While we're still fairly new to the solar ebike game, Mark is among the (suprisingly numerous) Grin customers who've been thinking about and experimenting with solar bikes for many years. After he shared pictures of his latest project and mentioned his round the world touring ambitions, we thought we had to do a small feature on this guy. A quick last minute trip to Maker Faire was arranged to meet up, and here we present, Mark Havran:
Maybe the most confusing legal issue facing e-bike riders today is the difference between a bike lane and bike path. A bike lane is a marked section of roadway shared with motor vehicles. Bike paths pretty much universally prohibit the use of motorized vehicles. Still, you will need to research your area. As an example: “A path near our office specifically says “no motorized bicycles.” Yet, when we tracked down an employee who claimed to work enforcement on the path, he said that our e-bike was allowed.”8
This slick-looking commuter features a clean and quiet Gates Carbon Drive belt, which eliminates the maintenance that comes with a derailleur, and an internally geared Enviolo Trekking hub, which provides a 380 percent gear range. The Embark has 650b wheels, 47mm WTB gumwall tires, full fenders with mudflaps, and integrated lights—meaning you can ride long after the sun sets—or before it rises. A Bosch Active Line Plus mid-drive motor is light and quiet and provides pedal assist up to 20 mph, and the Bosch 400Wh battery has a claimed range of 50 miles. Everything about the Embark frame screams clean, stylish, and organic.
In the 1890s, electric bicycles were documented within various U.S. patents. For example, on 31 December 1895 Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted Template:US Patent for a battery-powered bicycle with “6-pole brush-and-commutator direct current (DC) hub motor mounted in the rear wheel.” There were no gears and the motor could draw up to 100 amperes (A) from a 10-V battery.
But the whole is also influenced by the sensory systems which are very different from model to model. E.g. A typical 2013 Panasonic system requires pedalling for optimal support (55/minute?) and has both a pedalling frequency and a speed sensor. You don't get much assistance if you pedal very slowly or very fast. Typically, a rear motor has a force sensor, i.e. you get lots of support fast when you start pedalling in a low gear, i.e. it will "feel" your need for assistance.
As the managing editor of Ars Technica, one of my duties is to monitor the daily torrent of news tips and PR emails. The overwhelming majority of them is deleted after a glance, and the news tips and story ideas are passed along to the appropriate writer. Sometimes a product announcement will catch my eye, and I will follow up. Once in a blue moon, I'll say, "please send me one so that I may review it." And that's how I ended up riding an electric bike around the Chicago suburbs for two weeks.
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.
Nebraska defines a Moped as "a bicycle with fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power, an automatic transmission, and a motor with a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters which produces no more than two brake horsepower and is capable of propelling the bicycle at a maximum design speed of no more than thirty miles per hour on level ground."
Federal law defines the limits of a low speed electric bike, equating it to a bicycle, and bypassing the definition of a motor vehicle only “For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards…” which means that the manufacturers of these bicycles don’t have to meet federal equipment requirements, and are instead governed by the manufacturing requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act. There is no mention of exemption from other federal, state, and local traffic laws, or exemption from the definition of a motor vehicle for other purposes.3 This means the law applies to the manufacturer’s product and sale, avoiding federal safety requirements applying to a motor vehicle such as brake lights, turn signals and braking specifications. The goal of the law was to give businesses a legal framework to define and sell low speed electric bikes without the more stringent Federal classification of a motor vehicle. Ebikes that meet the criteria are considered a “bicycle”, do not meet the definition of a motor vehicle, and will be regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The law also grants the commission authority to add safety requirements to this product. The Federal law supersedes all state laws that equate bicycles to ebikes where the state law is more stringent (lower limits) on power and speed.
The Pivot Shuttle breaks the mold when it comes to e-mountain bikes. This ballsy, carbon-frame bike, with Shimano Di2, has 140mm of rear travel, 150mm up front, and a 150mm dropper post. A Shimano STePS e8000 drive unit, paired with a 500Wh battery, provides 20 mph of pedal assist, so you can skip the lift line when you hit the bike park and zip right to the good stuff. The 27.5-inch wheels are nimble and eat up nearly anything in their path, and the massive 2.8-inch tires have huge knobs that grip the trail like Velcro.
