It's a classic story of vision and ingenuity meeting environmental necessity – an electric utility motorbike, built not just to operate sustainably but to leave virtually no impact on the planet even at the end of the bike’s life.

New Zealand motorbike set to storm the world

UBCO, the Tauranga manufacturer of the 2X2 bikes are attracting orders from the US, Australia and Europe and are New Zealand's first electric motorbike production company to mass-produce electric utility motorbikes to an international market.

UBCO TVNZ interview
Watch our episode on UBCO in our Business for Better series, created in partnership with TVNZ Sunday.

Transforming the way people ride, work and play

The 2X2 work bike (an off-roader) and the 2X2 adventure bike (designed for on-road and off-road) are two-wheel-drive, lightweight, silent and capable of commuting needs and can go up to 120km if fully charged. These bikes have attracted global attention, not just for their zero-emissions ability to help combat climate change, but also because the whole bike, even the battery, is recyclable.

Daryl Neal and Ant Clyde (owners) in 2014 recognised there was a need for a planet-friendly vehicle. Since then, the company has grown from 20 to over 100 employees, and are starting to receive orders of up to 1,500 electric utility motorbikes.

Supporting sustainability

That step involved, of course, money – and Kiwibank. Kiwibank got into the UBCO saddle in 2015 at a partnership investment evening, a night Nick Hosking, Kiwibank’s commercial growth manager, remembers well: “I was intrigued. They were taking this amazing sustainable product to the world.”

Hosking’s deep knowledge of UBCO enabled him to develop a specialised banking solution.

With a global distribution model and heavy reliance on investor capital for product and brand development, Hosking knew support needed to be about getting product into the hands of their suppliers offshore.

It’s about mitigating a lot of the painful, day-to-day stuff to let them get on with growing."
Nick Hosking, Kiwibank Commercial Growth Manager

Nick saw the potential in UBCO from the start, not only because he shares their strong sustainability values, but also because he could see the immediate use of a nimble, environmentally friendly machine that didn’t break down.

He understood the motorbike’s attraction for adventure users and businesses, such as pizza delivery companies, and he liked the fact that UBCO’s packaging is fully biodegradable, with the company working to eliminate plastic from the seat and ensure every part of the grunty bike is fully recyclable.

UBCO chief executive Katherine Sandford, who started as an investor, moved onto the board and is now leading the company. Kiwibank, she says, was the only bank interested in UBCO from the very start.

It's been incredible. Nick is as invested in our success as we are, and you can really feel that when he spends time with us. Kiwibank has been a true partner and I think that's the difference we feel, we're part of the same team. Through good times and bad times, they've always been there to support us."
Katherine Sandford, UBCO Chief Executive

While other banks are now interested in the company, Sandford says UBCO counts Kiwibank’s loyalty as one of the reasons to continue their business with Kiwibank. UBCO has its eyes on nailing the US market and an IPO in the next year or two.

The perfect partnership

Kiwibank Head of Sustainable Finance, Tom Williams, says UBCO is a good example of how we support businesses to make a positive impact.

Sustainability is a growing concern for all of us and a major component of the resilience and long-term performance of organisations."
Tom Williams, Kiwibank Head of Sustainable Finance

He says research shows Kiwi businesses need to consider and practise to be long lived. “Licence to operate is important. If you don't do this you're falling behind.”

As a leader in this sector, Kiwibank is committed to mainstreaming sustainable finance and supporting small to medium businesses on their sustainability journey. For example, to achieve objectives to deliver $100m in sustainable finance support by 2023, in September the bank introduced sustainable business loans with preferential interest rates for business banking customers. It has also enabled qualifying business customers to easily calculate their carbon footprint through its partnership with sustainability fintech Cogo.

And the bank aims to provide $2 billion in sustainable finance support to small to medium businesses by 2030.

Kiwibank’s partnership with UBCO is an example of how Kiwi businesses partnering with Kiwibank are at the forefront of innovation and sustainability, Williams says. “They’re inspiring other Kiwi businesses to follow in their footsteps. As leaders in their respective fields, they are making a positive impact on Aotearoa and the world. This truly is business for better.”

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