Before you start shopping around for a new e-bike, the first thing you should ask yourself is, “how do I plan on using an electric bicycle?” How far do you plan on traveling? What type of terrain will you be traveling on? How much assistance do you need? Do you plan on pedaling – or do you want the bike to do all the work? Is this bike for daily commuting or casual riding? How fast do you need to go?
Because e-bikes are capable of greater speeds for longer periods of time than standard bikes, you want extra control. Wider tires provide traction and some bump absorption with little penalty. You also want strong brakes to slow you (and all that extra weight) easily. It’s worth looking at the quality of the brakes and investing in bikes with better ones if you can.
Bicycles are popular targets for theft, due to their value and ease of resale. The number of bicycles stolen annually is difficult to quantify as a large number of crimes are not reported. Around 50% of the participants in the Montreal International Journal of Sustainable Transportation survey were subjected to a bicycle theft in their lifetime as active cyclists. Most bicycles have serial numbers that can be recorded to verify identity in case of theft.
E-bikes mostly use motors and battery options from a few major suppliers: Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, and Brose. A few other brands exist, but are less reliable or powerful. Some, like the Yamaha system, have more torque, and others, like Bosch’s Active Line, are nearly silent. But, generally, all four make good options. Look for motor output (in torque), which will give you an idea of total power. Just like car engines, more torque equals more power off the line and more boost to your pedaling. But watt hours (Wh) is perhaps a more important figure to use—it takes into account battery output and life to give a more accurate reflection of power (higher Wh equals bigger range).
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.
Electric bikes aren’t just a practical and environmentally conscious solution to gridlock, they also are really fun to ride. On top of all of the persuasive arguments to get an electric bike, I think the Rad Wagon’s best-selling point comes down to enjoyment. Zooming down the street each morning I wasn’t angrily yelling at fellow drivers or rushing not to be late. The bike commute was part of the journey each day, and not just the means I used to get around. There’s a reason so many people loved biking as a kid, and it can be just as fun as an adult.
Nevada Electric Bicycle (NRS 482.0287) Bicycle 20 (motor only on the flat with 170LB rider, undefined if pedal assist is allowed to go faster) 750W (it is undefined as to whether this is input or output power, but in the USA, motors are rated on output power at the shaft) No none (use caution here because of "reckless endangerment" laws) no (not a "motor vehicle")
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.
Cargo bikes and city bikes are common in the e-bike space, but until recently we haven’t seen that many performance road bikes. The Giant Road E+1 is a pedal-assist performance road bike that’s made for more than just commuting; the powerful motor can crank you up to 28 mph very quickly on the highest setting so you can rip the flats, join your local group ride, or blast through the mountains with far less effort than a traditional road bike. It won’t feel like a 16-pound race bike when you lean it into high-speed turns, but the endurance-oriented geometry allows for an aggressive position on the bike and keeps it nimble and agile at high speed.
Oregon Law (ORS 801.258]) defines an electric assisted bicycle as an electric motor-driven vehicle equipped with operable pedals, a seat or saddle for the rider, no more than three wheels in contact during travel. In addition, the vehicle must be equipped with an electric motor that is capable of applying a power output of no greater than 1,000 watts, and that is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 20 miles per hour on level ground.
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.
X-Treme is a very well-known distributor of electric scooters and electric bikes with really great customer service. They offer a number of great budget electric bikes, and one of them is Catalina Beach Cruiser. Powered by 500W rear hub motor, this e-bike can conquer almost any terrain. The frame of this bike is 100% hand-welded aluminum, with a step-though design. The top speed on this bike is about 20 mph, with the range of up to 60 miles on pedal-assist mode. The battery pack is 48V LiPo4. This e-bike is an absolute joy to ride. Even more now, with an all new zero resistance rear hub motor with an automatic clutch. This makes riding without power a breeze and you will feel no resistance from the motor. Seat is large and very comfortable, with dual springs for smooth ride. It also comes with a basket, which is a must have if you plan on going for groceries or running errands on this bike.
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.