The Strange Saga of Tidalforce

May 14, 2012

Wavecrest Laboratories was a company that apparently had everything going for it:  deep pockets (see angel investor Allen Anderrson, who reportedly poured $30-40 million into the enterprise),  revolutionary technology,  i.e. an amazingly silent and powerful hub motor developed by a couple of Russian scientists with dozens of patents on it, and top-shelf industry management recruited mostly from the auto industry.


tidalforce police bike

And yet Tidalforce, Wavecrest’s flagship enterprise for showcasing its silent brushless motor technology, had a startlingly short market life—about 18 months by my reckoning, from early spring 2004 to October 2005–in spite of extensive engineering research and design, a fat marketing budget, and a fleet of highly paid executives from the automotive and E-bike sectors.


So where and why did it all go wrong?


tidal force m750

There are many reasons, but a good part of it comes down to a very basic Business 101 failure, namely a lack of sufficient marketing research data and realistic sales projections—in other words, not enough potential buyers to support an enterprise as ambitious as Wavecrest’s.


The E-bike market in the US during the past several years has been noticeably growing, particularly in youth-centric areas like Portland OR, Austin TX, and California’s San Francisco Bay area. But dial it back to eight years ago when Tidalforce first launched, and the picture is much grimmer.


Anyone who’s followed the domestic E-bike industry for more than a few years knows how many bodies have been ditched on the side of the road, from Malcolm Currie to Lee Iacocca’s EV-Global. (Ironically, two of the top executives brought on by Wavecrest president Joe Perry came from EV-Global.) By hitching its wagon to such a small and unproven market niche, Wavecrest almost guaranteed its own premature demise. And then there were the battery problems, which would prove intractable; more on that later…

Wavecrest President Joe Perry looks over batch of hub motors


But the Tidalforce story is a lot more complicated than that—this was not an ordinary garage-born E-bike start-up business. It was a well-funded platform for Wavecrest to show the world its brilliant new brushless motor, and an attempt to penetrate the military and automotive markets, as well as others. It was also a case where the initial investors and hired executives drank their own Kool-Aid…big time…and ignored the fact that their entire business model was essentially one big crapshoot.


Tidalforce m750

Picture this: Allen Anderrson, a successful, eco-friendly Silicon Valley venture capitalist/entrepreneur who years ago had made his initial score selling a small start-up telecom company to Cisco for a cool $20 million, becomes completely enamored of a genius Ukrainian scientist who approaches him with a new groundbreaking silent integrated electric motor/controller capable of possibly powering everything from a bike to a car to a washing machine to a natural gas drill. (side note: it uses optical sensors which can be placed anywhere inside the motor, instead of needing to be near the heat of the magnet/stator interaction, like the common Hall sensors).


With funding from Anderrson’s capital venture firm, Paperboy Ventures, the two scientists and some handpicked executives form an umbrella company dubbed Wavecrest Laboratories in Dulles, VA with executive guidance from Andersson himself. In the end, the company decides that a bicycle motor would be the perfect showcase platform for their motor after registering dozens of patents for the same, and decide the bike division will be called Tidalforce.

Wavecrest’s business plan, such as it was, was this: larger-scale versions of the same motor might be used for powering automobile hybrids, as well as many other applications, and other divisions within the company were set up to explore those markets and do the necessary test engineering.

Hybrid hub motor powered Buggy used as test mule

Wavecrest’s immediate focus was on E-bikes, though, and possibly some military contracts (the holy grail) for the same, specifically for supplying these bikes to our armed forces in Afghanistan.

Here’s the pitch: A bulletproof E-bike so sturdy it can be dropped from helicopters into combat zones, with soldiers able to hop on them and ride silently into conflict zones. Sweet pitch…if you buy it.

The Kool-Aid drinking had begun: Look back at the initial range projections for the small 8-Ah front hub Saft D-cell NIMH battery pack and you’ll see claims of a possible 30-mile range @ 24 mph with no pedaling. Anyone who knows e-bikes and batteries would be very dubious of this claim simply based on the motor’s technical power specifications matched against the battery pack’s published capacity.

tidal force battery goes in front wheel


Army version of Tidal Force at company headquarters


In reality, the 1000W X-motors that Tidalforce was pushing to the military gobble amp-hours like popcorn. When leaned on hard, they will run the little hub battery pack down in as little as 6-8 miles, or 15-20 minutes! In fact, even these estimates may be generous given that the Wavecrest engineers programmed a “high torque” mode into the motors that kicks-in automatically when speeds drop below 6-MPH, doubling the power demands when the bikes are taken off-road or towing a trailer.

