Photo: Zap Electric's power-assist kit turns a conventional bike into an electric one. There's a bolt-on DC electric motor (weighing just over 3kg or 7lb) just above the back wheel, behind the police officer's foot, pressing against the tire and driving it by simple friction. The motor's powered by a compact lead-acid battery (weighing about 5.5 kg or 12 lb) inside a protective nylon bag. This kit adds quite bit of weight to the bike, but gives extra range and speed when needed. Photo taken in Santa Rosa, California by Rick Tang courtesy of US DOE/NREL.
At the end of the day, it’s probably best to spend as much as you can to get the bike with the most range that folds up the smallest. Once these puppies run out of juice, they tend to be much harder to pedal than their non-electric counterparts, mainly due to their increased weight, so keep an eye out for lighter models if you know you’re the type to overextend a biking trip. Other features to look out for include racks to help you carry important materials, charging time, and, of course, safety implements like lights and reflectors.
As long as you can do without some of the perks that pricier models offer—like a detailed display unit, integrated lights, and a torque-sensor motor—the August Live! LS is a solid, stable, comfortable, and really freakin’ cute (have you see those polka-dot fenders?) e-bike. Its 8-speed twist shifter, chopper-style handlebar, Touch Down Geometry (for a more laid-back ride), and three levels of assist keep this bike within the realm of “cruiser.” But with a 250-watt Bafang rear-hub motor, a top pedal-assisted speed of 20 mph, and reliable disc brakes, the August is no joke. It’ll get you to the top of relatively steep climbs without forcing you out of the saddle, and it feels super stable on the way back down. It has a battery range of 20 miles, but that’s enough to take it where it’s happiest: tootling along at the beach, around town, and through the park.
Electric bicycles are not allowed in any public area, meaning an area where there is full or partial public access. Any kind of pedal assist, electric bike, scooter, moped or vehicle which has any form of propulsion, whether in full or as assist, other than human power, must be approved as either a car, motorcycle, van, truck, bus or similar. This makes pedelecs and tilt-controlled two-wheel personal vehicles illegal in all practical ways, as they cannot be registered as a motor cycle.
In conformance with legislation adopted by the U.S. Congress defining this category of electric-power bicycle (15 U.S.C. 2085(b)), CPSC rules stipulate that low speed electric bicycles (to include two- and three-wheel vehicles) are exempt from classification as motor vehicles providing they have fully operable pedals, an electric motor of less than 750W (1 hp), and a top motor-powered speed of less than 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) when operated by a rider weighing 170 pounds. An electric bike remaining within these specifications is subject to the CPSC consumer product regulations for a bicycle. Commercially manufactured e-bikes exceeding these power and speed limits are regulated by the federal DOT and NHTSA as motor vehicles, and must meet additional safety requirements. The legislation enacting this amendment to the CPSC is also known as HR 727. The text of HR 727 includes the statement: "This section shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or requirements." (Note that this refers to consumer product regulations enacted under the Consumer Product Safety Act. Preemption of more stringent state consumer product regulations does not limit State authority to regulate the use of electric bicycles, or bicycles in general, under state vehicle codes.)
From the beginning and still today, bicycles have been and are employed for many uses. In a utilitarian way, bicycles are used for transportation, bicycle commuting, and utility cycling. It can be used as a 'work horse', used by mail carriers, paramedics, police, messengers, and general delivery services. Military uses of bicycles include communications, reconnaissance, troop movement, supply of provisions, and patrol. See also: bicycle infantry.
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.
Photo: This typical electric bicycle, a Sanyo Eneloop (now discontinued), had a range of about 30–55 km (17–35 miles) and a top speed of around 24 km/h (15 mph). Note the 250-watt hub motor on the front wheel and the 5.7Ah lithium-ion battery pack (black, marked "Sanyo," just in front of the back wheel). Picture by kind permission and courtesy of Richard Masoner, originally published on Flickr under a Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence.
We Can Build It. Built by hand in Pennsylvania, mostly by Harry and Alec. Custom Wheelbuilding Some people don't know that we build every one of our wheels here by hand in Pennsylvania. This lets us control each step of the process, ensuring that the spokes are uniform, straight, and undamaged, allowing us to apply spoke-prep to the spokes, oil to the nipple seats, and inspect the rims before we use them. We get the tension, dish, lateral and radial trueness dialed in to our standards and know it's a good wheel before it goes out the door.
In my experience, there aren’t people out checking on ebike classes and the way you ride has a lot more to do with being stopped than what you are riding. I have never been stopped on an ebike anywhere for any reason. The bigger risk is riding a faster and even more powerful electric bike that would be categorized as a moped without a license and that if you got into an accident, you could be liable for more and charged with driving an unregistered vehicle or something. It’s great that you’re being careful and thinking about how to fit into the community, that alone goes a long way
I converted my Kona Dew Deluxe to electric with a controller and 1000 watt front wheel. The SLA batteries I tried initially were _functional_, but the bike had a range of about 6 miles @ approx. 50% throttle use. Since upgrading to the Joyisi pack, the utility of the bike has increased exponentially. I need to add a better gauge so I can drain the battery more fully between charges, but I'm getting at least 20 miles per charge, including some very aggressive uphill segments. On flat ground, the battery powers the bike to approx. 35MPH; even on really steep hills with minimal pedal assist, I do at least 15MPH. Biking 15MPH uphill with little/no effort is EPIC.
Several bills have been sponsored to legalize electric bicycles for use on NYS roads, and several have overwhelmingly passed at the committee level, but none of these initiatives has been able to be heard and then passed in the New York State Senate, until 2015. The latest bill S3997, "An act to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to the definition of electric assisted bicycle. Clarifying the vehicle and traffic law to define electric assisted bicycles; establish that electric assisted bicycles, as defined, are bicycles, not motor vehicles; and establish safety and operational criteria for their use." has passed in the Senate for the first time ever in 2015. The related Assembly bill A233 was not brought to a vote in the assembly even though it had passed with little issue in prior years.