido scooter, and show off Fido Motors' 35,000 square feet of rustbelt factory space (1415 Fulford St.).
Some of the space will be for maker events (gatherings of local tinkerers, inventors, crafters) that started in the fall. A cafe and showroom is in the works, incubator space and offices are planned, but now Gast's focus is starting an initially-modest production line producing surprisingly fast bikes.
The industrial area on the eastern edge of the east-Kalamazoo underserved neighborhood used to be dominated by the Michigan Buggy Company, which evolved from horse-drawn to horseless carriages at the start of last century.
Fido Motor's main building supplied chassis for the Buggy Company in the 1890s-1900s, Gast learned.
The other building was the Star Brass Works foundry, making brass parts for trolley machinery and tone rings for pre-'40s Gibson Mastertone banjos. A third was part of a 1941 expansion, when the foundry began making munitions for the war effort.
A global market
Gast is looking at Europe as the main market for his scooter. Bike ownership there is "staggering, 20 to one" compared with here, he says.
Especially in Italy, scooter culture bloomed after World War II. They were affordable transportation after the war. "When there's bomb craters in the road, you can drive a scooter around them," Gast says.
Maybe there's a direct connection to the munitions the foundry used to make, and scooter culture? "Maybe," Gast says with a laugh.
The Fido -- meaning "faithful" in Latin, pronounced like the dog's name, but Italians have been calling it the "FEE-do" -- is the result of Gast's work going back to 2011, when he built the first in his Seattle, Wa., scooter shop.
He built and sold modified electric Vespas in Seattle. Customizing scooters made him realize that they -- electric or gas-powered -- had major flaws.
A sexy new scooter is "fun to buy, fun to ride, but it's really not fun to own. It could be a big money pit," Gast says.
With basic white paint and utilitarian design, the Fido is not sexy on the surface. Gast wanted function, no style gewgaws. "There's no fluff," he says. "Everything has at least one purpose."
For example, the floorboard is the battery. Where most electric bikes better have an outside outlet, the Fido battery can be taken off with ease, and brought inside to charge.
Gast has dealt with "every little thing that's always irked me -- like, there isn't a scooter on earth with an adjustable seat." Large or small riders would have to get their Vespa customized, but the Fido's seat can be adjusted.
Most importantly for Gast, owners needed to be able to work on the bike themselves. With single-sided forks and tires of the same standard size, it should be easy and inexpensive to fix a flat, he says.
One can ride 40 miles on a charge, as long as one isn't riding "aggressively," he says. As far as performance goes, the Fido is no dog, and might be a little too sexy. The top speed is 45 mph, with six-and-a-half horsepower from the rear hub motor. "Doesn't sound like much, but we're at 84 foot-pounds of torque at the wheel -- it'll beat your Subaru at zero-to-thirty."
This can be a problem. "Technically, it's a motorcycle." But classification depends on the state. In Michigan, it's a moped; in other states, it's a motorcycle. Arizona, where Gast grew up learning to love scooters, requires it to be under two horsepower with a top speed of 30 mph to be considered a scooter or moped. If classified a motorcycle, the owner would need a license and helmet.
In November Gast took the Fido to the largest two-wheel vehicle trade show in the world, the EICMA in Milan, Italy. Fido got a lot of favorable attention, with, to Gast's surprise, many companies looking to rent scooters to tourists. "We had people ready to order 30 at a time for these rental companies," Gast says.
With spare batteries, a business could keep scooters constantly rented with no charging downtime. But there are different laws all over, and companies probably don't want to put a 6.5 hp. 45 mph machine under an unlicensed and inexperienced tourist. So Gast is planning a 30 mph version, "the same bike, just tuned-down."
However it's classified, Gast wants his main Fido "fast, fun and useful. To me, driving around town at two hp., at 30 mph isn't useful."
Gast's target retail price for the bike is $5,500. "The bike's done, I've got it the way I wanted." Now to finish paperwork, finalize funding, and start the production line. "We ordered a bunch of parts, so we'll start making bikes here next month," he says. "We want to have a few bikes ready for spring."