I’ve personally seen over 1900W (57A peak) on my CycleAnalyst in this mode on my S750X on the few occasions I’ve taken it off road. The little Saft nickel D-cells in the Tidalforce front hub battery pack are not even close to being capable of these kinds of loads with their 25A factory continuous-draw rating, and would likely shut down within 10-15 minutes of heavy hauling.

But I’m jumping ahead here. Andersson proceeds to hire Wesley Clark, retired Army general and currently a merchant banker/lobbyist with many Washington contacts, to run the company as CEO and push for military contracts, i.e. the “golden egg”. It’s hard to fault AA’s choice here, given Clark’s many connections, along with his army background.

Clark finally does succeed in getting the military to test the bikes overseas, but apparently they don’t cut the mustard. (It’s not hard to picture special ops forces scoffing at these bikes as they struggle to go more than a few miles pulling trailers in the heat and dust of Afghanistan). A few months later Clark is gone from the company in a short-lived bid for a 2004 presidential nomination. Tidalforce’s attempted foray into the military markets appears to be done.

At this point Andersson has sunk a cool $17 million into Wavecrest but decides to double down and continue to look for more investment capital for expansion. AA also retains several highly regarded ex-auto executives to help run that part of the business, even setting up a Michigan office to be close to the industry.


Employment at Wavecrest peaks around this period, with roughly 90 employees and/or subcontractors, and talk of more executives to be brought on board shortly. The cash burn rate at this point must be exploding, but Andersson appears determined to find the right markets for the motors.


Despite its failure to penetrate the military market with its E-bikes, Tidalforce decides to get serious about the retail E-bike business back in the states and starts to set up a dealer network, mostly mom and pop bike shops across the US. Ken Alder of Cycle Dynamics (now River Bicycles) in Glenville, CT is one of the first to sign on, and quickly becomes their top-selling dealer. TF’s flagship M750 with a Montague folding frame and 750W motor is priced @ $3200 MSRP, with an optional “offroad” 1000W X-motor (read road illegal; owners had to sign a waiver acknowledging the same) that is priced $200 higher. Several months later Tidalforce introduces a sportier, slightly less expensive model, the S750, @ $2600-2800, depending on the motor power.

But…back in the salt mines, trouble is looming. The drama level is high given how much is at stake with the success or failure of these bikes. There’s a hush-hush motor manufacturing issue involving a crucial subcontractor that threatens the entire enterprise, then later a factory recall in which it seems the S-bike wheels have been laced at the factory with spokes that are too short and require replacing. Despite the embarrassment, Tidalforce steps up and repairs or replaces all the defective wheels.


Much worse, though, was an earlier ill-conceived marketing decision to also sell the Tidalforce E-bikes through Costco at a deeply discounted price directly to the public, taking the company’s still young and fragile dealer network and cutting it off at the knees.


The results are predictable, and abysmal: not only are the existing dealers apoplectic at this treachery, but Costco sales are almost non-existent! Tidalforce, with much egg on its face, terminates the Costco deal just a few months after it’s been initiated and is forced to make amends with its dealers. Doh!


For all the six-figure salaries being paid these allegedly experienced industry executives in upper management, they appear to be running the E-bike division like a bunch of drunken monkeys. A palpable pall sets in over the bike division every month when they look at their sales numbers. And the other Wavecrest divisions appear to not be pulling their weight as far as landing any contracts and helping the cash flow situation…which is growing dire.


It’s all downhill from here: there’s a second factory recall involving the disastrous auxiliary NIMH battery packs—one California dealer told me every one he sold was problematic—at which point Andersson apparently has had enough and pulls the plug on the entire E-bike business in early October, 2005.


