Interview: The Future of Safety ‘ware with Jay Giraud
Damon Motors' CEO Talks Snowboards, Safety Tech, and Sneak Peeks of the Coming Season
Jay Giraud next to the Damon HyperFighter. Media sourced from the team at Damon Motor Ltd.
To any and all who advertised adulthood as ‘boring:’ Y’all lied through your teeth – and sapiens like Giraud here provide proof of my testimony.
From professional snowboarding to pioneering new safety tech for EVs, Damon Motors’ CEO Jay Giraud has been cultivating his own flavor of success, hanging up his pro board to freestyle in the wondrous world of ‘ware ever since.
Having founded Damon Motors Inc. in 2017, the first electric bike to launch into public view was the award-winning ‘HyperSport™’ – an innovative machine revealed at 2020’s CES to carry a 250lb battery and house unique tech like the company’s HyperDrive™ powertrain, CoPilot™ system, and Shift™ technology.
I’ve rarely met somebody so keen on realizing ALL goals and passions in the same lifetime; of course, with the right drive, any level of success is possible – and, if you’re lucky, that descent into endless potential morphs into something truly revolutionary…
Something like manifesting a better tomorrow for the global bike markets of today.
We’re about to get a front seat to the scaling story of a lifetime, so pick a cozy chair and let’s see what Damon’s innovative CEO is all about.
Tell us how you got into motorcycles.
So I actually started my career in snowboarding, believe it or not.
I was a professional freestyle snowboarder when I was 20; I moved to Whistler, BC, and became one of Canada’s top snowboarders – competing in Halfpipe, Big Air, all that stuff.
Fast forward a bit, and I’m selling motorbikes for Honda – I’m running the dealership all because I wanted to get into motorcycling, haha!
It was after that that I founded my first tech company, Rev, in 2008. We made electric SUVs and pickup trucks. 2008 gas prices had just hit an all-time high in the world, and all the big OEMs were talking about peak oil. What we made was a hot commodity; we were selling $200,000 SUVs to the military that were 100% electric, so we did very well.
I guess that means I’ve been driving electric vehicles for 14 years.
The orders keep rolling in for Damon Motors Inc., yet some doubters remain. What do you say to win them over when so few have ridden Damon’s bikes?
Short answer, we don’t say anything.
People will come along when they’re ready; some will never come along, and that’s totally okay. I have nine gas motorcycles and zero electric ones, and I’m not selling my gas bikes just because I get a Damon, you know?
Gas motorbikes are still really fun for a bunch of reasons; they’re diverse. Sure, maybe I’ll put less gas in them at the current prices, but at the end of the day, people can be whatever they want to be.
I heard a great saying on this: A really great brand is both loved and hated. If you’re doing things right, [a brand] should evoke that kind of juxtaposition of attitudes and opinions – and the Damon lovers will do their own selling for us the same way every Tesla client has for the many, many, many Tesla haters out there.
Bottom line, the naysayers can do their thing all day long. It doesn’t stop the orders coming in, and it’s never stopped us from realizing Damon’s goals.
When will the first Hypersport customer receive their Damon?
We’re targeting to get early bikes out next year by 2023, starting with California – but before any of that can happen, we have challenges we’re surmounting.
The pandemic, raw material issues – all of this is affecting automakers all over the world, including Damon Motors; even still, those problems aren’t as big as the speed of attracting capital.
So far, we’ve raised about $50 million, but we’ve got a lot of stuff to pay for. It does slow things down.
California consists of about 25% of our global orders, so we’ll start there and move on to other areas with high concentrations of customers, working our way out.
How will Damon support their products post-delivery?
I like this question.
Let’s tackle the biggest part of maintenance for an EV: Software.
Keep in mind that Damon Motors can flash software updates wirelessly because we’re internet-connected. If we make a comparison for projective purposes and look at Tesla’s maintenance calls, a super high percentage – something like 90% – are software-related. Damon’s OTA (over-the-air) updates make this main problem easy to handle.
Ever read that story about the 500,000-ish Teslas being recalled for software issues? It was so misleading for that number to go viral because every recalled vehicle got a software update a night later, and the problem was gone.
Tesla fixed the problem in people’s driveways while they were asleep, and I believe that’s the future of electric vehicles.
Today, the word ‘recall’ comes from the memory of physically moving something back to a dealership – not the most convenient of processes. If there IS a real problem with one of our bikes, we’ll fix the problem in the driveway. Every company has hardware tweaks out the gate, so when the time comes, we’ll just roll up with a van, and if the day is rainy, the bike goes into the van, gets repaired, comes back out, and you’re done.
We’re actually working with a nationwide distributor – a rolling repair company – that does electric vehicles in Canada and the US…we haven’t announced anything yet, though. 🙂
You mentioned you don’t expect ICE riders to switch until EV performance is on par or better. Tell us more about how Damon is tackling this for recharge time.