Gast left Seattle in 2012. He and his wife Krystal Gast (Fido business manager) wanted to live in a smaller town. Due to having a kindergarten-aged child, they chose Kalamazoo thanks to the Promise. Friends who came out of Kalamazoo's moped culture (Gast first took Fido to The Reality Factory, a Northside business incubator run by 1977 Moped's Daniel Kastner), and the town's large amount of cheap industrial space also attracted them.
His company is "pretty lean" at the moment, with a staff of two part-time employees. Once they finalize more funding, they'll hire more people to assemble Fidos, reaching an initial rate of 10 bikes a month by the end of the year. Fido will "grow from there," he says. "I want to be sustainable, but keep a momentum going."
At the moment, Fido Motors is a cavernous unheated space, mostly empty except for the air of anticipation, and one room with the final Fido model on a stand, and a couple test models that Gast has put over a thousand miles on.
He inherited a lot of odd artifacts with the old buildings: An abandoned show-quality 1964 Buick Le Sabre with purple paint and crushed velvet purple interior. A huge insulated cooler that was used to store raisins while they rested between train delivery and the trucks that took them to Battle Creek cereal boxes. A locker room and showers for foundry workers.
An electric bike that could be a practical means of gas-free transportation would be a step into a new century for the old buggy chassis factory. But Gast doesn't display any attitude of futurism or planet-saving.
"I think the bike will be fun enough, and awesome enough, that we won't be selling an electric scooter -- we'll be selling a scooter," he says. There are some electric bike companies who're "selling the electric idea, saving the planet and all that stuff. We're just trying to sell people a fun bike."
His dream is "really, to build this bike that I want. Also, to build this company that I want."
"I see a lot of these larger companies taking advantage of the average guy. I want to bring back the idea that the average guy can work on his own bike, understand his own bike. If he runs over a nail, he can patch it for free, or buy a $7 inner-tube. Where he doesn't have to go to his scooter boutique, have his scooter towed there -- I just want to make it fun in every aspect of owning a bike. So it's fun to ride, it's fun to own, it's fun to just have."
As seen in Encore Magazine
November 1, 2014
Kalamazoo is about to be put on the scooter industry map when Fido Motors starts manufacturing its first electric scooter in January.
Fido will have a top speed of 45 mph and a 35-mile range, a detachable battery pack for indoor charging and standard metal parts for easy maintenance. It’s the brainchild of Jeb Gast, owner and president of Fido Motors.
Gast worked in the scooter industry a while before he started Fido. He owned Soundspeed Scooters, a scooter repair and sales shop based in Seattle from 2008 until 2012, before closing the shop, moving to Kalamazoo and committing fully to Fido, which until then had been a side project he had been working on since 2010. Now, two years after he moved to Kalamazoo Gast works with his wife, Krystal, and coworker Andy Searl, and together they help plan the manufacturing and operations of the company.
What makes Fido stand out from the pack of scooters currently on the market is that it’s designed as an answer to frustrations Gast and his customers had when he was a mechanic — most scooters aren’t easily maintained and repaired.
“Fido is really built out of a frustration with what you as a customer are able to buy, all the issues that crop up after you buy a scooter and what happens when you want to take care of it,” Gast says. “Scooter companies really don’t want you to repair your bike yourself. They want the shop to do the repairs. I wanted to change that.”
Most modern scooters are made from an assortment of materials and are designed for aesthetics, making it hard for an owner to get to parts that need to be fixed without removing plates and other parts with specialized tools. To allow owners to do basic repairs on their own bikes, Gast designed Fido to be made from metal, like the scooters of the 1950s and ’60s, and to have standard parts that can be worked on with normal tools — an important money-saving feature.
“You need special tools to work on a lot of other scooters and motorcycles,” Searl says. “And it’s not just a simple set of tools to get the job done. You need proprietary equipment and the knowledge to use it. The parts are produced to be disposable too. It just robs everyone.”
Gast has used his background as a scooter mechanic to make the bike easier to maintain. It includes a rechargeable, removable battery pack, perfect for urban dwellers who don’t have a garage in which to charge their bikes, and tires of all one size (many scooters use a different size for each tire) that can easily be changed after a flat.
“To fix a flat on a modern Vespa, you would basically need a tow truck and about $200,” Gast says.
While Fido Motors continues to work toward a manufacturing launch date, the Gasts and Searl are preparing to debut Fido at an international motorcycle convention and trade show in Milan, Italy, this month, the EICMA (Esposizione Mondiale del Motociclismo).
