To lazy to ride up that hill? Get an electric bike!

Jorgemonkey

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Not bad, the battery on this bike weighs as much as my SS!

From SJ Mercury News:

Like a lot of people, Brian Howell is concerned about the environment. So, when Howell's Acura Integra died last January, he started shopping for a Toyota Prius.

But Howell, who has degrees in physics, mathematics, material science and engineering, found the Prius a disappointment. He wanted a car that didn't rely on the petroleum that roils international politics and threatens the global environment.

What he wanted, he said, was an electric car.

When Howell couldn't find one, he purchased an electric bicycle and began commuting seven miles from his home in Belmont to his job as a Sony engineer in Foster City.

``I was always planning on buying a car, but I was addicted to these (electric) bikes,'' Howell said. ``They're easy to operate. They allow you the convenience of a motorcycle. They give you exercise and fresh air. It has radically changed my life.''

Last year, as gas prices soared, congestion worsened and concern for the environment heated up, more commuters began to leave behind their cars. Sure, many have wised up to public transportation, but some were wooed by light electric vehicles -- a broad range of contraptions that don't putt-putt-putt so much as zoom-whir-zoom. The field is broad, including scooters, pedicabs, Vespa-like motor scooters and even miniature cars.

For many, electric bikes are the gateway into the LEV world, but why is the two-wheeler so popular?

Rob Means, founder of Electro Ride Bikes & Scooter in Milpitas, has a simple explanation.

``More smiles per mile,'' he said.

Means, who sells a wide selection of the electric bikes and do-it-yourself kits out of his South Bay home, said electric bike sales are increasing because it's a safe way for fed-up commuters to test the waters without risking too much money.

Bicycles, he said, are familiar, easy to use and ``if you run out of juice, you just pedal home.''

The benefits of an electric bike, Means said, are economic, environmental and health-related. Despite its sticker price -- his range from $800 to $1,500 -- that's nothing compared to the yearly cost of owning an automobile ($7,834, according to AAA). Less money spent on fuel means less carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide to harm the air quality, and the health benefits of exercise are self-evident.

The arguments, coupled with technology advances, have driven multiple manufacturers into the business -- at least 30, according to Means. Small manufacturers sell boutique bikes for $5,000 and up, and big-box retailers peddle models for as low as $300.

Most electric bikes weigh between 60 and 90 pounds and come equipped with an electric motor, a battery, a charger and a speed controller (throttle- or pedal-activated). The motors, ranging from 250 to 1,500 watts, drive the front or back wheel. The batteries, predominantly 24- or 36-volt lead-acid or nickel-metal-hydride, are about the size of a bread basket.

Riding an electric bike is practically effortless. Throttle-driven models can be powered by one's thumb, but a little effort on the rider's part is encouraged to spare battery life and increase speed. Pedal-powered models activate the motor by pedaling alone.

Perhaps the electric bike's biggest impediment is the batteries, whose 20-pound heft and limited 8-10 mile capacity may turn consumers off. However, the spread of lithium batteries, which weigh four times less and extend the life of the battery by 25 percent, promises further evolution and higher sales to come.

Howell, the engineer at Sony, has created a partnership with Means to sell an electric bike of his own design: a recumbent which he claims can reach speeds of more than 30 mph and exceed distances of 100 miles. Not bad, considering an average electric bike reaches speeds of about 25 mph and requires a charge after every eight to 10 miles.

Electric bicycles are limited by law to traveling less than 20 mph, but Means said that ``nine out of 10 (cops) don't know the rules of an electric bike.''

A compelling feature of the bikes, Means said, is that they remove the three most frustrating parts of riding a plain old bicycle: starting from a stop, going up a hill and battling a strong wind.

One recent customer was Matt Leafgren, 31, who studies industrial design at San Francisco State University. His motivation came in January, when Bay Bridge tolls climbed to $4.

Now Leafgren wanted to buy a $600 kit to convert a used mountain bike into a whirring, pedal-assisted commuting machine. He had concerns about relying on an electric bike but he was tired of ``feeling crappy about global warming and contributing to oil dependence.''

A couple of days later, Means said, Leafgren bought the kit. The same day, he sold his car.
 