…So recharge time right now is about 30 minutes at any public Level 3 DC rapid-charging station/Tesla supercharger station, which means you’re charging up at around 4.4 miles per minute…but these figures are for a machine that’s stone dead. People tend to go to about 20%, 25% available energy before they roll back home, which means you’re putting recharge time around 20 minutes (1.5-2 hours if you need to charge at home).
We’re already going to be the fastest rapid-charged electric motorcycle on the market by far – nor do we want to charge extra for that benefit. It’s built it into the bike, so it’s yours.
Swappable batteries are an increasingly common thing in super-urban communities. Do you think Damon would ever consider mobile battery designs?
I’ll show you something if you don’t screenshot it… 🙂
So a third of the weight of our bike is the battery. This is one of the new decal designs we’re working on. As you can see, Damon’s energy bank is a c-shaped battery that rounds about the center there; the thing weighs about 250lbs and holds seven ECUs.
Modular batteries, by contrast, have to be light enough that a hand can pick it up; that means the current constraint is 25 pounds of swappable battery. That’s one-tenth of our battery’s weight, getting you only around 30, 40 kilometers per charge – a vast difference.
It’d be interesting seeing what recycling of batteries would look like for that model – there will definitely be an increased manufacturer of the batteries, too.
Demo rides/visits for PR teams in the near future?
2023 is the current aim for media test rides.
I’ll be personally going down to a track in California to test that bike before we can open it up to the media – and, eventually, the public.
Anything new we might be able to share with our avid readers?
Why don’t you give them your opinion of what I showed you? 🙂
The view I got of the HyperSport was a little unexpected; in hindsight, Damon’s lean to a track-oriented mindset makes sense, but I wasn’t expecting such utter dedication to the supersport genre.
What Jay showed me was a final production that launched itself toward ‘race-ready;’ she’s obviously more ‘aerodynamic’ than we understood, and I may or may not have seen winglets on the thing…
Beyond the aerodynamic tweaks and winglets, I can’t see any other big details that could point me closer to the circuit; wheels are generic for the genre, and Damon’s footpegs and handlebars are adjustable per their SHIFT™ tech, so we’re going to have to wait until Jay bursts that particular bubble of mystery in 2023.”
Is the present-day Damon anything close to what you expected in the beginning days?
It’s 100% exactly what we expected.
In 2016, a year before I founded Damon, I wrote about what Damon would be like in 2025 in excruciating detail.
I used words like ‘rabid followers,’ ‘massive amounts of evangelism,’ and ‘moving from this type of bike to that type of bike’ – where the bike would be popular, what kind of connectivity it would have, what the user experience would be like. All of that’s written in the Damon 2025 Vision.
The crazy thing is that I and my co-founder Domini, we both reflect back when we have time to think, and we’re like, holy shit. We talked about using virtual reality to test collision warning algorithms, and by 2018 we had virtual reality, and we were testing collision warning algorithms – not just standing there with goggles, but sitting on a physical motorbike simulation that you can physically lean and the bike physically vibrates when there’s a car that you have to avoid.
We built all that based on a cool ‘what-if’ dream in 2017 – but by the end of 2018, we had it….not without enormous amounts of hardship, but yeah. It’s precisely what we thought it would be.
What are your future goals for Damon – both as a bike brand and a safety tech company?
Well, I was plugging a lot of things on purpose earlier; as you know, we have $90 million in orders; what you might not know is that we need to get to a million units by 2030 – and a million units isn’t such a tiny drop in the bucket.
The big focus is to help out other industries, other economies. We want to get all ships to rise with the tide, so to speak – to be a leader.
Of course, these goals come with challenges of their own; when you have something no one else has, no matter how small you are, all of the incumbents are forced by nature to be compared with the thing they don’t always have; believe it or not, people compare Damon to Honda all the time now because they ask, ‘if I can get a safer motorbike from Damon, why can’t I get a safer motorbike from everyone else?’
An article was recently put out on how the government of Indonesia plans to have 2 million EVs on the road by 2025 and around 13 million by 2030. That sounds aspirational and huge, but this country is entirely dependent on motorcycling. This is a country whose air quality is about as bad as it gets, but it beats China and India in terms of a higher economic average for buying bikes.
Markets like this are why we’ve got our partnership with Auteco Mobility in Latin America…and we have another partnership that we haven’t announced yet, with more that we wanna build on where, one day, all of our safety tech will be on everybody’s motorcycles.
We want a safer future for everybody – it’s why I do what I do.
*All media sourced from Giraud’s team at Damon Motors Inc. A big thank you from the WBW gang for your time, and stay safe on the twisties y’all!*