A new electric cyclist will likely experience two conflicts of thought: 1). Will the general public accept my use of this power assist technology, or Will they ridicule and reject me as being lazy? 2). Will I stand out to law enforcement by the look of my bike or riding a bit faster than other cyclist on hills and roads? Grappling with these two thoughts will tempt most folks to try and remain unnoticed and ride more responsibly. After I became an advocate of e-transportation on two wheels, enjoying the benefits of power assist commuting, I eventually was a bit put off by this federal law, especially the 20mph limitation. Is 20 mph really practical and justified? Is it not true that many active young people on typical road bicycles are able to actively ride in the 20-25mph range? I discovered that ebikes, with larger tires and disk brakes, can comfortably and safety cruise in that range of speed. The standard 2001 Federal law of 20mph, eventually became a practical limitation for an ebike commuter of over 20 miles a day, and caused me to get a bike beyond the federal limits, making me more alert and sensitive when riding in the presence of the police.
The battery is the pedelec’s power source. It supplies the motor with the electrical energy that is required to provide power assistance when cycling. So it is hardly surprising that there is frequent discussion and “talking shop” about the eBike’s battery in particular. What is the difference between batteries? How far can you go on a fully charged battery? What do you have to remember about storage? Thomas Raica, head of technical customer application, here provides information and advice.
In a parallel hybrid motorized bicycle, such as the aforementioned 1897 invention by Hosea W. Libbey, human and motor inputs are mechanically coupled either in the bottom bracket, the rear wheel, or the front wheel, whereas in a (mechanical) series hybrid cycle, the human and motor inputs are coupled through differential gearing. In an (electronic) series hybrid cycle, human power is converted into electricity and is fed directly into the motor and mostly additional electricity is supplied from a battery.
The days when eMTBs were defined solely by the power of their motors and the size of their batteries are over. Riding performance has become the most important metric. In that pursuit, manufacturers are increasingly developing eMTBs with less power and battery capacity, which in turn handle more like regular mountain bikes. FOCUS started this movement some time ago with its Project-Y concept and later presented the FOCUS RAVEN² PRO, the first production model in a new category of bikes. However this sporty ride only convinced a handful of riders. Meanwhile, Lapierre and BULLS have both announced full-suspension trail bikes featuring the lightweight FAZUA motor for next year. It remains to be seen how many other brands will jump on board this bandwagon – but the rumour mill has already started rumbling. Moreover, it is only a matter of time before the next motor manufacturer will release its own small, lightweight motor.
An itinerant wordsmith with a broad constellation of interests, Lydia Chipman has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts. Bearing the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience -- with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order or becoming an artist -- she still can’t resist the temptation to learn something new. Lydia holds a master of arts in English from Georgia Southern University, and a bachelor of arts cum laude in integrative studies from Clayton College. Her expertise is in the areas of robotics, electronics, toys, and outdoors and computer equipment.
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.
As is the case with any e-bike assembled from Chinese parts, Wing has its share of clones that can be found for sale on sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. For example, the Danish company Strom Bikes has a model for city biking that also looks incredibly similar to Wing’s Freedom — and is apparently several hundred dollars cheaper too. This is also commonly found with electric scooters, with startups buying Chinese-made models and rebadging them for sale in the US.
Stöckli E.T. Urban Confort, made in Switzerland. It has SwissGoDrive motors and Samsung batteries. There is a 500W/17.6Ah combo that seems to be ideal for commuters, i.e. it has a 50km range using full assistance. In the USA, a similar product is available as Currie eFlow e3 Nitro (different motor and electronics). This model doesn't have a front wheel suspension, but comes with "balloon" tires that somewhat absorb shocks. Options are available through types: "simple"/Urban/CROSS and man/confort models. E.g. the Cross model has a front suspension, a 500W motor and no equipment like lights, fenders, etc. However, paying extra, you can compose your own configuration. If you commute using bumpy roads, then get a front suspension.
Because the power is applied through the chain and sprocket, power is typically limited to around 250–500 watts to protect against fast wear on the drivetrain. An electric mid-drive combined with an internal gear hub at the back hub may require care due to the lack of a clutch mechanism to soften the shock to the gears at the moment of re-engagement. A continuously variable transmission or a fully automatic internal gear hub may reduce the shocks due to the viscosity of oils used for liquid coupling instead of the mechanical couplings of the conventional internal gear hubs.