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Stu Money

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I had a go on a friends Electric bike and it was a lot of fun. You still pedal, but when you want a little extra umff , just press the button . I think they are a great idea, and a good way to get people into biking.
 

AWDfreak

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Exactly my thoughts!

Screw electricity! For now, using electricity is just as bad as driving a non-particulate-filtered diesel car. (Note that diesels ARE fuel effecient. They're also clean engines when equipped w/ a particulate-filter like the European diesels. They're quiet as well, if engineered right.) Most of our electricity is being generated by *gasp* coal. It emits just as much as a bunch of petrol-powered vehicles put together. If we all changed our power plants to nuclear, then,. things would be better, even by a little.....

What happened to the days when bikes were human-powered? In the future, I hope pedal-powered mountain bikes will still exist.....
 

pimpbot

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I dunno if I would classify diesel as efficient, but more efficient than gasoline.

Gasoline engines are about 25% efficient where as Diesels are 40%. Wasting 60% of the energy as straight up lost heat is not efficient in my book. At the end of the day, we are still sucking carbon out of the ground and spewing it in the air.

The electric grid is about 50% efficient, so there is a lot of loss there, not to mention the loss in charging the batteries. On the flip side, we get half of our energy in California from non carbon burning sources, such as wind, hydroelectric and geothermal. The rest comes from CNG or Coal fired turbine plants which are way more efficient than internal combustion (carbon burned for energy generated). I liked the Buckminster Fuller idea of building a small windmill on top of every transmission tower, and getting rid of all the power plants altogether.

Now do the math here. How much energy does it take to push 250 lbs of rider and electric bike vs. the most efficient car available, the Honda Insight? Even if it got a 15% boost by going diesel, it still weighs nearly 10 times what an electric bike and rider weighs.

I think we would all be much better off if folks ditched their cars unless they really needed them. The example in the article has the guy going 10 miles to work.

We can argue efficiency all day long in the forms of electric vs. diesel vs gas, etc. At the end of the day, its all a big wank. It just goes to show how unrealistic we all are about the situation, how desperate we are to hold on to the idea of our individual little status boxes with our comforts and thumpity stereos.

There is no way we can move a car as big as we are used to at the speeds we are used to on 1000 Watts. To compare, my 2600 lb. VW GTi with a 4 banger 2 point slow engine, 0-60 in 9 seconds has an 85 kilowatt engine. The real issue is the car itself. IMO, there is no way to sustain this world if we all haul around 3000 lbs of steel that goes from 0-60 in 8 seconds with us just to get a six pack, loaf of bread and a porno down at the corner store. We have to start thinking smaller. Don't get me wrong. The car has its place, and I am fully guilty of this myself. I'm just saying our attitudes need to change and we need to start thinking of ways to get stuff done, commute, etc on fewer wheels with less wasted energy.

I think the electric bike idea falls perfectly in to suit this need for many folks. Think of it as a smaller lighter scooter. Save the car trips for long hauls and transporting really big stuff.

The hard part is actually practicing what I'm preaching. I'm mostly ranting as a 'think about it'.
 

MikeG

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I don't know about an electric commuter bike. Just pedal!! :mad:

I wouldn't mind one of these though.
 
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g-funk

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excellent posts from 2 guys with car related avatars on a mountian bike site!! Hey AWD where does the particulate filter go when it's full
 

Sixty Fiver

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"A compelling feature of the bikes, Means said, is that they remove the three most frustrating parts of riding a plain old bicycle: starting from a stop, going up a hill and battling a strong wind."

None of these things are frustrating to a real cyclist...they are just a fact of riding life and make you a stronger rider.

A motorized bike is a moped and at 90 pounds I can't see anyone buying one of these and actually getting much in the way of physical benefits... the electricity that these bikes consume has to be generated in some manner and it's unlikely most folks are using solar powered charging systems but rather, using electricity that is being generated from fossil fuel sources.

I have 14 bikes and one really efficient car that still collects dust.
 
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AWDfreak

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From what I've read, particulate filters clean themselves, so there is no need for replacement.....

I hope bikes keep their pedals.....

"A compelling feature of the bikes, Means said, is that they remove the three most frustrating parts of riding a plain old bicycle: starting from a stop, going up a hill and battling a strong wind."