Dealers get virtually no notice that Wavecrest has killed the Tidalforce division and are understandably furious at this second betrayal. Ken, the Connecticut dealer, panics when he gets the call from his (freshly terminated) Tidalforce sales rep that afternoon, and quickly dumps his remaining inventory on eBay deeply discounted, where they sell out within 24 hours. (This writer gets the very last one, a cherry red S750X, at very close to dealer cost, which is delivered with a faulty front rim. That said, the bike is approaching 15,000 miles and the motor has performed flawlessly).


Tidalforce Cruiser made by Matra

Wavecrest eventually sells a dozen or so of its bike motor patents to Matra Sports of France a year and a half later, and spins off the rest of the business to auto-related interests. The much hoped for big auto contract never materializes. Best guess at the money lost is $30-40 million, quite possibly more. Allen Andersson’s big bet had gone bust, adding yet another sad chapter to the history of failed E-bike businesses in the US.

And the military will stick with gassers.

Written and submitted by story editor Larry Hayes

Thanks to Bill Moore of for use of Wavecrest Laboratory pictures in this post.


Here is an example of the  Montague Bicycle (the base for Tidalforce bike) used in military operations:


And here is an example of a newly commissioned Tidal Force being used as a peace maker. Thanks to Joe in SF for this display:


Close up:


Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.

  • Nick

    What a saga. Nice to get the inside scoop.

  • Heather

    I always wondered what had happened to TidalForce. I own an E+bike, a descendant of the Tidal Force bike. When I purchased it in July of 2008 I sensed there was more history to its design & manufacture than I was being told and it wasn’t all positive. I took one test drive & I was hooked. I would take my chances.

    I have been riding the bike consistently for 4 years as a commuter bike and I LOVE it. Thanks for telling us about its history.

    • miro13car

      You own E+ ?
      Socome to EndlessSphere forum and do search for E+ or Eplus
      I posted a lot about my E+

    • miro13car

      There are very few ebike in the world like TF.
      you have to compare to other ebikes out there to figure it out,China cheap motors brands and the best ebikes on other end.
      First which you notice is incredible smoothness of TF , no hint of any cogging.
      Regen kick in is gradual and predictable very smooth.
      Complete silence, remember many NO GEAR hub motors are noisy and I don’t care if wind dumps noise, noise is noise and annoying one if it sounds like accelrating streetcar of electric locomotive. I don’t care if it goes 50km/h if it whines is inferor and annoying.
      It is very hard for any ebike to match TF motor/controller reliability. Of course hub battery was just temporary one. Anybody buying TF back then should know what NMH cells are and start to look for alternative after 2-3 years of ownership.
      Especially that is VERY easy to power TF on any 36V.
      Try this on E+ which is very difficult to adapt to third-party battery but it is possible My thread on ES in EbikeTechnical subforum shows in details how to do it.
      E+ is visually similar, however it is electricaly complete different.
      TF is 7phase motor, E+ is 3phase motor for starter.
      Hudge adventage of E+ is improved efficency at ver least by 10% but I think more.
      Tf problem is that TF throttle is not linear at all and constant “overshooting and backing” of throttle contribute to wasted Wattshours of energy.
      E+ throttle is wonderfully linear and predictable in contrast.
      But E+ regen is abrupt on-off kind of operation not like super smooth TF regen.
      E+ has hints of cogging at highest speeds also.
      You must own and ride both ebikes to see differences which I described not just test ride is not enough.

  • ElectricBIke

    Just added a video showing how montague bikes are used in the military already by paratroopers and such. When you think about it electric drive systems dont make much sense for military guys over a regular bicycle because they are all in amazing shape anyways and dont really need the extra weight, hassle and reliability issues an electric bike brings.

  • Arlene Allen

    Nicely done! I’ve had many people over the years ask me about the bike. I’m glad I had the larger details correct.

  • Mike

    Hey!, I saw my ex-bike in one of the pictures, a m750x, in desert with a picket fence behind it. Was great when it worked. After paying twice to get batteries redone, I sold it and my other ebike too. News article yesterday 6/1/12 about a major Tesla recall for batteries.
    Henry Ford said the only problem with mass-producing e-cars was the battery…
    I was a Tidalforce group member for 3 years and wish you all the best

    • ElectricBIke

      yeah definitely batteries have been and still are the biggest pain in the ass in the whole ebike equation…expensive and finicky. No one has found the perfect battery solution yet for an ebike….all the other technologies are there waiting. Sorry you had to sale your tidal force…give it another two years and battery tech will be here. :)

      • miro13car

        Youre really don’t know that every TF can be powered on any 36V battery????
        Nothing about it in your article
        Treasure of TF is a motor/controller my had run for over 22,000km!!! of course not on hub battery.

