When it comes to suppliers of electric bicycle parts, there are two main groups: 1) North American suppliers that offer good quality and service but with high prices or 2) Asian suppliers that offer much cheaper prices but with lower or at least unreliable quality and service.
EM3EV is the love-child of the two, an Asia-based ebike parts supplier that offers reasonable prices while still providing high quality parts and service that can normally only be found in the western world.
EM3EV was created by Paul (also known as cell_man on the Endless Sphere ebike forum) and supplies many different ebikes parts, from complete hubmotor and mid drive kits to custom made batteries to modified chargers and high quality controllers. Every few weeks it seems there’s another new part up on the site. And that’s the way EM3EV started out: growing organically from a small operation.
It all started a few years ago when Paul moved to China. He saw that ebikes were everywhere and wanted to learn more. That was back in the early days of the Endless Sphere forums (check out my article showing you how to use the Endless Sphere forums here) and Paul began posting on the forums and learning more about the technology.
Living in China, he had a front row seat (and easy access) to all the different emerging ebike technologies from motors to batteries and everything in between. Back then battery cells from a company called A123 were hard to come by, but Paul managed to find a supplier in China and he used a sizable chunk of his life savings to purchase a pile of 20AH cells, which he sold for just a small profit to the battery-hungry market in the west.
And a star was born.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but that was essentially Paul’s first steps into the ebike parts vendor world. As he put’s it:
We did not build batteries initially, but we were asked and I’d always seen myself as a bit of an Engineer, so I started building batteries, although making a pack from the pouch cells is not particularly easy. Then I started selling a few kits we brought in, bought a small spot welder to build packs from cylindrical cells. We started doing our own wheels and putting kits together from the component parts. We had one lady that helped me initially, then slowly got more help and learned as we went along.”
Paul is allowed to fancy himself as an engineer. After all, the guy is well educated. He holds a B.Eng. in Electroacoustics (or as he described it to me, “basically acoustics with lots of maths and electronics”) as well as a M.Sc in Marine Geotechnics (which he was again kind enough to explain to me in simpler terms, describing it as a combination of “Geotechnics, Geophysics, Underwater Surveying and various other stuff related to Marine Sciences”).
One might wonder how he got from Electroacoustics and Marine Sciences to ebikes, which is an interesting story in and of itself. Paul actually left school early at the age of 17 and began an apprenticeship in general engineering while studying as a full time college student. His childhood interest in audio systems led to his studying Audio Engineering and his eventual degree in Electroacoustics. After finally leaving full-time studies at age 26, he worked in marine electronics and traveled the world repairing ship and shore based marine electronic systems. Paul spent a lot of time working in Korea and China, where he met his future wife and eventually followed her to Shanghai. You know, basically your textbook fairytale love story.
So that brings us full circle. It also perhaps explains EM3EV’s commitment to quality, service and support.
Having grown up in the western world, Paul was quite familiar with the service expected by his customers, and at the same time he was aware of the major lack of service and support provided by most other China-based ebike parts vendors. To let Paul describe his reputation for such high level of quality and support in his own words:
It is not something that was particularly planned, but it was always a complaint that I had heard about many suppliers and manufacturers, so yes from the beginning, I suppose I did always try my best. I’ve always tried to be fair. If it’s our fault, it’s only right you should get it put right and do whatever you reasonably can to fix whatever problem you are presented with. In the early days it was very hard on some occasions, to foot the bill when a problem occurred. When money is short and you are just starting out, when you can’t even get parts back, it is hard and it is hard to see the bigger picture. You just need to figure these costs in and get on with it and just understand you will sometimes lose, but hopefully not too often. In my experience, the vast majority of people are reasonable and fair if they feel you are making a reasonable effort.”
Search the internet for EM3EV reviews and you’ll find people gushing about how their battery has been going strong for years, their motor never complains, and their charger is bulletproof. Sure, there are occasional instances of a product defect, but even then the reviews show how Paul handles repairs and replacements quickly and at his own cost. It’s simply the way a vendor should act. Period.
In addition to treating his customers well, Paul also treats his employees and staff well too. Salaries are some of the highest for this work in China and he routinely goes above and beyond in other ways. For example, one of the downsides of being in Shanghai is the poor air quality. Paul had air filters installed at home as well as in his office, but felt bad leaving out his workers, so he had air filters installed in all the work areas as well. His is one of the few factories in China with filtered air!
Air pollution might be one of the downsides to working in China, but there are many advantages that helped EM3EV achieve its status as a well respected supplier. Most ebike components are manufactured in China, which means that being close gives them easier access to that supply. There is also a lot of good quality, domestically produced machinery and equipment available in China, and by buying carefully Paul has been able to set up a well equipped factory (including a full size 8-tool changer CNC router, a high output spot welder with a CNC table, a 40-ton die press, electronics and battery testing equipment, a Morizumi spoke cutter/threading machine and more).
Collecting all that equipment meant that Paul’s factory has had to grow and move over the years, including moving into a new factory in late 2014. As Paul describes it, the place is a major upgrade from the smaller and shadier place they were in for the last few years, which itself was a step up from working out of his home in the beginning!
Being located in China also means Paul has quick access to parts and supplies when needed. If a customer has an issue, Paul can be on the phone with the company and get a replacement part shipped out quickly. North American suppliers are often stranded for weeks or months by the physical and language barrier that prevents speedy business.
Of course, there are also downsides to the location, and more than just the air pollution. Those replacement parts that Paul can get so quickly usually cost a small fortune to ship. A $3 part can cost $20 to mail across the ocean, all at Paul’s expense. Ever the resourceful vendor though, Paul has been working on improving the situation. By developing a network of dealers around the world, he has been able to provide even speedier service by using local dealers as forward operating bases. This plan is still in its early stages of implementation, but I expect it to pay off well for everyone involved.
One iconic product from EM3EV has been their triangle bag (which I will be posting a more detailed review of soon). The EM3EV triangle bag is considered one of the best in the industry, and it’s development shows Paul’s commitment to quality parts at reasonable prices. He originally started out using another commercially available triangle bag to house the batteries he was building, but wasn’t entirely happy with the design. So he started working on some improvements and changes to create a better product. He met a good Taiwanese bag manufacturer and the two of them worked out a great designed that turned into the triangle bag we know and love today.
But Paul didn’t stop there! He is still working on a new design for a second smaller bag for lower capacity batteries that has some more planned improvements over his original design.
Paul get’s kept pretty busy. In fact, pretty much the only complaint I ever hear about EM3EV is that he isn’t quick enough to respond to emails and inquiries. I know there are only 24 hours in the day and that Paul can’t do everything, but this is one area where I do hope to see some improvement.
In the meantime, Paul’s next step is to continue investing in his company and expanding the capabilities of what they can do.
We’ve put a lot back into the business and we have big things underway with the way we will be producing our batteries in the near future. I wanted to have the equipment to do things in-house, instead of trying to outsource. It is difficult getting things done in small or moderate quantities in China, so I’d rather we do it ourselves, and then we also develop our own expertise. We already do things differently, with [regard to] the level of care throughout the assembly. Once all the new features and techniques are introduced into our packs, I am confident to say that there will be nobody else doing battery packs quite like us and certainly not in fairly small quantities with specialized shape and design. However, the primary driving force behind the changes is safety, we want to make the safest possible battery we can.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it is done.
Check out Paul’s e-shop at www.EM3EV.com where you’ll find not only the products he sells, but also a lot of info to help educate customers and help them find exactly what they need for their specific projects.