Bike-Powered Coffee Shops Serving the Mobile Generation and the Environment

February 28, 2015 by

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Step aside Starbucks. There’s a new caffeinated kid on the block and she’s on a roll. With 50 cafés sold to 12 countries in nine months, the world’s smallest but fastest growing coffee chain is coming to a corner, or a curb, near you. Wheelys are CO2 neutral full service bike-powered coffee shops.

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The pedal-powered coffee shop is not a new concept, but Wheelys differentiates itself by offering a turnkey open source café system backed by the strength of a global brand for a fraction of the big franchise startup cost and without the overhead.

I like the branded design but also the philosophy. According to the company, Wheelys don’t “consume anything carbon-emitting, except coffee.” The cafés are powered the by sun (the electric bike’s batteries use solar power to recharge), the proprietor’s own body, and natural butane gas–making them not only CO2 neutral, but possibly carbon negative. And the company hopes to offset the rest by planting trees.

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The Wheelys Freight Crate
As evidence of their commitment to being good environmental stewards, the company’s just unveiled the Wheelys Freight Crate, a storage garage outfitted with solar panels that charge the electric bikes when they are not in use. Along the way, they’d also love to motivate people to recharge their phones from Wheely’s bikes, an idea they hope will push them over to a negative carbon footprint.

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The Perks
In its latest incarnation, the Wheely 2.0 (above) will include many more bells and whistles than the original including a collapsible roof and foldable table. It’s got running water supplied from a 20 liter water tank (supplies 100 cups of coffee so you’d need more water) and a graywater collection tank to capture runoff for reuse–perfect for watering a garden on the way home.

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Gearing Up for Business
In terms of start-up costs, Wheelers will shell out $2100 for one of the simpler models, less than 1% of the price tag for a Starbucks franchise–and the company claims owners can recoup their investment within 20 days. Indeed coffee is one of the most profitable items to sell these days: typically, a cup costs 20 cents to brew but on average sells for $3. Once they take ownership, Baristas can be on the road in no time: the whole thing is easily assembled by a novice in no more than 40 minutes.

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Supply Chain
Wheelys works with suppliers and farmers who share their view on the world and the environment. They currently source their organic free-trade coffee from various vendors, but plan on importing their own soon from Latin America and Kenya. In addition to coffee, the cafés offer soft drinks, fruit, and pastries but encourage owners to add other items of their choice.

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But how is the coffee? I haven’t tasted it yet, but Wheelers contend that their coffee is the best you can get. It’s brewed using a drip-over or a vacuum siphon brewer invented in Berlin in the 1830s, an environmentally friendly method that uses no electricity, only eco-ethanol.

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Covering New Grounds
To bring his brew to the streets, Founder Tomas Mazetti, a former ad agency lead guy, assembled a team of creatives from the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery, folks who learned the ropes at Scandinavia’s globally known brands like IKEA and H&M. These coffeepreneurs have taken what they picked up from the big guys, poured in some successful crowdfunding and guerrilla advertising, and rolled out Wheelys “for a mobile generation on the move.”

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In addition to their native Sweden, there are currently six Wheelys in Wisconsin, several in Denmark, Canada, Chile, Sweden, Germany, Singapore and Jordan. They expect to be on the ground soon in Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey, Japan and they’re in the midst of forming a collaboration in India.

It’s 3pm. You’re feeling that afternoon slump and crying out for a cuppa joe. Just do a Wheely.

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Interested in more bike stuff? Check out guerrilla gardening by bicycle; a reclaimed bike repurposed as a fountain; urban hacktivism: bike wheel bench; a vertical garden made with bicycle wheels; a floating urban farm whose produce is distributed by bike; gardening on a bike for the horticulturlly mobile;  an auto-free Danish community that does it all by bike.

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