All-electric Bolt Motorbikes get their start in a Richmond District garage

Bolt Motorbikes founders Nathan Jauvtis and Zachary Levenberg with the Bolt M-1

Like in many neighborhoods in San Francisco, Richmond District residents make the most of their available space. And often that means turning their garages into home offices, a residence, or in the case of Nathan Jauvtis, a workshop where Bolt Motorbikes was born.

The Bolt Motorbikes M-1 is a 100% electric moped, invented by Jauvtis and his co-founder Zach Levenberg. Both of the founders are moped enthusiasts, and met in 2006 as members of Creatures of the Loin, the San Francisco division of the Moped Army that meets up weekly for group rides around the city.

Both are mechanical engineers with a passion for clean transportation. Jauvtis worked a stint at Zero Motorcyles, one of the industry’s leading electric motorcyle companies, and Levenberg worked on one of the first protoypes for Lit Motors, who make an all electric, 2-wheel pod-like vehicle.

Jauvtis first began tinkering with the idea of an electric moped around 2010, spending his nights and weekends building the first prototype which he called “Blackie”, named after the donkey in True Grit.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Jauvtis and Levenberg began collaborating on the project. With funds from friends and investors, they officially started Bolt Motorbikes and got to work on refining the product.

The Bolt Motorbikes M-1 has some impressive stats when it comes to riding around San Francisco. Technically, it’s classified as an electric bike so it does not require a driver’s license to operate (and can even use the bike lane). The Bolt runs off its proprietary lithium ion battery, composed of 160 individual cells encased in two compartments that straddle the frame.

Jauvtis estimates the overall life of the Bolt’s battery is 2000 cycles (25-30 miles per cycle), or 8-10 years depending on usage.

Levenberg holds up the Bolt’s lithium ion battery compartment, which if needed, can be removed for recharging.

On a full charge, the Bolt can travel 25 to 30 miles per day, at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Pretty impressive when you compare it to something like the electric Scoot scooters that you can rent around the city, which only have a range of 5-10 miles on a full charge. (Oh and whatever you do, don’t call the Bolt Motorbike a scooter, as we learned that scooters and mopeds are completely different classes of vehicle.)

The Bolt Motorbike M-1 has two drive modes – economy and sport. In economy mode, you are restricted to a top speed of 20 mph, but your range increases to as much as 50 miles. During testing at the Polo Fields, the Bolt circled the Polo Fields’ velo track for 50 miles at a speed of 20 mph.

When you put it into sport mode, which is technically only allowed when you are driving the Bolt off-road (e.g. not on city streets), the bike has a range of 30 miles and a top speed of 35mph.

Levenberg, a SF native, led us on a test ride through the neighborhood and Presidio just before Christmas. In short, we had a blast. The Bolt was easy to learn (no shifting required) and fun to drive. It’s not a large bike, weighing in at just 140 pounds, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by its heft.

Yet the Bolt feels substantial when you’re riding it. The frame is very solid and the tires are robust – fatter and sturdier than those on a scooter or electric bicycle.

“It’s a great motorbike for women,” Levenberg pointed out, because of its smaller frame and reduced weight.

And it’s no slouch on the city’s inclines. We zoomed up long, steep hills like Battery Caulfield Road just inside the 15th Avenue Presidio gate.

The Bolt is virtually silent, which ironically is what turns heads when you’re out riding around. There’s a little whirring when you accelerate, but otherwise it’s very quiet. When you pull up to a stop sign, pedestrians usually stare because they expect it to sound like a guttural motorcycle but instead, it sits silent.

When we headed out on our test drive, Levenberg said he never goes out on a Bolt without his business cards because inevitably, someone will stop him and ask what that is he’s riding. Sure enough, as we came to a stop sign, a man crossing the street implored us to pull over so he could get a closer look.

Jauvtis and Levenberg debuted the latest version of the Bolt Motorbike, code named Raven (or Darth Vader as we dubbed it), at their moped group’s annual rally last September.

“People loved it,” Jauvtis says. And since then, the two have been marketing the bikes and taking pre-orders for their first production run. “About 150 people have expressed interest.”

The Bolt Motorbikes M-1 sells for $4,995, which isn’t outrageous when you consider that a new (gas-powered) scooter sells for around $3,500.

To fuel the bike, Jauvtis and Levenberg also had to create a custom charger. The standard charger, which comes with the purchase of the Bolt, requires about 5 hours to charge the bike to 100% capacity. If you purchase the charger upgrade (price TBD), you can get to 90% capacity in about 90 minutes.

The Bolt Motorbikes M-1 on a ride near the Cliff House

Once all the parts are in hand, it takes about one day to assemble the finished bike. The duo are always refining the bike and working on add-ons, like a rack to carry extra batteries for those long road trips. They’ve also made the batteries removable so if you can’t charge the bike where you park it, you can take a battery with you to charge inside.

The Bolt Motorbike also has an app that can be used with it. The app connects to the bike via Bluetooth and wirelessly unlocks the Bolt, communicates speed and distance measurements in real-time and then records the data onto a remote server. A phone clamp sits on the Bolt’s handlebars and also includes a USB charger so you can charge your phone off the Bolt’s batteries.

Bolt is still in fundraising mode for its first production run, and plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in early 2015. In the meantime, they love to give test drives to anyone who’s interested. Just drop them a line through their website and tell them the Richmond Blog sent you.

Sarah B.

