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  1. #1
    BikeForums Founder Joe Gardner's Avatar
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    Post Electric bikes for commuting?

    I just found this great electric bike website, http://www.electric-bikes.com/ ... After spending a good 30min reading the information there, and checking out the links & makers on that site, i need to ask you all, what are your thoughts on electric bikes for commuting? Do you think as more electric bikes come out, that more people will purchase them to commute? Some of the bikes listed there will go 25+ mph for 10+ miles, or 15mph for 20 miles, the more you pedel, the faster you go, and the longer the range.

    As for cost, they range from $750 - $3000. Cost per recharge? get this, only five cents! No liscensing costs, registration, and insurance requirements!

    What are your thoughts? I think that in the next few years we will see more and more of these electric bikes on the road.

  2. #2
    BikeForums Founder Joe Gardner's Avatar
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    Post Some numbers

    The cost of the eBike touring model: $1,400
    The cost of an average priced car: $13,500
    Monthly cost of eBike: $20 ($.40 per recharge + maintenance)
    Monthly cost of a car: $200 (insurance + gas + maintenance)

    Hmm, i cant see why more people dont bike commute, i know most if not all forum readers here dont own an electric bike, but i really can see in the next 5 years more and more people picking up an eBike and commuting, huge price savings, get out side, have fun, and sometimes its faster to work! (no traffic jams)

    [Edited by Joe Gardner on Dec 29th at 07:40 PM]

  3. #3
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    Question

    What if work is more than 20 miles away, or the distance from home to work and back is more than 20 miles, is there a road side charger kit or a backup, and could u charge it at work???
    nickBMXr

  4. #4
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    Post i use one...

    ...and it's great! i do think more people will try these bikes and get hooked. in japan and europe they are used more frequently than here in the states (probably because we have such a "car culture" here). people would still need to deal with all the problems of bike commuting on roadways just as they would with a regular bike, which may be why more people aren't using them yet. but my feeling is that because of the extra oopmh on electric bikes, it's easier for novices to deal with traffic.

    my electric bike is actually a kit ($600) that i attached to a mountain bike, but the same electric motor and drivetrain is available on a low-end mountain bike for less than $900.

    of the models i tested (giant lafree, iacocca's e-bike, and us pro drive), us pro drive had the most power and best options. on this bike the motor is completely optional. there is no drag when you are not using it, so you can work as hard as you want to. (and i do mean hard. with the battery these bikes weigh about 60 pounds). however, because of the weight, it's very hard not to use the motor is some situations, like starting on hills. overall i probably save about 30 mintues over 15 miles on a very hilly route using the electric bike over a non-road specific bike, and the ride is moderate instead of intense. i can easily ride 10+ miles each way on top of my 8-10 work hours and not be totally spent by the time i get home. (of course, this depends on how i ride - like i said, you can work hard on these bikes, and sometimes i like to be spent!)

    but you won't be an automatic speed demon on these bikes. here in WA there's a law limiting the top speed electric bikes can acheive at 18 mph. once you and the bike together reach 18 mph, the motor will shut off, and you're on your own until you get below 18 mph again. it really only acheives that kind of speed on flats (with work from me) or descents. and i've been passed going up hills on the eletric bike by racers in training.

    anyway, if anyone has more electric bike questions, let me know. i've owned one for more than a year and it's a great commuting bike. before i got it my commute (26 miles rt) was sort of here and there when i was up for it, but with the electric bike i can do it every single day... actually getting more time on the bike.



    [Edited by junebride on Jan 2nd at 01:55 PM]

  5. #5
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Electric bicycles intrigue me, but there are still some flaws to be overcome (in my opinion): weigh too much; maximum distance too short; battery needs replacing after so many recharges; may not allow speeds greater than 15 or 20 mph. But the main reason I can't quite appreciate them yet is that I can't picture myself not pedalling up those hills.

