The two most common electric motor styles used in today’s e-bikes are hub motors and mid-drive motors. The Freedom uses a hub motor, which was located in the center of the rear wheel. Hub motors typically don’t offer the same natural maneuverability as the increasingly more common (and more expensive) mid-drive motors because their weight is concentrated in the rear of the bike. It can be jarring when the motor prevents you from going faster than the allotted speed, especially when cruising downhill, but 20 mph is the legal maximum for e-bikes in the US. (In the EU, it’s even lower: 25 km/h, or 15.5 mph.)
Like most electric bikes, the Rad Wagon is also fairly heavy, weighing 72 pounds. The last drawback is that it comes in only one frame size (which I imagine helps to keep costs lower) that fits rider heights between 5 foot 2 inches and 6 foot 2 inches. My 6 foot 4 husband, however, can ride the bike just fine, so there’s some wiggle room to this range.
The bicycle's invention has had an enormous effect on society, both in terms of culture and of advancing modern industrial methods. Several components that eventually played a key role in the development of the automobile were initially invented for use in the bicycle, including ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets and tension-spoked wheels.
Being member of European Economic Area (EEA), Norway implemented the European Union directive 2002/24/EC. This directive defined legal ebikes for all EU and EEA countries to cycle "with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of 0.25 kW, of which the output is progressively reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25 km/h or if the cyclist stops pedaling." The definition became part of Norwegian vehicle legislation in 2003. A more detailed specification will become effective when the new European ebike product safety standard EN 15194 is published in 2009.
The oldest patent for an electric bike I've been able to find at the US Patent and Trademark Office is this one, by Ogden Bolton, Jr. of Canton Ohio, which was filed in September 1895 and granted three months later. You can see from these original diagrams that it bears an amazingly close resemblance to modern electric bikes. In the general picture on the left, you can see there's a hub motor on the rear wheel (blue), a battery suspended from the frame (red), and a simple handlebar control to make the thing stop and go. In the more detailed cutaway of the hub motor on the right, you can see there's a six-pole magnet in the center (orange) bolted to the frame and an armature (made from coiled wire, yellow) that rotates around it when the current is switched on. It's quite a hefty motor even by modern standards; Ogdon mentions "a heavy current at low voltage—for instance, to carry one hundred amperes at ten volts." So that's 1000 watts, which is about twice the power of a typical modern bike hub motor.
Electric-assisted bicycle operators must follow the same traffic laws as operators of motor vehicles (except those that by their nature would not be relevant). The bicycles may be operated two abreast. Operators must generally ride as close as is practical to the right-hand side of the road (exceptions include when overtaking another vehicle, preparing for a left turn, and to avoid unsafe conditions). The bicycle must be ridden within a single lane. Travel on the shoulder of a road must be in the same direction as the direction of adjacent traffic.
Simple, convenient, cheap, and economical—bicycles are one of the world's favorite forms of transportation. But they're not for everyone. They can be hard to pedal up and down hills or with heavy loads, and elderly or disabled people may find them impossible to manage. In the last few years, a new generation of electric bicycles has begun to revolutionize our idea of environmentally friendly transportation. These new cycles have all the convenience of cars with all the simple economy of ordinary cycles. Let's take a closer look at how they work.