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.
^ Consumer Product Safety Act, Pub. L. 107–319, December 4, 2002; codified at 15 U.S.C. 2085(b): The CPSC regulations do not differentiate between commercially manufactured low speed electric bicycles and those converted from ordinary bicycles by their owners using an aftermarket electric motor and battery kit, nor do they regulate the construction of electric-power bicycles using owner-built or sourced components.
Range is a key consideration with e-bikes, and is affected by factors such as motor efficiency, battery capacity, efficiency of the driving electronics, aerodynamics, hills and weight of the bike and rider. Some manufacturers, such as the Canadian BionX or American Vintage Electric Bikes, have the option of using regenerative braking, the motor acts as a generator to slow the bike down prior to the brake pads engaging. This is useful for extending the range and the life of brake pads and wheel rims. There are also experiments using fuel cells. e.g. the PHB. Some experiments have also been undertaken with super capacitors to supplement or replace batteries for cars and some SUVS. E-bikes 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. While ebike batteries were produced mainly by bigger companies in past, many small to medium companies have started using innovative new methods for creating more durable batteries. State of the art, custom built automated precision CNC spot welding machines created 18650 battery packs are commonly used among Do-it-yourself ebike makers.
In New Zealand, the regulations read: "AB (Power-assisted pedal cycle) A pedal cycle to which is attached one or more auxiliary propulsion motors having a combined maximum power output not exceeding 300 watts." This is explained by NZTA as "A power-assisted cycle is a cycle that has a motor of up to 300 watts. The law treats these as ordinary cycles rather than motorcycles. This means that it is not necessary to register or license them. Note that the phrase "maximum power output" that is found in the regulation (but omitted in the explanation) may create confusion because some e-bike motor manufacturers advertise and print on the motor their "maximum input power" because that number is larger (typically motors run at about 80% efficiency ) thus give the impression the buyer is getting a more powerful motor. This can cause misunderstandings with law enforcement officers who do not necessarily understand the difference, and when stopping a rider on an e-bike in a traffic stop, look at the number on the motor to determine if the e-bike is legal or not.
An electric bike (also called e-bike, power-assist bike, pedelec…) is a fairly conventional bike combined with a battery and motor that helps out when you are pedaling to make it easier to get uphill or completely takes over driving and allows you to cruise along. Top quality electric bikes, along with electric scooters, are revolutionizing the bicycle industry. Not only is riding an e-bike simple and easy, but a rider can significantly extend their range with minimal cost or effort.
What's the Centros like? Big and heavy, but with enough power to overcome that, it really reminded me of a more upmarket Volt Pulse. You do tend to find that the weightier e-bikes give more of a feeling of speed, even though you're only doing 20mph or so at the absolute most (only up to 15mph with electrical assistance so you'll need leg muscles or a downward incline to get to that outlandish velocity).
Firstly there's a magnetically-fired locking pin in the rear wheel, triggered by kicking a button on the hub. This is fairly secure in itself and almost impossible to remove without destroying the bike. In London, we'd pair it with a more traditional bike lock so there's a more obvious visual deterrent, though a LED matrix screen on the frame does issue a warning to would-be tea-leafs.
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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.
Some prohibitions also apply, such as on: carrying cargo that prevents keeping at least one hand on the handlebars or prevents proper use of brakes, riding no more than two abreast on a roadway or shoulder, and attaching the bicycle to another vehicle. Minn. Stat. § 169.222, subds. 3-5. The vehicles may be operated on a sidewalk except in a business district or when prohibited by a local unit of government, and must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk. Minn. Stat. § 169.223, subd. 3. By default, electric-assisted bicycles are allowed on road shoulders as well as on bicycle trails, bicycle paths, and bicycle lanes.
Bicycle brakes may be rim brakes, in which friction pads are compressed against the wheel rims; hub brakes, where the mechanism is contained within the wheel hub, or disc brakes, where pads act on a rotor attached to the hub. Most road bicycles use rim brakes, but some use disk brakes. Disc brakes are more common for mountain bikes, tandems and recumbent bicycles than on other types of bicycles, due to their increased power, coupled with an increased weight and complexity.
If you are a person who enjoys riding a bike casually at a typical bike path speed (10-15mph), and you like the idea of an ebike push up a hill, against the wind or to relieving a sore knee, then your market for a fully legally defined ebike is very broad and your practical use only has a few limitations. Most ebikes will meet your needs and expectation. I would estimate that 85% of the electric bikes on the market are 100% compliant meeting the federal definition. I encourage you to take the plunge and get a good quality ebike and ride more with assist. Do so with the confidence that electric bikes are here to stay. Coexisting with pedestrians and other cyclist will become a normal part of cycling life.
On October 22, 2014 PA house bill 573 passed into law, which is Act 154, which changes the definition of "pedalcycle" (bicycle) in the PA state vehicle code. "Pedalcycle" is now defined as a vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals or a "pedalcycle" (bicycle) with electric assist( a vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor rated no more than 750 watts and equipped with operational pedals and travels at speeds less than 20 mph). This bill allows the usage of pedal assisted bicycles in PA that follow the adopted state guidelines.
By 2001 the terms, E-Bikes, power bike, pedelec, assisted bicycle and power-assisted bicycle where commonly used to describe electric bicycles. E-bike, according to Google, is a term that has increased in trend. This term generally referred to an electric bicycle which used a throttle. The terms Electric Motorbike or E-Motorbike have been used to describe more powerful models which attain up to 80 km/h.
Torque sensors and power controls were developed in the late 1990s. For example, Takada Yutky of Japan filed a patent in 1997 for such a device. In 1992 Vector Services Limited offered and sold an electric bicycle dubbed Zike. The bicycle included Nickel-cadmium batteries that were built into a frame member and included an 850 g permanent-magnet motor. Despite the Zike, in 1992 hardly any commercial electric bicycles were available. It wasn’t until 1998 when there were at least 49 different bikes. Production grew from 1993 to 2004 by an estimated 35%. By Contrast, according to Gardner, in 1995 regular bicycle production decreased from its peak 107 million units. Some of the less expensive electric bicycles used bulky lead acid batteries, whereas newer models generally used NiMH, NiCd and/or Li-ion batteries which offered lighter, denser capacity batteries. The end benefits usually varied from manufacturer; however, in general there was an increase in range and speed. By 2004 electric bicycles where manufactured by Currie Technologies, EV Global, Optibike, Giante Lite, Merida, ZAP.
The federal Consumer Product Safety Act defines a "low speed electric bicycle" as a two or three wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph (32 km/h) and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 hp). The Act authorizes the Consumer Product Safety Commission to protect people who ride low-speed electric vehicles by issuing necessary safety regulations. The rules for e-bikes on public roads, sidewalks, and pathways are under state jurisdiction, and vary.