British Columbia

Thief takes off with UBC engineering team's $5K electric bike project

The ThunderBikes design team is hoping their $5,000 custom e-bike can be recovered, so they can continue working on it and compete at an electric bike race in the summer.

'We would just like it back, no questions asked,' says captain of ThunderBikes design team

The MK3 is seen loaded onto a bike repair stand on at the Bike Kitchen during one of the ThunderBikes team build days. (Bhargav Thoom)

It's the third version of an electric bike that UBC engineering design team ThunderBikes has assembled, suitably named the MK3. 

ThunderBikes captain Bhargav Thoom said it has taken the team countless hours and about $2,000 in materials to build — but on Sunday, after he left it locked up outside the UBC residence Place Vanier, it was stolen.

"At this point, we would just like it back, no questions asked," said Thoom, a third-year mechanical engineering student. "We just want to continue to work on what we're passionate about."

The bike was nearing completion — it was rideable, but there was still work being done on the electrical components. Thoom and his 10-person design team had planned to take it to an electric bike festival this summer.

The idea was to race it to see how it stacked up against some of the electric bikes on the market.

According to Thoom, the bike would cost about $5,000 to replace — which the team doesn't have — and it's unlikely the ThunderBikes would be able to get the job done in time for the summer competition.

Bhargav Thoom (left) and Davin Birdi work on a bicycle at the UBC Bike Kitchen, a cooperative shop on campus. (Vittorio Ciccone)

This year's goal was to figure out the technology on an electric bicycle, he said, before taking on a more ambitious electric motorcycle project next year.

Thoom said he and the team didn't have a dedicated space to work on the MK3 project, so they would handle some of the bicycle components at the campus bike shop, a cooperative called the Bike Kitchen, and some of the other parts in different work spaces.

He was storing the bike in his dorm room most of the time.

Jeremy Suhan, service manager at the Bike Kitchen, said he had helped the team with things like setting up hydraulic brakes on the MK3.

"It's super disappointing to hear that their project has been stolen and that they're not going to be able to work on that one with us anymore," said Suhan.

"A lot of the stuff [Thoom] is doing, e-bike related, he's taking on all the specific components on his own, and we're helping him with a variety of other mechanical support," said Suhan, adding that bike theft is a major problem on campus.

"It's a huge drag," he said.


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