On the road, it takes only a few turns of the pedals to activate the Vado’s motor and get it up to speed. In Turbo mode — the bike’s highest level of pedal-assist — the Vado reaches speeds of up to 28 miles per hour, after which the electric drive system automatically shuts off to conserve power (and abide by local law). A built-in LED readout on the handlebars allows riders to monitor battery life, check current speed, and track calories burned while also being able to glance at distance traveled. The Turbo Vado Mission Control app (iOS/Android) also connects to the bike via Bluetooth and allows riders to further tune their ride and adjust the bike’s settings.
Further innovations increased comfort and ushered in a second bicycle craze, the 1890s Golden Age of Bicycles. In 1888, Scotsman John Boyd Dunlop introduced the first practical pneumatic tire, which soon became universal. Willie Hume demonstrated the supremacy of Dunlop's tyres in 1889, winning the tyre's first-ever races in Ireland and then England. Soon after, the rear freewheel was developed, enabling the rider to coast. This refinement led to the 1890s invention of coaster brakes. Dérailleur gears and hand-operated Bowden cable-pull brakes were also developed during these years, but were only slowly adopted by casual riders.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.
Photo: Left: The hub motor of an electric bike. Right: If you took off the casing, this is the kind of thing you'd see. It's a simple brushless motor from a PC cooling fan, but it works in broadly the same way as a bike's hub motor. There's a static part made up of four electromagnet coils (left) and a rotating part (right) made from a permanent magnet (the gray ring) that clips onto it. When the coils are energized in sequence, they generate a magnetic field that makes the permanent magnet and fan spin around. At a glance, a hub motor looks much like an ordinary bicycle hub, but look closer and you'll find it's a lot more bulky.
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 $3,099 MSRP is a bit daunting if you've not shopped for high-end bikes before, but it compares favorably with, say, Trek's electric bike lineup. That said, you can get a solid urban/commuter bike without a motor for well under $1,000. You can even score an e-bike for under a grand, but you'll likely be looking at a battery range of less than 40 miles, along with lower-quality components.
Controllers for brushed motors: Brushed motors are also used in e-bikes but are becoming less common due to their intrinsic lower efficiency. Controllers for brushed motors however are much simpler and cheaper due to the fact they don't require hall sensor feedback and are typically designed to be open-loop controllers. Some controllers can handle multiple voltages.
By Max Shumpert: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best e-bikes available for those who are interested in new technology combined with traditional bikes. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best electric bicycles currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Most European bike rules are tight and restrictive. Right now the California state ebike rules in AB 1096 provide the clearest and cleanest format, and they support ebike riding. No other U.S. regulations come close. The big brand ebikes (Giant, Specialized, Trek) are selling bikes that fit within European rules (250w-300w motors). This gives them economies of scale.
First off we want to apologize for the longer than normal response time and email backlog as much of our team was busy both in the preparation and attendance at the Taipei Cycle Show this past week. We'll be working hard to catch up on that in the coming days and thank your patience and understanding. To all the dealers, vendors, manufacturers, component partners, and general industry friends we met at the show, what a great time and we look forward to exciting pursuits ahead.
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.
The body is made from light and durable aluminum. The handlebar comes with simple controls to let you accelerate, brake, monitor battery life, operate headlights and of course…sound the horn. There’s even an USB point that will let you charge your iPhone or Android on the go. The bike can reach a top speed of 10mph. Feel the wind in your hair as you zoom up and down hills and past all that city traffic…
“Changes in production and consumption patterns are a crucial element of the sustainability agenda. Communication between product developers and users, and user integration in product development, can serve as a means for organizational as well as individual learning processes, resulting in sustainable product development. [...] Improved methods, such as INNOCOPE (innovating through consumer-integrated product development), tested in this study with a cycle manufacturer and resulting in a new product, a pedelec, are needed for effective communication, activating consumers and enabling them to promote sustainability goals. Through co-operative product development processes key factors facilitating and obstructing the adoption of sustainable innovations may be identified. Such processes can enhance the emergence and diffusion of sustainable product innovations and different forms and bodies of knowledge can be combined. Integrating users' contextual everyday knowledge of the product with the technical knowledge of companies may lead to mutual learning, technical innovations and changes in consumer behaviour.” (Hoffmann, 2007).
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.