Electric bicycles use rechargeable batteries, electric motors and some form of control. This can be a simple as an on-off switch but is more usually an electronic pulse width modulation control. Electric bicycles developed in Switzerland in the late 1980s for the Tour de Sol solar vehicle race came with solar charging stations but these were later fixed on roofs and connected so as to feed into the electric mains. The bicycles were then charged from the mains, as is common today. Battery systems in use include lead-acid, NiCd, NiMH and Li-ion batteries.
Built by a company that’s made cycling equipment for more than four decades, the Vado feels more like a traditional bicycle than almost any other ebike. Its frame and components have been tuned to provide a familiar experience, making it easy for new and long-time cyclists to jump on and start pedaling. Specialized’s heritage shines through nicely, helping separate itself from the competition in an increasingly crowded ebike market.
Front-Mounted Hub Motor can be found on pre-built bikes or on custom conversions. Mounted to the front wheel, this is the easiest configuration to setup if you’re converting a standard bicycle since there’s no derailleur or chain to worry about. And since most e-bike conversions include batteries mounted to the rear rack, using a front hub motor helps equalize the weight of the bike and makes it easier to handle. But there’s a small risk the motor could cause the front forks to brake. That’s why it’s vital you only use a front hub motor on a steel fork. For pre-built bikes, this shouldn’t be an issue since the motors are usually lower-powered on steel forks.
The federal law will not prohibit a motor vehicle label and additional restrictions given by the state. States will typically define e-mopeds in the 1000W range (1.5 hp) and speeds attainable to 30mph, and include a few requirements such as a helmet, eye protection, and a driver’s license. States may also require title, registration, and insurance for mopeds.
Power assisted bicycles are classified in two categories in Saskatchewan. An electric assist bicycle is a 2 or 3 wheeled bicycle (sic.: 3 wheeled bicycle) that uses pedals and a motor at the same time only. A power cycle uses either pedals and motor or motor only. Both must have engines with 500 watt power or less, and must not be able exceed 32 km/h (20 mph), i.e., electric motor cuts out at this speed or cycle is unable to go this fast on a level surface. The power cycle has to meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for a power-assisted bicycle. The power cycle requires at least a learner's driving licence (class 7), and all of the other classes 1-5 may operate these also. The electric assist bicycle does not require a licence. Helmets are required for both. Both are treated as bicycles regarding rules of the road. Gas powered or assisted bicycles are classified as motorcycles regardless of engine size or if using pedals plus motor. Stickers identifying the bicycle's compliance with the Federal classification may be required for power cycles by some cities or municipalities. 
It’s a topic that many eMTBers are interested in: fast charging. What has long been a reality with electric cars is now also being partly improved for ebikes with high amperage chargers. Bosch has presented a 6A charger this year that can charge a 500 Wh battery in 3 hours, more than a third faster than the standard charger. The new benchmark next year, however, will probably be the 10A charger presented by Haibike and BMZ. It is claimed to be capable of charging a 630 Wh battery in just 1.5 hours.
In some countries mixed systems, i.e. pedaling and/or using a throttle is legal. In EU countries and Switzerland this is not the case. I.e. you can buy an electric scooter, but this is not considered to be an e-bike in the moped / light scooter category. That kind of hack is probably more difficult, unless the original design has been modified to fit with (s)Pedelec specs. E.g. The Ezee models are of that kind and modifications to revert to the original does not seem to be too difficult...
Electric-assisted bicycles are treated as human-powered bicycles, while bicycles capable of propulsion by electric power alone face additional registration and regulatory requirements as mopeds. Requirements include electric power generation by a motor that cannot be easily modified, along with a power assist mechanism that operates safely and smoothly. In December 2008, The assist ratio was updated as follow: