The Karmic Oslo is the electric love child of a bike and a scooter


Karmic has been making electric bikes with mid-drive motors and bolt-on batteries for around four years. I haven’t gotten a chance to test one yet, but they appear to be decent bikes with good specs aimed at city commuters. On Tuesday, the Bay Area-based company veered in an interesting new direction with the release of a Kickstarter campaign for its next vehicle, the Oslo.

At first glance, the Oslo looks like a slimmer version of those fat-tired, pedal-less, sit-down e-scooters that have begun to pop up in cities around the world. (Think Portland’s Shared scooters.) Unlike those scooters, the Oslo has pedals and a more compact frame.

Those pedals are important, too. They allow Karmic get away with calling the Oslo a Class 2 e-bike, which means it’s got a throttle on top of its pedal-assisted top speed of 20 mph. “We expect most [people] to use the throttle,” said Hong Quan, CEO of Karmic, in a Twitter direct message.

The Oslo has a 480Wh battery, which allows it to get up to 20 miles of range per charge. Karmic has got an eye-popping 960Wh optional extended range battery under development, too, Quan said. With its aluminum frame and thermoplastic bodywork, the whole vehicle tops out at 20 kg (44 pounds), which is lighter than most e-bikes but also less powerful.

The whole look is designed to be cleaner and more approachable than most e-bikes. Gone are those dangling cables and greasy gears. The Oslo is what it would look like if Apple designed e-bikes. “This isn’t your typical cookie-cutter e-bike coming out of the same factories with different brand logos slapped on,” Karmic says in a press release.

Is Karmic pivoting away from normal-looking e-bikes with the Oslo? “Even though there have been great advances in electric vehicle technology, e-bikes have remained largely the same,” the company says in its press release. “The great ones are prohibitively expensive and the affordable ones are questionably built. In spite of everything out there, we believed that the best electric bike had yet to be built. So we built it.”

Karmic is raising money through Kickstarter to get the Oslo off the ground, which comes with its fair share of drawbacks. Crowd-funding for product launches, especially complicated products like e-bikes, is a lot harder than it sounds. Crowdfunded gadgets are sometimes delayed for months or years, and in some cases, they never ship at all. When asked why Karmic was going that route, Quan replied cryptically, “Long story, but VCs and sScooter startups have no conviction.”

If you’re worried about that, though, Karmic uses standard bike parts for most of the Oslo, so it should be easy to get serviced. It also comes with a standard two-year warranty as well as a lifetime warranty on just the frame.

I’ve long believed that the current e-scooter craze is just a precursor to the imminent appearance of weird new electric vehicle types and shapes. A variety of cargo bikes and mini-trucks that are e-bikes in disguise are hitting the market. For last-mile solutions, adding a seat seems like a no-brainer, especially if we want to get the elderly and people with leg sensitivities out of their cars and on to more sustainable modes of transportation. The Oslo could be a way to do all that — with a dash of style.

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