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…
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 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Act states that electric bicycles and tricycles meeting the definition of low-speed electric bicycles will be considered consumer products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has regulatory authority to assure, through guidelines and standards, that the public will be protected from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of electric bicycles.
Last year we found a very low-priced (under $600 at Amazon) bike made by Ancheer. Overall, it made some good compromises to get down to the $600 price point but I had some issues with the build quality, the power of the motor, lack of display on the controller and size of the battery. This year a new low-cost Amazon ebike from Rattan seems to have answered many of my concerns.
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.
We rode the Vado through the gauntlet, including some of the steepest hills in Palo Alto, and it easily handled everything we threw at it, maintaining a steady 20 miles per hour even on the most daunting of ascents. The bike also handles well on downhills and is both nimble and quick on city streets and paved trails. It’s even comfortable to ride for extended distances, which is vitally important for any bike built for urban settings.
Power-assist: Also known as pedal-assist bikes, these are the bicycle equivalents of hybrid cars: they're designed to be pedaled quite a lot of the time and electrically powered either when you're tired or when you feel like a bit of electric help (when you're going up hill, for example). Unlike full-power bikes, they don't have hub motors; instead, there's a separate electric motor mounted near the rear wheel and driving it either through the gear sprocket or simply by pressing against the rear tire. Where a hub motor is difficult or impossible to pedal without any power (because you're effectively turning it into a generator), power-assist motors turn easily with little or no resistance when you pedal. That gives power-assist bikes much greater range than hub-motor ones (as much as 80–145km or 50–90 miles).
Hmm, that’s unfortunate. I actually have a doctors note that I carry along which recommends the use of an assisted bicycle. I ride thoughtfully and have never been asked to show it. I cannot comment on the federal parks, perhaps they are not aware of the federal law classifying electric assist bikes that perform at or below 20 mph and 750 watts as bicycles. Having a note and this information would be a good response if you were questioned.
As of 2008 a standard class C license, proof of insurance, and registration (annual fee: $9.00) are required for operation of any motorized pedalcycle in Pennsylvania. Additionally, there are strict equipment standards that must be met for operation, including: handlebars, brakes, tires/wheels, electrical systems/lighting, mirrors, speedometer, and horns/warning devices.
BMW has launched to the UK market their Active Hybrid E-bike priced at £2,500. The e-bike available through their own website boasts up to 60 miles per charge from the 504 Wh Lithium-ion battery powering a Brose 250 W motor. The integrated battery and crank motor system add to the masculine looks of this hybrid ebike. Read our full review of the BMW Active Hybrid E-bike.
As of May 19, 2009, Nevada amended its state transportation laws to explicitly permit electric bicycles to use any "trail or pedestrian walkway" intended for use with bicycles and constructed with federal funding, and otherwise generally permits electric bicycles to be operated in cases where a regular bicycle could be. An electric bicycle is defined as a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals with an electric motor producing up to 1 gross brake horsepower and up to 750 watts final output, and with a maximum speed of up to 20 miles per hour on flat ground with a 170-pound rider when powered only by that engine.
The motor isn’t insanely powerful, but it gets you up to full speed quickly enough. I never felt like the bike was underpowered. The motor does make more noise than a lot of other hub motor bikes I’ve ridden though. There’s a definite whirrr to the motor caused by the internal plastic gears. While all geared motors will have some level of gear noise, this one stuck out more to me than others.
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!
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The other shout-out goes to Paul Bogaert who decided to close the Bike Doctor after 27 years and instead cycle tour the world with his wife. Paul had an early role in Vancouver bicycle advocacy and at bringing cycle riding to a less elitist/athletic and more everyday commuter crowd through their shop. They were among the early shops to embrace family friendly cargo bikes and appreciated the role that electric would play in making cycling more broadly appealing.