was anchored in suburbia for years," says Eric Sundin, of his time as the owner of an international shipping company, "before I finally understood that if we're going to make any headway with our transportation, we need to stop driving around all the time. It just seemed to me that the bicycle was near perfect for this. Except for arriving at work perspiring."
It was ideas like this that led Sundin to undertake a minor personal revolution. He sold Sunmar Shipping, downsized from a McMansion amidst malls to a simple Craftsman home in Seattle, traded an hour-long drive to work for a 1.5-mile bike commute, and in 1997 began peddling the no-sweat solution to America's transportation problem: electric bikes.
Sundin's shop, Electric Bicycles Northwest, is now one of the largest EB importers, testers, and retailers on the continent. And sixty-year-old Sundin has sold more than 1,000 EBs personally, a record in America's modest 15,000-units-per-year industry. Sundin stocks nine different makes, each with a slender rechargeable battery built in above the pedals, which lets a commuter crest steep hills or hit 20 miles per hour on the flats without emitting a single puff of greenhouse gases.
His four-employee, five-year-young business earned only $400,000 in revenue last year. But Sundin isn't sweating it. "Frankly, if it is going to be a huge commercial success, I'm not sure I particularly care," he says. "I need this business to pay for itself, but I enjoy it because the bikes seem to enrich customers' lives. And coming into the shop every day is a little bit of activism."