But the good times of the stealthy ebike existence will not endure forever. The ebike market is growing steadily and more so, technology is driving performance up and costs down. The market for a green, lifestyle friendly, transportation technology, with GPS, theft ID, cell service and probably skim lattes is alive and driving an emerging market. It is a matter of time before we all must face and respond to the legal demands of the state and local laws. Not to be over obligatory about being legal and duty oriented, but I do call on my fellow ebikers to ride legal, whether ebike, moped or other. Go ahead and build the 1200W ebike of your dreams, but get it insured and licensed if you must. Such compliance will set the precedence for public acceptance of ebikes in general, and build a track record for expansion and mainstreaming of moped-speed ebikes for commuter value driven needs of the future.
Photo: Zap Electric's power-assist kit turns a conventional bike into an electric one. There's a bolt-on DC electric motor (weighing just over 3kg or 7lb) just above the back wheel, behind the police officer's foot, pressing against the tire and driving it by simple friction. The motor's powered by a compact lead-acid battery (weighing about 5.5 kg or 12 lb) inside a protective nylon bag. This kit adds quite bit of weight to the bike, but gives extra range and speed when needed. Photo taken in Santa Rosa, California by Rick Tang courtesy of US DOE/NREL.
In the United States electric bikes have seen slow but steady growth since the late 90’s and as a result, in 2001 congress was lobbied and passed the first and only bill to define ebikes in federal law. This law, 107-319, exempts electrified bicycles with operating pedals using motors under 750 watts limited to 20 mph from the legal definition of a motor vehicle.2.
Oklahoma defines an Electric-Assisted Bicycle in 47 O.S. 1-104  as "Two or three wheels; and Fully operative pedals for human propulsion and equipped with an electric motor with a power output not to exceed one thousand (1,000) watts, incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than thirty (30) miles per hour on level ground, and incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel the device at a speed of thirty (30) miles per hour or more. An electric-assisted bicycle shall meet the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as set forth in federal regulations and shall operate in such a manner that the electric motor disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied."
For those who missed seeing it live, we've also uploaded a youtube video of our live demonstration of a regular bike being converted over to electric assist. We hope that this helps demystify the process for some considering their first kit purchase. It was a fun opportunity as the owner of the bike was at the show and could ride it away the next day.
To help the rider find the perfect fit, the stem is adjustable. The bike also boasts dynamo powered lights alongside hydraulic disc brakes. The bike will suit riders from 4 ft 10 to 6 ft 5, and also integrates with a child seat. The total weight is 22.5kg, making it admittedly a fairly hefty folder – but that’s fairly uniform across electric versions.
Electric bikes are becoming a convenient and fun way to commute around a city, but they can be pricey. The average e-bike can cost $3,000, with some models getting up to $5,000 or more. But these prices are dropping, as new models come onto the market — and if you don’t mind giving up some of the glossier, high-tech features like embedded digital displays, retractable cable locks, and and theft tracking and recovery, you can find a really good quality e-bike for under $1,500.