  6. #6
    BikeForums Founder Joe Gardner's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forums Pete, I have enjoyed reading your posts today. I hope you will stick around to share your opinion on these forums

    Im not sure where i read this, but over 75% of car trips, are less then 3 miles from the home, and of those, over half only have one person in the car, the driver! Could you imagine how much money people would save, how healthy people would be, how clean the air would be, how quite our cities would be if these people would ride a bike? I think this is where the use of electric bikes will really shine, there's a huge market for it, if people do the math, the bike would basically be free after a year of use! Im seriously considering selling my truck so I can purchase a new road bike... it will save me $4,000.00+ a year. The only downside to not having a car / truck for me, is dating, and the occasional big trip to Salt Lake City (50 miles away). And the fact that I couldn't use the Carl's Jr drive thru. As of right now, the only reason I have a truck that i can think of, is social status! How pathetic is that? If i can find a job within 15miles of my house, im going to sell my truck, and purchase a new road bike, my mtn bike is just too much work to commute with

    Sorry for going off topic ...

  7. #7
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    The Italian motorbike company Aprilla is making an electric bike powered by a methanol fuel cell. This is really the way to go for portable power. Fuel cells have a power density about 1000x that of batteries, and can be refuelled, so running out is not a problem.
    Electric bikes always seem to be such shoddy affairs, built like the worst toy-store bike with inefficient power units.

    Electricity wont tempt me whilst I can still pedal, but I can see the attraction.

  8. #8
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Thank you, Mr. Gardner, for making me feel welcome!

  9. #9
    Member Loyal's Avatar
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    First time here!

    I have recently become interested in electric vehicles. I have looked in new ones (OUCH $30+ here in Canada). Conversions are also expensive. Then I came across electric bikes and conversion kits. I have done a little research into the subject and they seem like the prime vehicle for me. I currently spend $160 mo in gas to go to work and it is only about 10-15km from home. I would still keep the car, but use the bike for work.

    I am more interested in a conversion kit. I have a Kuahara (sp) mountain bike . . . an older one, that I would consider converting.

    Anyone had any experience? I'm pretty green to this . . . I'm not even sure what components are needed.

    Anyhoo . . . cany anyone help me out.
    Zuki

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    loyal, i found this link on conversion kits for you:

    http://www.currietech.com/e-conversionkit.html

    this is the kit i use on my electric-assisted commuter bike (specialized hardrock). like i said in my post above, i've been pleased with it. really makes the commute fun, easy, and enjoyable.

    one thing to note is, if you have a small-framed mtb, say under 19", you may need to mount the battery pack on a rear rack instead of the seat tube (as pictured elsewhere on currie's site). but this won't affect your ride - simply shifts your center of gravity back a bit.

    in terms of your commute, it sounds like you can make a rt on a single charge, but if you find you can't, fast chargers (4-5 hours to full charge) are available for about $80 for re-charging at work. the kit itself does come with a charger - a slow charger (11-12 hours) for overnight charging.

    the kit comes with everything you need to convert your bike (including directions). but unless you have an excess of tools, patience, and skill, well - i recommend taking it to a shop to do the install, or even locating a shop before you begin. there's a dealer locater on currie's site. that way you can test ride and also begin a relationship with the local electric vehicle shop - you'll be back for service eventually (unless you do it yourself, because of the electric drivetrain on the rear wheel, there are some procedures that only the e-shop will be able to handle for you).

    -jb

  11. #11
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Hey, jb. I am seeing something, now. wait, it's getting clearer...hmmm. If I converted a bike into an electric one,
    and used it as a backup bike, I could ride everyday without worrying about overtraining. Also, I could use it to go
    everywhere else (store, etc.) after work when my commute has me pretty much spent for cycling.

    So you have a lot of positive experience with the "direct drive" design of the US Pro Drive? (I always wondered about "Zap" motors, the way they use tire friction to drive it). How many miles (or months/years) have you driven
    yours?

    You know, sometimes I feel like a horse might feel. I need to rest in between workouts.

  12. #12
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    i've had the kit for about a year and a half, and while there have been some problems with the kit here and there, i've been very happy with the service i've gotten from my local ev shop in combination with the warranties offered by currie. and after testing various models this one stood out as having the most power/hill-climbing torque and highest top speeds. plus i wanted a bike where the motor was optional (not all are built this way, for ex. the giant lafree).

    i average around 350-400 miles a month on this bike.

    although i would love to use the bike for my daily here-and-there stuff, i haven't found a way to lock it to my satisfaction, so i don't take the risk. (it comes into my office with me at work and inside at home.) but i live in an urban area where bike theft is a huge problem. for me, the locking issue is because i ride a small frame bike, and the battery pack sits on a rear rack, instead of on the seat tube. if you can fit it on the seat tube (the standard install) i believe there is a battery-locking system. the motor and drivetrain are bolted well enough on so that wouldn't be a cause for concern. although a skilled thief can steal anything.

    you're right - you could use this bike whenever and not worry about overtraining. it's a heavy bike (maybe 60 pounds all in), so if you want to hammer your heart out without the motor engaged, you will get an anerobic workout like no other. but obviously the point for most commuters is to be able to have a more moderate, every day ride, and still have the ooph for both work and whatever else you have planned later on.

