The environmental credentials of e-bikes, and electric / human powered hybrids generally, have led some municipal authorities to use them, such as Little Rock, Arkansas with their Wavecrest electric power-assisted bicycles or Cloverdale, California police with Zap e-bikes. China’s e-bike manufacturers, such as Xinri, are now partnering with universities in a bid to improve their technology in line with international environmental standards, backed by the Chinese government who is keen to improve the export potential of the Chinese manufactured e-bikes.
Because they’re electrically powered, e-bikes sit in a bit of a gray area between bicycles and motorcycles. While some states have enacted specific legislation to state where electric bikes can and can’t be ridden, in other states outdated laws mean they’re regulated as a moped or motor vehicle which can cause confusion over registration requirements, access to cycling infrastructure and how old you have to be before you can ride one.
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.
Once you accept that you are really meant to pedal gently and let the motor do the work, non-speed freaks will get into it. E-bikes are great for commuting and for places that aren't pancake flat. They'll pull you away from the lights quickly, iron out hills and stop you getting sweaty, so you can bin the Lycra and ride in jeans, a suit, or, I dunno, an inflatable sumo wrestler costume. Whatever you like.
Of course the specs are nuts. Shimano Deore XT Shadow+ drivetrain, Magura MT4 hydraulic disc brakes, Mach 1 rims, and Schwalbe G-One tires make this not only an incredible commuter, but really a solid racing bike if you want to challenge another ebiker. The G-One tires I just love. They’re slick enough to keep you up to speed, but have a good amount of knobiness so that you can handle bad weather.
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).
James LaLonde, senior brand manager for Cannondale, agrees. He says their entry-level (read: good for beginners and more affordable) e-bike—the Quick Neo—has a battery life that lasts up to 70 miles. “If you ride for a full day, you may want to recharge it before you go to bed. But if you’re just commuting [a few miles], you could use it for a full week before you need to plug in. Then it’s a four-hour recharge when it’s completely dead.” (Of course, you don’t have to wait for it to get to zero if you want a shorter charge time.)
The final major consideration is what type of riding you will be doing. Are you going on an off-road adventure through the mountains? You’ll want a very different electric bike than you would need if you’re riding on paved roads the whole time. Most bike tours are going to be on paved roads, but you should always research the area in detail during your planning process.
As electric bike options continue to expand, more brands are integrating the battery more seamlessly. That makes them look sleeker (and more like a real bike). Batteries are expensive, so make sure there's a good way lock the battery to your bike if you'll be keeping it outside. Overall weight is important. Some battery and motors can add 15 pounds or more to the bike. With assist, you won't feel that much when you're riding, but you will if you have to carry your bike up stairs or lift it onto a bike rack.