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Chop-e electric 2-wheeler defies easy categorization

This battery-powered, fat-tired, low-slung ride is an odd breed that exemplifies the modern, global entrepreneurial spirit.

The Chop-e electric bike is a low-slung vehicle built by a trio of Estonians.
A Web Summit attendee tries out the Chop-e. Stephen Shankland/CNET

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Is it a bicycle? A scooter? A motorcycle?

The Chop-e electric two-wheeler, shown at the Web Summit here, is an odd duck whose designation "depends on the country" and its regulations, said Dmitri Kovaltšuk, one of the vehicle's three Estonian creators.

In Estonia, for example, the low-slung ride can be treated as a bicycle. Scooters, by contrast, often need headlights, taillights, turn signals and rear-view mirrors that greatly add to the product's complexity and price. "That's why we're trying to stay within the bicycle laws," Kovaltšuk said.

The Chop-e -- at €3,500, £2,700 or $4,400 -- will be too expensive for many folks, but it brings a refreshing, light-hearted perspective to transportation.

The trio of creators -- a printer, a banker, and a mobile phone service salesman -- began the project at the start of April and plan to raise funds on Kickstarter starting in about three weeks to underwrite larger-scale manufacturing, Kovaltšuk said.

"It was a hobby, but more and more it becomes our work," Kovaltšuk said.

The effort shows what's possible in the modern entrepreneurial culture. Starting companies isn't easy, but being able to tap into a global audience through crowdfunding campaigns can sidestep some traditional business barriers.

The Chop-e houses its electric motor in the front wheel. The battery itself is surrounded by a big, fat rear wheel similar to what's in vogue in motorcycles these days. The electric drivetrain powers the Chop-e to 35km/h (22mph) with a range of about 75km (47 miles), Kovaltšuk said. It takes about 3.5 hours to fully recharge the battery.

The bike weighs a hefty 60kg (132 pounds). But moving from prototype's steel frame to production models' aluminum should help cut that to 50kg (110 pounds).

While it's not clear yet whether Chop-e will make it to market, the two-wheeler has found at least one place to thrive: at the Web Summit, where there's a culture of reverence for those with the gumption to start their own companies.

On Kickstarter, preorders will begin in about three weeks. Shipments to European customers are scheduled for March, and to US customers in May.

The company's tagline: "Be the coolest guy in the neighborhood." Kovaltšuk rides his to work.