Meanwhile, the Gasts and Searl continue to network, redesign and manufacture their prototype — a long and sometimes daunting process.
“Jeb’s been working on putting the bike together, and Andy and I have been working on certification requirements from the Department of Transportation to get these bikes on the road (and) funding for the business. And Andy’s been doing a lot of the production work,” Krystal Gast says. “There’s a lot to do, and it’s been a learning process.”
So far, there’s been a lot of interest in Fido, say the Gasts and Searl, who have fielded many inquiries about their project and secured strong investment backing, and the crew is excited to get rolling (pun intended).
“Everyone we’ve shown what we’re doing to seems really excited,” Searl says. “We’re getting a lot of good response.”
But the scooter isn’t the only thing the folks at Fido are investing their energy in — they’re also looking at how to smartly utilize their new space, the old Star Brass Works foundry, at 1415 Fulford St. Fido Motors will use the large space as a business incubator and “makerspace” called Jericho.
“A makerspace is a community space that’s full of people and equipment that allow you to make things,” Jeb Gast explains. “A lot of people liken it to a health club. You pay $100 to go to a health club, and you have trainers and training equipment. A makerspace is the same idea — a place with table saw, 3-D printers and people to show you how to use them.”
Right now, the Gasts host “makers meetings,” which are small group brain-storming and 3-D printing workshops.
As seen on Awesome Mitten, August 2014
After a failed attempt to find an electric scooter that could compete with modern gasoline scooters, Jeb Gast set out to make his very own. “I’ve rode, sold, and repaired scooters of all types for years. After a while, I realized I could build something better than what’s out there.” His goal is to create a simply designed electric scooter.
Everyone, meet Fido!
“Fido’s Tricks” include: 45 mph, 35 mile range (or 70 with the boost pack), selectable vrooooom tones, low maintenance, straight forward, and loyal. Fido will be debuted this November and manufacturing starts this winter for U.S. sales. Also, the Fido Motors crew just got a new home in a 115-year-old building in the Edison neighborhood of Kalamazoo.
What’s in store for the future of Fido Motors? They’ll start with sales in the U.S., then export to Europe over the next few years; ten years down the road, they will reinvent the scooter again.
As seen on MLive
May 20, 2013
KALAMAZOO, MI – A Fido electric scooter zipping through the streets of Milan, Italy, is what success will look like for Jeb Gast, who is launching Fido Motors LLC at The Reality Factory, located at 213 E. Frank Street in Kalamazoo.
Gast, 35, is one of three entrepreneurs joining a business incubator being launched by Daniel Kastner, the owner of 1977 Mopeds, this year. Kastner relocated his company from San Francisco and convinced Gast, who was running a Vespa shop called Soundspeed Scooters in Seattle, to do the same.
“It’s a brand new company I started in Seattle and I decided to do it out here instead,” said Gast, who moved his family to Kalamazoo last spring for the project. “We built a scooter and we are building two more prototypes and then we’ll start manufacturing them out of Kalamazoo.”
Gast released the first Fido scooter with Fremont Motors, his electric scooter motor company, in 2011. He is now in the process of perfecting the Fido scooter. His goal is to build an electric scooter that is low-maintenance, environmentally-friendly, and easy to charge with a removable, rechargeable battery.
The $4,500 scooter comes with a removable battery pack, which is stored away in the floor compartment, and a supplementary battery pack with backpack straps.
The scooter can go as fast as 45 miles per hour and has a 70-mile range. Gast is working with a company in Taiwan to develop the battery packs and a company in Slovenia to produce the motor.
Gast says he has some clients lined up and expects the scooter will be more popular overseas than in America.
“We’re still ramping up,” he said. “We are finishing the prototypes up and getting tooled up and ready so we can start building them here, hopefully soon. I want to be making more by mid-summer. We have a few clients lined up and we’re seeing the most the interest overseas, in the Netherlands, Italy and France.”
Gast is excited to be part of the Kalamazoo community and said The Kalamazoo Promise was a huge draw, as he has a young child starting kindergarten.
“We were looking to move anywhere that would be more affordable,” he said. “With the Kalamazoo Promise here and the incubator idea, it just seemed like a better place to get moving on a new project liked this.”
