China's experience, as the leading e-bike world market, has raised concerns about road traffic safety and several cities have considered banning them from bicycle lanes. As the number of e-bikes increased and more powerful motors are used, capable of reaching up to 30 miles per hour (48 km/h), the number of traffic accidents have risen significantly in China. E-bike riders are more likely than a car driver to be killed or injured in a collision, and because e-bikers use conventional bicycle lanes they mix with slower-moving bicycles and pedestrians, increasing the risk of traffic collisions.
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You know the saying, “What you see is what you get?” That’s pretty much the case here: An e-bike or "pedal-assist" bike is a pedal bike with an integrated electric motor that adds power when you pedal. It's not like a motorcycle, moped, or motorbike, because it doesn't have a throttle or engine. Think of it like when you get the rocket boost in Mario Kart (except it lasts for more than three seconds).
E-bikes are zero-emissions vehicles, as they emit no combustion by-products. However, the environmental effects of electricity generation and power distribution and of manufacturing and disposing of (limited life) high storage density batteries must be taken into account. Even with these issues considered, e-bikes are claimed to have a significantly lower environmental impact than conventional automobiles, and are generally seen as environmentally desirable in an urban environment.
Duke Eco-Marathon Team using an Electric Bike Technologies hub motor for the 2014 Shell Eco-marathon. The E-BikeKit motor provides optimal space saving because it does not require a chain (this makes it great for converting road bicycles to electric bicycles, which is what it is designed to do) but we hope to determine if it provides us with a better overall vehicle efficiency than our outboard motor.
But with increased demand and production, as well as technology improvements thanks to advances in the electric car industry, the cost of components like lithium-ion batteries comes down, Weinert explains. Now, e-bikes are on the market as low as around $1,200 (like the Monroe 250 from Schwinn, available in November 2017). Plus, the competition is stiff. “There are more brands producing than there were five years ago, and they all have to be competitive," LaLonde says.
There are two basic categories of electric bike, and their uses don't offer equal crossover value. The first category is essentially a normal bicycle that has been outfitted with an electric motor. These bikes are the same size as a standard bicycle, and handle almost identically, save for the obvious benefit of added motive power thanks to a motor and battery.
All three road bikes receive their power from Yamaha’s PWSeries SE motor that comes with four levels of support: ECO+, ECO, STANDARD, and HIGH. The mid-drive motor supplies a maximum of 70 Nm (52 ft-lbs) of torque and cadence support up to 110 rpm. The motors are designed to provide assistance up to 20 mph (32 km/h). Any faster, and it’s all you providing the power.
Visually, the Pedego City Commuter Classic Electric Bike is stunning – a smart blend of yesteryear's style and today's technology. Pleasantly high handlebars, a sprung seat, and lovely Schwalbe Fat Frank tires make it very comfortable. Stopping is taken care of by powerful disk brakes, front and rear. Lights are included, as is a useful cargo rack. From an e-bike standpoint, the Pedego Classic City Commuter sports a reliable, hub-mounted motor driven by a 36-volt, 10-amp battery. There's a digital display with a trip computer, odometer, speedometer, pedal assist level, and battery charge information.
It’s impressive just how traditional a finish they’ve achieved for a pedal-assist bike, especially considering the motor uses Kinetic Energy Recovery to charge itself (like F1 Cars). Firing up the motor is achieved by back-pedaling three times (while travelling over 8mph). It’s a neat idea, and a clever way of doing away with those cables and switches, but in reality it’s fiddly. Riding in the city we occasionally felt ridiculous on a busy street pedaling backward rather than forward to kick off the assist. It’s also a chore getting the bike to speed and going through the motion to activate in tight spaces such as underground garages or on an incline.
More powerful pedelecs which are not legally classed as bicycles are dubbed S-Pedelecs (short for Schnell-Pedelecs, i.e. Speedy-Pedelecs) in Germany. These have a motor more powerful than 250 watts and less limited, or unlimited, pedal-assist, i.e. the motor does not stop assisting the rider once 25 km/h has been reached. S-Pedelec class e-bikes are therefore usually classified as mopeds or motorcycles rather than as bicycles and therefore may (depending on the jurisdiction) need to be registered and insured, the rider may need some sort of driver's license (either car or motorcycle) and motorcycle helmets may have to be worn. In the United States, many states have adopted S-Pedelecs into the Class 3 category. Class 3 ebikes are limited to <=750 watts of power and 28 mph.
You should also think about how much gear you are going to need to carry. The reason this will affect your decision is because some electric bikes don’t have the capability to mount a front rack while others do. Plan on doing a 3-day trip? You could probably get away with just a rear rack. My advice though would to be to purchase an electric bike with the capability to mount a front rack as well. This way, if you decide to plan a longer trip in the future, you can simply buy a rack and be on your way instead of potentially having to buy a new bike.
The Benno e-Joy promises to be as fun to play with as it is to look at. Benno says it took inspiration from the timeless style of vintage Italian scooters and classic German cars. Add in the functionality of front and rear cargo racks and the 250w pedal-assist motor and you have a beautiful bike that's ready for anything. Cruise into town for groceries, wander comfortably along a gravel path on 2.35-inch balloon tires, or add the child seat attachment and take your kid along for the ride, and beach-goers will appreciate the surfboard rack. Whatever your cycling pleasure pursuit may be, the e-Joy can be your ticket to fun.