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New Zealand Military Battle-Lab Tests UBCO 2WD E-Motorcycle

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New Zealand-based UBCO started building its first electric utility motorcycle, the 2X2, just a few years ago, but it’s quickly gaining traction around the world. Originally designed for farm use, the lightweight street-legal, go-anywhere e-bike is currently being used for everything from hunting and delivery work to helping rangers patrol the rugged terrain of California’s Catalina Island.

In recent news, the 2X2, with its interchangeable power packs and copious accessory mounting points, is being battle-lab tested for military use by the New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF). All branches of the Kiwi military are said to be considering enlistment of the stealthy, sustainable machine, specifically for use in reconnaissance and surveillance missions that would take place in the country’s notoriously rugged territory. 

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And this little bike might have just enough chops to get the job done. A swappable 48Ah, 50V battery powers the two 1kW hub-drive motors, which split power 50/50 between the front and rear wheels. Suspension consists of a custom single-crown MTB-style fork delivering 130mm of travel while dual rear shocks offer 120mm. Preload, compression and rebound are adjustable at both ends.


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Electric bicycle-spec hydraulic disk brakes slow the 144-pound (65 kg) machine, which has a step-through style frame like a Honda CT trail bike. With no clutch, transmission or emissions to worry over, one is left to contemplate distance vs. weight and temperature and terrain. UBCO claims the 2X2 offers a 78-mile (120 km) maximum range, though if you’re not swapping batteries, a full charge requires 6-8 hours on household current. 

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There is a governor that imposes a 30 mph limit, so no movie-style chase scenes for these camo-clad Kiwis, but speed is not meant to be this bike’s strong suit. Instead, it’s about the tractability afforded by a 2WD motorcycle that lets a rider make very controlled – and silent – maneuvers.

Other advantages the e-utility bike has over a fueled vehicle is it doesn’t give off exhaust or heat and isn’t powered by flammable liquids. They are simple to maintain and onboard computers will be able to record a range of information about how the bike is used. In fact, there’s an app consumers can download that turns their smartphone into a dashboard. 

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“I think technology has changed dramatically over the last five years,” says LtCol Brad Gallop, Land Combat Group Lead, Capability Branch, New Zealand Defence Force. “EV is an emerging technology that we need to look at…to see how applicable it is on the battlefield.” 

For UBCO’s part, having the armed forces put the 2X2 through its paces is a huge advantage, allowing the company to rapidly learn how the bike operates under extreme conditions. “Globally, defense is a very controlled industry, so this collaboration is hugely valuable” says Timothy Allan, CEO of UBCO.

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In the meantime, if you want to learn more about how UBCO’s 2X2 works for civilian use, check out this review written by adventure rider and veteran motorcycle journalist, Justin Dawes. Also make sure to check out UBCO’s latest endeavor, the FRX1 Electric Trail Bike, basically a 50-mph mountain bike.

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Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

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