Posted Mar 13th 2011
Could the Fido electric scooter from Fremont motors one day become your best friend? If you value things like practicality, simplicity and a fetching aesthetic, then yes. This freshly-unveiled design is definitely barking up the right city-mobility tree with a 45 miles per hour top speed, removable battery for apartment charging and 35 miles of range (70 with optional boost pack).
With its one-sided wheels, disc brakes and hub motor, maintenance is minimal and the small stowable storage box you can carry as back pack is a great touch. If production hopes for the prototype come through, you should be able to collar one next year for about $5,000. You can keep up with their progress and show them some belly-rubbin' love over on their Facebook page. Check out the detail from all angles in the gallery below.
As seen on Engadget
March 7, 2011
Most scooters are generally a bit offbeat in appearance, but Seattle's Fremont Motors has truly gone the extra mile with its new, all-electric Fido prototype. That eye-catching design also incorporates a good bit of practicality, however, including wheels that are the same size and can be easily removed, a battery beneath the floorboard that can also be easily replaced (and charged indoors), and even a removable storage case under the seat that can be worn as a backpack. In terms of performance, you can expect to get a range of up to 35 miles on a charge, and hit a top speed of 45 mph. Of course, it is still just a prototype, but Fremont Motors is planning a "limited" in the third quarter of next year, with the scooter expected to run $5,000.
Published by Ride Apart
March 5, 2011
There’s so much that this electric scooter gets right. The first thing you noticed obviously is the design, but it’s not just there to look good. The distinctive wheels? They’re the same size, meaning you fit the same tires front and rear. The single-sided rear? That’s there to enable easy wheel removal, a traditional electric scooter bugbear. The flat floor hides the removable battery pack (good for 35 miles) but you can double that with the addition of a supplementary pack which locks to the bike, but comes with backpack straps. Moving parts? Aside from the levers and suspension, there’s only the two wheel bearings. That means Fido is virtually maintenance free. It’s going to be made in America too.
The Fremont Fido was designed and built by Jeb Gast, a member of the infamous Bathroom Burnout Gang and a scooter mechanic in Seattle. He told us he spends all day working on electric scooters and had become enormously frustrated with how unnecessarily complex they are, so he decided to do better himself.
“It took a lot of work to make Fido this simple,” says Jeb.
Fido can hit 45mph thanks to a 7bhp motor and has 70-mile range with the addition of that supplementary battery pack. That’s better than most 50cc scooters. If you don’t need the extra range, that backpack becomes a lockable, wearable storage compartment. The standard underfloor battery pack lifts out to reveal a telescoping handle and little wheels, meaning you can pull it like luggage. The rear rack should also come in handy.
Like most other electric scoots, Fido mounts its motor in the rear wheel hub, but does so in a new way. Usually the wiring and motor mounts make removing the rear wheel stupidly complicated, adding time and cost to tire changes. On Fido, the wheel is connected to the motor by four bolts. Remove those and it’s off. Jeb says this solution was inspired by Dakar bikes.
Making the front and rear tires the same size means you’ll be able to rotate them when the front begins to cup, saving you even more money. This will also make it easy for future dealers to stock common parts.
Jeb says he was inspired by post-war Italian scooters in terms of style, but also simplicity. It used to be that Vespas and their ilk were the simplest, cheapest vehicles on the road, leading to their ubiquity. Combing a retro aesthetic with modern simplicity, Fido brings a touch of the analog to a product which is overtly futuristic. Could such a vehicle be what’s needed to push electric two-wheeled transportation into the American mainstream?
Jeb plans to build five prototypes in order to garner interest then, if enough interest or backing is reached, put Fido into production in his native Seattle. It’s being launched at a party there as we speak.
As seen on KING5 in Seattle
March 4, 2011
This isTheFido, a fully electric scooter, said Gast, Owner of Fremont Motors,as he prepared his new invention for itsdebutat a Seattle coffee shop Friday night.
He said The Fido has a retro style with modern touches like a removable battery you cantake indoors to charge overnight or while at work and a cargo box that turns into a backpack.
There is already a new wave of scooters, gas and electric, that are zooming into local dealerships. All of them are hoping for a piece of the defiant streak that America consumers showed to help end the last great gas price crisis.