Some power-on-demand only e-bikes can hardly be confused with, let alone categorised as, bicycles. For example, the Noped is a term used by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario for e-bikes which do not have pedals or in which the pedals have been removed from their motorised bicycle. These are better categorised as electric mopeds or electric motorcycles.
To be honest, this bike is really designed for city commuters or kids riding around the suburbs. The fact that it’s foldable will let you carry it on the bus, on the train or even on the plane. It’s just not designed for heavy riding, long distances or tough terrains. If you want something sleek and fabulous at a fraction of the cost of most other e-bikes, this baby’s for you.
Not all e-bikes take the form of conventional push-bikes with an incorporated motor, such as the Cytronex bicycles which use a small battery disguised as a water bottle. Some are designed to take the appearance of low capacity motorcycles, but smaller in size and consisting of an electric motor rather than a petrol engine. For example, the Sakura e-bike incorporates a 200 W motor found on standard e-bikes, but also includes plastic cladding, front and rear lights, and a speedometer. It is styled as a modern moped, and is often mistaken for one.
Rad Power’s lineup of 2019 bikes start at $1,699 (there’s also a Cyber Monday special on their 2018 models), proving that electric bikes don’t have to be over $2,000 to have the amenities and quality you need for daily commuting. Of course, that’s still a steep price for some. But as prices keep dropping in the e-bike industry, affordability breeds better access, and this might be the key that our cities—and their traffic—so desperately need.
In Norway, e-bikes are classified as ordinary bicycles, according to the Vehicle Regulation (kjøretøyforskriften) § 4-1, 5g. Hence, e-bikes are not registered in the Vehicle Registry, and there is no demand for a license to drive them. Still, there are constraints on the bicycle construction. The maximum nominal motor power output can be no more than 250 watts and the maximum performance speed of the vehicle when the engine is running is 25 km per hour (15 mph). A function that reduces motor power when vehicle speed exceeds 25 km per hour is mandatory. However, if the motor is not running, the e-bike, or any other bike, answer only to the constraints of the ordinary speed limits.
Having spent some quality time with Wing’s e-bike, I understand why so many people are excited about the growing popularity of electric-powered vehicles like bikes and scooters. They take a lot of the work out of getting from point A to point B, while retaining all of the joy. They can give you more confidence when navigating a treacherous city terrain that prioritizes cars over people. And let’s face it: bikes are cool, and always will be.
Brock had been running his esoteric shop on Cambie St. for over 30 years, pioneering the sale and production of recumbent bikes, tricycles, velomobiles, unicycles, and of course electric bicycles well before any of these things were popular. He was dabbling with early ebike conversions in the 1990's when we were still in grade school and has been for many years one of the few shops always willing to say yes to electric retrofits. We hope to still see him riding around streets of Vancouver in a white velomobile.
Some electric bikes claim to use a neat trick called regenerative braking. If you start pedaling the bicycle or going downhill, the spinning wheels turn the electric motor in the hub in reverse and start charging up the batteries. In practice, regenerative braking is nowhere near as useful on an electric bicycle as it is on an electric train or car. An electric bike has much less mass and velocity than either a train or car, so it never gains (or loses) anything like as much kinetic energy when it starts and stops. You'd have to go down an awful lot of hills to charge up the batteries completely and that's usually not practical. And what's the point in pedaling the wheels simply to charge the battery? You might as well have bought an ordinary bicycle to start with!
Perhaps the cleverest thing of all about the Electric Brompton is that despite all the extra stuff, it folds up exactly the same as the non-powered variety. It's so simple, and unlike certain folding bikes we could mention, what you're left with is a genuinely small thing, rather than something that's about the size of a bike with the front wheel taken off.