Garden Home engineer markets electric scooter as one-of-a-kind transportation device

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Works Electric founder Brad Baker, right, and head of business development William Lambson show off Baker's all-electric motorcycle.When asked how a 32-year-old self-employed engineer could come up with arguably the first reliable commercial-grade electric scooter from a garage in Garden Home, Brad Baker doesn’t miss a beat.

“Because I already did it,” he says with a spirited chuckle. “I’ve been in this game a long time. I’m extremely passionate about it. I’ve developed a personal skill set and turned it all the way into a product.”

Built by Baker’s homespun Works Electric Inc., the “product” is The Rover, an all-electric, foldable, 96-pound personal scooter. Going as fast as 35 miles per hour, The Rover can roam up to 25 miles before needing a charge, which can be achieved with a standard household 120-volt electrical outlet. Built of what Baker calls “aircraft-grade” aluminum, the standard model — whose speed tops out around 25 mph — retails for $4,950, while the faster BR model can be yours for $5,750.

While rules vary from state to state, in most places The Rover is classified as a moped or scooter.

“You can take them pretty much anywhere you can take a bicycle — bike lanes, bike trails and roads with lower speed limits,” he says from his garage workshop off of Garden Home Road. “You have to stay on the shoulder.”

Above and beyond

Baker formed Works Electric in fall 2012 with partners William Lambson and Patrick Marzullo. While he tempers his self-confidence with an engaging warmth and friendliness, when it comes to comparing his invention with the more obvious competition, his enthusiasm can hardly be contained.

What sets The Rover apart from, say, the well-known Segway or Vespa for electricity-fueled personal transport?

“Everything,” Baker says with a dramatic wave of his hand. “This is the only vehicle in this (product) space that is actually reliable and functional. Number one, it’s not stupid. Two, people actually want it. The Rover can go, or has the capability of going, almost two times faster (than a Segway). This is not a toy like an electric bicycle. It’s built for 5,000 miles a year of operation.”

The battery system, he notes, is designed to last around 10 years.

While Works Electric is still in its infancy, Baker, a former engineer with General Motors, has already sold about 30 of the machines, which he builds by hand, assembly-line style, in his garage. Many orders come from tourist-oriented businesses and residents of gated, gasoline-free communities.

“Thirty percent of orders come from those who live in gated communities, where they have to drive golf carts,” he says.

Unlike The Rover, mass-marketed Products such as the Segway or T3 Motion, he argues, simply don’t solve the transportation and issues they claim to.

“They don’t really fall within the class of being portable,” he says, noting the Segway goes about 12 to 15 miles per hour, with a range of about 20 miles. “Our vehicle is legitimate transportation. If you want to go 5, 10 or 20 miles, you can go there — and you can go there quickly. It serves a very definitive function. You can get rid of your car and use this as a primary mode of transportation.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Brad Baker of Works Electric wires one of his all-electric scooters in his Garden Home shop.

With The Rover — which comes with an easily detachable, optional seat — parking is a thing of the past.

“This vehicle, you can take into an elevator, bring it into a condo, fold it up and park it under your desk,” he notes.

A perfect fit

A Cleveland, Ohio, native, Baker met Works Electric co-founder Marzullo, now a Portland resident, in high school. He got to know Lambson, who focuses on the business and marketing end of Works Electric, at a downtown Portland seminar on how to raise funds for startup business ventures.

“We got to talking and have been best friends ever since,” Baker says. “It really jived, and we worked really well together.”

Lambson, 51, whose passion transformed from e-commerce to business development in recent years, agrees there was an immediate complementary connection between the two.

“Historically, I’ve worked with a lot of software engineers and IT folks,” says Lambson, a Lake Oswego resident. “When I met Brad, through our conversations I found he was one of the very few engineers who had a great grasp on business — how to operate different components, sales and financials. He has a really great breadth of knowledge.”

For Lambson, who’s spent time in countries less married to the internal combustion engine than America, The Rover is a product that speaks directly to his instincts about the future.

“I lived in the Netherlands and traveled to places where (fuel) economies are much more efficient than what we’ve had in the U.S.,” he says. “With (The Rover’s) range of 25 miles, I really don’t have to drive my car anymore. And you don’t have to worry about where you put it.”

Fair-weather commuter

The Rover, Baker concedes, may not be for everyone in all places — the rainy Pacific Northwest among them.

“In Portland, if I were talking to a customer who said I’m going to use this exclusively every day, I would probably put the brakes on and emphasize caution,” he says. “If you’re just 2 miles from work, then go at it.”

Drier climates with energy conservation-minded residents — Northern California, in particular — make for The Rover’s most fertile marketing ground.

“Other markets we think it’s going to be very viable,” Lambson says. “In California, there’s a high number of tech-oriented individuals I think would understand.”

While Baker doesn’t rule out the possibility of eventually hitching Works Electric’s wagon to a larger company interested in mass manufacturing The Rover, he vows to keep his product tied to a high-quality, hands-on philosophy.

“The most important thing to me is to deliver a high-quality product and ensure all my customers are happy — every last one of them,” he says. “That’s the most important thing to me. The second is getting this into as many people’s hands as humanly possible.

“I want to run this business.”

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