        • ElectricBIke


          yeah i know you can use any 36v pack but it is still tough to find a good lithium battery these days without spending good money and even if you do there is no guarantee it will last. A few warrantied packs out there but they are expensive.

          which pack are you using?

          • miro13carr

            I am in process of getting ready to power TF by A123 20Ah 12S pack , they A123 cells are really cheap right now, or you can buy A123 from cell man , 60A is nothing for A123!!!

    • Toyboy

      Mike, was that bike down in Kemah/Galveston? I saw one at The Boardwalk when I was there doing an Extreme Makeover.

  • cheese hed

    Hmm, I’ve heard from 3 ex employees the total loss was closer to 80 million dollars. I guess they don’t divulge information on the failed government defense contracts. Also, was told the total number of bikes sold was 1800!

    Still not comparable to Ultra Motors 100 million dollar loss and sales of about 3500 bikes.

    • ElectricBIke

      Yeah i have heard that 30 million loss was too low an estimate. Your 80 million sounds accurate. Ultra motors lost 100 million on 3500 bikes! Wow…thanks for the insight

  • thebigMoose

    Darn nice article! FYI the Montague bicycle in the military video at the end is now a dead link.

    • ElectricBIke

      Thanks bigmoose…replaced the video with a different one I found. I am not sure why they removed old one…it was a nice video

  • Toyboy

    That bike and trailer was my creation when I worked there. A retired Marine F-18 pilot designed it (Pacasaurus) and his manufacturer built the battery rack to hold up to 3 ammo cans with 6 BU-2590 milspec lithium-ion batteries and a range of 60 miles each. We had SOCOM test it and had one 200+-pound soldier draped over the trailer simulating an injury and another on the seat and the motor would pull both at 12 mph without pedaling..offroad!

    I wanted Worksman Cycles with big heavy-duty parts and a GSA contract but always got lightweight stuff that couldn’t handle the load and chinese manufacturing.

    I tried to get WaveCrest to put their motors in John Deere’s machines so they could put the genset anywhere and run wire to the wheels instead of driveshafts but they wanted Chevrolet’s future with 500 pounds of tourque in each corner of “unsprung” weight.

    • spinningmagnets

      Its my understanding that in WW-One, Porsche made an off-road military cargo hauler for Germany that had trailers with electric hub-motors. I would think a differential with a higher-RPM motor would have been more efficient and powerful, but perhaps off-road ground clearance would be better with hub-motors.

  • Toyboy

    I remember test riding that bike up and down the Old Dominion Trail from West Virginia to Washington DC with a trailer full of car batteries and a recording multimeter strapped to the bike rack so the engineers could review the performance of the motor.
    It would have made a great EMS machine with a litter on a trailer working public events and zipping in/out of crowds. Wanted to get the motor laced into a large standup scooter like the electric Diggler.

  • Ken

    Perhaps the only item missing from this article is prototype automobile made by Wavecrest using the brushless motor. While I cannot find the video, I recall seeing a car on its website driving around in a parking lot. I wonder what happened to this car.

  • David Densford

    I know they had several in-wheel motors built for the Chevy demo. 48V, 600 ft pounds of torque each. They weighed about 150 lbs and remember seeing them in test stands.

    The had a motorcycle, some robots and you saw the Honda Odessey 4-wheel drive thing in the article. That thing was silent but fast.

  • David Densford

    BTW, the Odessey was scheduled to get a JP-8 (military grade diesel) fueled genset that would run electricity through a bunch of AGM batteries under the seat with the concept of running with the generator to the target area then switching off and having a 60-mile tactical range on batteries alone. All you could hear was the rocks crunching under the tires.