Bolt Motorbikes founders Zachary Levenberg and Nathan Jauvtis inside their outer Richmond garage workshop


  1. I’m impressed! Love the look and can’t wait to see how she rides! I’m getting myself on their list for a test drive now! Thanks, Sarah B, for the info!

  2. I love supporting an American Dream. Thanks for sharing this great article, Richmond District News!! I love how SF is always at the forefront of awesome green products!

  3. @Grace – Have fun! The guys are great and so is the Bolt!

    @Claire – You’re welcome!

    Sarah B.

  4. I’m on board with any–ANY–mode of transportation doesn’t contribute to the proliferation of the obnoxious motorcycle herds–especially Harleys–thundering along Geary and parallel streets in the neighborhood, esp on weekends. These are great, too, because motorcycle exhaust contributes disproportionately to transportation pollution. I wish these guys much success with their budding business.

  5. I live across Anza from Nate. He and Zach are very passionate, have a killer idea/product and are just great guys! Great neighbors! Hope I can help them out and order up one of their “bikes” some day.

  6. I don’t NEED one of these, but doggone it, I WANT one! So cool.

  7. I think that these young men are filling a need and it appears that they are doing it well.

    I would urge them however to spend some of their development money on getting first rate legal advise on their interpretation of not needing a license. I see clouds on the horizon on this.

    The second thing I would urge them to do is to make sure that their battery pack can contain a fire that starts in the battery pack. Just look at what Boeing is going through with their new aircraft. If there is a short, which would not be surprising in something that can fall down and take an impact, and the battery pack a couple of days later catches fire in a garage….they could be wiped out in the law suits that would no doubt follow.

    Kudos again for the technology. Now watch the legal-business end of things BEFORE moving forward.

  8. If the speed remains at or under 20/mph, then no license is needed. Additionally, I know these guys well and they have researched legalities and tooled the batteries to prevent fires and such.

  9. I know these guys in the neighborhood because they’re always working in the garage. Nate is nicest guy around and smart, too.

  10. Rode one with Nate today and had a BLAST!!! Even in economy mode it still had a lot of power! That plus it was soooo easy to control. People really do stop and stare when they realize that it’s an electric moped.

    We stopped at a red light on Geary and there was a group of workers painting a new crosswalk. Sure enough they started asking questions about the mopeds.

    Flew up a few hills in the Presidio and then back to the garage. It was easily the most fun I’ve had with my clothes *on* in a while ;^}

  11. Quoted from DMV Website https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/motorcycles/motorcycles

    The above Bike does not fall within the definition which removes the need for a licence.
    (1) Can Travel in up to 35 mph
    (2) Law says capable…not when operated in economy mode
    (3) Still need to be registered with DMV

    A “motorized bicycle” or “moped” is:

    A two or three-wheeled device, capable of no more than 30 mph on level ground, and equipped with:

    – Fully operative pedals for human propulsion.
    – A motor producing less than two gross brake horsepower and an automatic transmission.
    – An electric motor, with or without pedals for human propulsion. (CVC §406(a))
    Driver must have a motorcycle license (M1 or M2).

    A “motorized bicycle” is also defined as a vehicle with pedals and an electric motor (not more than 1,000 watts) which cannot be driven at speeds of more than 20 mph on level ground even if assisted by human power. (CVC §406(b)).
    If you operate a motorized bicycle which meets the definition of CVC §406(b), you:

    – Must be 16 years of age or older.
    – Must wear a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet.
    – Are exempt from the motor vehicle financial responsibility, driver license, and moped plate requirements (CVC §12804.9).
    A motorized bicycle is issued special license plates and identification cards, which requires a one-time $18 fee. No renewal is required.

    I am not an attorney and am open to being corrected

  12. Hi Paul.

    Thanks for the thoughtful evaluation. I might be able to clarify a little. The M-1 offered with Economy Mode, does, in fact, meet CVC 406(b). As such, no license, insurance, or registration are required, and it shares all of the same parking and traffic benefits as bicycles.

    The DMV actually needs to update their site. As of 8 days ago, and with many thanks to help from our friends at Scoot Networks, the new electric moped class allows for 30 miles per hour and 4 horsepower. You are correct, a motorcycle license (similar to a driving permit test) and one-time registration is needed.

    Just as any vehicle can be modified to provide higher speed and power, so can the M-1. For those who want to legally ride at higher speeds, Sport Mode allows higher speed and higher power, but is subject to CVC 406(a). Since we develop our software in-house, we have complete control of system dynamics. We can provide the configurations that best meets the needs of our customers

    Finally, while we don’t endorse braking the law, the reality is that people do speed in their cars, despite it being illegal.

    I hope this helps. As a founding inventor, I invite you to come by our shop for a test ride, and I am happy to answer any other questions you may have.


  13. I appreciate the invite but I still believe there is an error. your site says the vehicle can operate up to 35 mph and as such does not meet 406(b) CVC. I don’t live in the Richmond any more but would love to try your bike.

  14. I am all for your green energy transportation. Its Great………….

  15. Nathan,

    I really do like what you are doing. But don’t let that blind you.

    Have you in fact taken the economic hit and paid a Big 5 law firm downtown to research what you are up to in depth. The CIVIL liability that you face may be much greater than you would think.

    If you have not spent in the area of 10 percent of ALL your capital at this point in time on the legal/regulatory end of things…then you are doing the long term health of your enterprise a disservice.

    Talking to others in your field is nice, but it is no substitute for proper legal representation and research. I am not a layer and I hate paying them. But for business it is a necessary evil. I have seen a number of start-ups that went bad by not doing the legal due diligence first.

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