Housed in an unmarked space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Tarform—a futuristic electric motorcycle—stands in stark contrast to its traditional, rough-and-tumble fellow two-wheelers. Its key, resembling a stone, brings a round screen display to life with a soft glow. Its brushed metal body and handsome leather seat harken back to an open-air Hughes H-1 Racer, though injected with a certain modernity. Its engine doesn’t rumble. Instead, it purrs as it runs on an entirely electric power supply.
Each piece of this handsome, minimalist creation has been five years in the making, spearheaded by founder Taras Kravtchouk. A native of Stockholm, Sweden, Kravtchouk spent the first half of his career working for a digital design agency, a job where he ultimately felt unfulfilled. “When we were working with tech start-ups, the promise was always that we’re going to create a platform that’s going to change the world,” he recalls. “But at the end of the day, it was just another productivity app or social media app, and it felt like there wasn’t enough of a contribution to things that actually mattered, especially when it came to the state of the world’s environment and carbon emissions. So I felt that this was a mission I wanted to attack, and why not approach it from a mobility standpoint?”
Coupled with his penchant for working on his own motorcycles, including a stripped-down 1982 Yamaha and a Triumph Scrambler, Tarform was born after a day spent getting his hands dirty. “Whenever I worked on my own bike, I just remember there was oil and gas everywhere, and I looked around and thought, ‘Look, I love working on this thing, but surely this has to be a dying technology.’”
The goal of Tarform isn’t just to tout its zero emissions but to reinvent how the motorcycle as we know it is built and assembled from the ground up, focusing on a noticeably minimalist approach. “Scandinavian design is known for its philosophy of reducing a form to its essential proportions,” he says. “So, it felt natural for me to follow similar principles when designing the Tarform. The idea was to capture the essence of a motorcycle and convey the elegant form of a two-wheeler in as few lines as possible.” With this comes a careful consideration of the origin and life cycle of each piece that makes up its design. “Yes, we build them to last, but what happens to them at the end of their life?” Kravtchouk adds.
The largest pieces of the bike, its side panels, are crafted using a natural fiber weave made using flaxseed as opposed to a resin or plastic, making them fully biodegradable. The seat, usually cut in vinyl, is rendered from the fruit cellulose found in mango or pineapple and lined with natural tree sap and coconut fibers. Even the bike’s sound, a convincingly petrol-powered hum, is brought to life by amplifying the extracted frequencies emitted by the electric motor, much like an electric guitar.
The motor itself is meant to evolve, too, rather than what Kravtchouk and his team refer to as “planned obsolescence,” in which a model of anything—a car, motorcycle, even a phone—becomes outdated in three to five years. In contrast, the Tarform battery can be removed and upgraded as improved chemistry enters the market.
Altogether, it’s a triumph in thoughtful construction, with the first set of wheels having hit the streets in mid-April. The first round of 54 arrived in the driveways of its earliest adoptees, with the hopes of sparking a curiosity among seasoned riders and newcomers beyond this tight-knit community. And Kravtchouk and his engineers don’t plan to stop there. “Our vision is not just to build motorbikes but to look at mobility as a whole,” he says. “We want to design beautiful, thoughtfully produced, zero-emission machines across multiple terrains, from land to sea to potentially air. Obviously it’s a big mission, and it’s going to take a while for us to get there.” But, he adds, “it doesn't matter if it’s five, 10, or 15 years—as long as the direction is right.”
- Images courtesy of Taras Kravtchouk