The most frustrating things about a bike is maintainence, because I don't have a friggen job! I save up my lunch money, lol.....
 

johnrobholmes

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Lazy has nothing to do with many users of electric bikes, it is inability. After being a lifelong rider, I couldn't ride 5 miles on pavement after I dislocated my kneecap. I refuse to ride a stationary bike, nor do I have the room for such equipment. The electric got me back on a bike and allowed me to rehab my knee well enough to ride as I used to. The same can be said for "lazy" people who want to ride again. So they have the past 20 or 30 years of inactivity to work against instead of a bum knee. You can call it lazy, but I will call it a fun time that will get people in better shape than driving a car.

I have had "hardcore" cyclists tell me I am cheating using assist. Cheating at commuting? Cheating at getting my groceries without cranking the car? Cheating time riding with family and friend regardless of their health? I'm certainly not cheating myself out of exercise and mobility, I am in the saddle more hours every week because I can still ride when I am spent from previous rides. If I still raced, I would call it a "recovery bike" and state how it keeps the synapses greased and speeds DOMS recovery through circulation and range of motion. Call it the right thing and even dedicated riders perk up at the idea of extra saddle time.


Even though my power is coming from coal, it is more efficient than using a petrol engine. Local coal, efficient conversion to electricity, efficient conversion to motion. Environmental concerns aside, price for price I would need 400mpg at $4 a gallon to equal the cost efficiency of electric gotten through my local coal fired power plant.

The flipside to getting assist is that an 18mph rider can use assist to be a 25mph rider. To say that riding an electric bike won't give physical benefits tells me that you have never tried one. I get across town on my 20mph assist bike faster than pedaling alone, faster than a car when downtown is involved. But I still sure as heck get a good workout that is as intense as I want. It just happens at a faster speed (y)

I agree that a 60 to 90lb bike is moped territory, if only for a common term to talk about. There is absolutely no reason that a 1hp ebike needs to be over 40lbs total, unless longer than 12 mile range (zero pedaling) is a desire or the bike is built big and burly for hauling. At 90 pounds you might as well have 3hp and be a 50cc equivalent moped, it is certainly possible.
 

albeant

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I don't understand the opposition to powered transportation when the scapegoat is lightweight and electric. Even regular, human-powered cycling requires less effort than walking. Does cycling then equate to laziness because there's a more difficult way to get from A to B? And the idea that the electric bike might lead someone to leave his car at home seems like a big environmental plus.

I see the electric bike as yet one more transportation option that prevents us from having to walk, and a lightweight, inexpensive, relatively low-environmental-impact one to boot.

Like JRB, I think it might be better to consider the value of 45-pound electric bikes as an alternative to two-ton gasoline-powered cars. Seems like the e-bike would win on a lot of fronts in urban areas, where driving distances are short and passengers are few.
 

Maximus_XXIV

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I just picked a hub motor up for my bike to make my 60 mile round trip commute possible 5 days a week. This way I can do easy days with the motor assisting and hard days sans motor. It is assist only. No power if I do not pedal.

Call me lazy...
 

Combatcm

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What battery capacity are you gonna use?

I'm planning on picking up a geared hub and then making/finding a pack to use.

My commute is 25 each way.
 

Maximus_XXIV

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37v 9.6ah. It is the Bionx battery that comes in a bag. It has some electronics with it as well. I should get it early next week.
 

One Pivot

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I dont get why people get in such a fuss about these things. I think its neat.

Its not a bicycle. No one complains about motorcyclists being lazy. Same thing, its just not a bicycle. Its powered transport.
 

johnrobholmes

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I have been supplanting my car with about 8 to 10 miles per day on the ebike. Over 200 miles a month I keep off the car for cheap.
 

rider95

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I rode my e bike from my house to the trail head that's 6mi I then did two loops that's 7mi I then ride next door to the moondog to eat lunch , I sit outside on the patio I find a table that has a elec outlet so I plug my bike in . It has a HPC fast charger on board the waitress gives me a funny look (I see this look often ) I order lunch I take my time no hurry for me the green light comes on I am done . Back and do two more loops on the trail then its 6mi back home . Were I put my basket back on so now its ready to take me to work the next day .
 
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