  • EM

    I found this bike on Electric Cyclery and it was love at first sight! They are so beautiful compared to virtually every e bike I’ve seen. My elation was immediately met with tragedy when I discovered that these bikes are no longer being made. I couldn’t understand how such a awesome e bike manufacturer could just disappear overnight. Thank you for explaining what happened. I now have closure. Are the E+ bikes (or in wheel battery and motor hubs) still sold anywhere out there???

    • SB

      I’m selling my E+ Tidalforce bike if you’re interested in buying one. 1000 watts 36 volts, super fast. 30mpg+!!

      • kauaikit

        Hello…I’ve got a collection of the older TF ebike & was looking for the limited E+ 2.0 in the folding frame.

        I’m located in S.CA, where are you located?

        Kit (

        • SB

          I’m in LA. It’s not the 2.0 folding frame though…

      • Paul Haskins

        What size frame and what model? I am in LA

      • Gary Shane Kunoth

        What price/money for e-bike?

  • Iman

    I have a 36 volt LE model in blue and I use it often.I redesigned the battery system with three 12 volt gel cells.I purchasd the bike new and found it to be overpriced but I am not sorry.

  • Raybones

    I have a wavecrest bike that needs new batteries in commerce Mi, email at haywood107@aol if interested

  • cafiend

    I built the prototype wheels for three test bikes after an engineer at WaveCrest called to ask if we could transplant his hubs into existing MTB wheels. After I explained how spoke lengths work her handed off the wheelbuilding to me. The hub shells were machined at a shop nearby. That’s why he picked our shop to put together the actual wheels. It was an entertaining project, particularly since it was still shrouded in secrecy at the time.

    • Si D’atteLane

      Hello, I am trying to found out the spoke length for a Wavecrest hub for a typical MTB wheel. Can you help me with that?

  • Jody

    I have one of these as well. My battery is dead though and I don’t know how to charge it. I live in Miami if anyone wants to buy it. Email me at

  • Bdog

    Does this work? Can you see this non-comment i’m writing without logging in or creating a password ect?

    • gonzo


  • Bdog

    Well this site forced my hand to enter my email address but allowed me to post as a guest. I know almost everything posted and understood about Wavecrest/Tidalforce and have seen the changes through the years. If someone needs a helping hand getting there old bike running again I can help.

    Best info I got from reading comments was well the obvious thing, anything obviously good that doesn’t jive with status quo when attached to big business is a instant toast.

    Here we go…

    “I know they (Wavecrest) had several in-wheel motors built for the Chevy demo. 48V, 600 ft pounds of torque each. They weighed about 150 lbs and remember seeing them in test stands.”

    “I tried to get WaveCrest to put their motors in John Deere’s machines so they could put the genset anywhere and run wire to the wheels instead of driveshafts but they wanted Chevrolet’s future with 500 pounds of tourque in each corner of “unsprung” weight.”

    “BTW, the Odessey was scheduled to get a JP-8 (military grade diesel) fueled genset that would run electricity through a bunch of AGM batteries under the seat with the concept of running with the generator to the target area then switching off and having a 60-mile tactical range on batteries alone.”

    “built the battery rack to hold up to 3 ammo cans with 6 BU-2590 milspec lithium-ion batteries and a range of 60 miles each.”

    Combined information= series hybrid years ago that would excel and exceed anything available today in every respect.

  • Bdog

    Last note before I sign out. I remember in my early days of my light weight electric movement interest, a proper study was done about the cost and real planetary effects of using electricity to power or move a bicycle vs. the human powering it alone with the weight savings of no propulsion system. This study was at least 15 years ago (lower tech motors, batteries) and the winner was back then.Don’t peddle! it’s cheaper on the planet to stop peddling save your energy. Filling your belly up with the calories that you will use to pedal is amazingly more expensive than the 5 cents per 20 miles on electric bike. There is more detail and way obvious description of the thuth/reality that I can provide but the truth is just that. True,

  • captainraff

    I had a 750 Montague and rode it quite a bit for 2 years. San Diego has very little rain, yet just city riding going trhrough shallow puddles or wet pavement caused the batteries and motor to fail twice. It was VERY expensive to fix. Grouchy lady at their help center also. THe third time the motor and battery failed, I gave up.

  • cjboutt

    I have a bike that looks very similar and would to replace the front wheel battery with a new one on the rear rack. has anyone done that?