    -jb

  13. #13
    dark and cynical PapeteeBooh's Avatar
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    Hi,


    I have no experience with electric bikes but I have been using (and member of an e list) electric scooters which is a somewhat similar technology.

    To answer your question, the cost per recharge is almost null although batteries tend to get old reasonably quickly (say 3-9 months depending) and are not inexpensive to replace. Chargers can be heavy and difficult to carry so you need to ensure a sufficient range for the commute.

    The main downside of an electric bike is that they are really quite heavy which makes them (in my opinion) difficult to move when not using the engine. Also, keep in mind that most of the time manufacturers claim regarding speed and range are widely exagerated. Other problems are: batteries can be stolen form the bike which makes locking a little problematic. In some states and countries, electric bicycles are considered motorized vehicles and require a driving license and an insurance (but no insurance does insure them).


    My take on electric bike is that for the price you are better off getting a GOOD bike. Spend $700 or more on a bike and you will feel that these hills get really easy to climb. And since it is muscle powered, you never need to be afraid to run out of batteries. I considered an ebike but when with the entry level good bike option recently and I am very happy with it. E bikes are cool for really unfit people who don't want to hear about cycling all the way though.

    Whatever you decide keep in mind that an electric bike will be about the same speed and run at the very best for 45 min without recharge.

  14. #14
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    I have been following this thread with a certain amount of interest. Auxiliary power could certainly be handy in some situations. It could allow individuals with a disability that precludes regular cycling to ride a bike. It could also assist those who want to ride but need a little help initially until their conditioning improves.

    One way or another, every responsibly ridden bicycle of any configuration used for commuting increases our community and makes more people aware of the need for more bicycle-friendly infrastructure.

    Before I started riding regularly and commuting I thought it would be nice to have more bike paths. Now I realize that is not nearly enough. We need "bikeways", by which I mean routes, whether paths or safe streets, that encourage people to ride - to work, to shop, to dine, whatever. I firmly believe in "Same road. Same rules. Same rights." But I am convinced that more people would ride if they could feel safer about it. As more people ride anything our voices will grow.

    Wow! Where did that come from? Actually, what I was going to mention was that I have seen an interesting little device that clamps to the handlebars and has a motor/battery/headlight unit that drives the front wheel by a friction roller. I think is was a Damark catalog. I was intrigued. Easily installed/removed/moved to another bike. Nominal one hour run time, 12 mph. Cost about $150. Looked like a relatively inexpensive way to try out electric.
    Regards,
    Raymond

  15. #15
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Aren't electric bikes more popular in many countries outside the USA? I could see why they would be. Here in the USA we turn our nose up at anything that does not reach 100 mph.

    Funny, many of us feel "safer" the more power our engine has. My aunt told me once that she got a new car "with more guts", as she put it, because that made her feel more in control. I thought that the faster you went, the more likely it was you would never return.

    Didn't Honda come out with a gas/electric "hybrid" car, available here in the US?

  16. #16
    dark and cynical PapeteeBooh's Avatar
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    "Aren't electric bikes more popular in many countries outside the USA? "


    I have family in Belgium. The price of gas has gotten so high that it has prompted quite a few people to seek alternative means of transport (so maybe it is not such a bad thing after all ). Apparently there has been a few more bikes and electric bikes around (not that many though). Allegedly, it is not uncommon to see civil servant working for the EU to move around with a push scooter. Electric bikes are legal in Belgium (and UK. I don't know about all other countries).


    "Funny, many of us feel "safer" the more power our engine has."

    Recently on TV there are mention of a report that found 'big' car safer. Safer for the driver of course, not the pedestrian being run over. There is really a completely s***ed up perception of safety among the non enlightened masses (sic).

  17. #17
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    Pete,
    I believe that is the Honda Insight. I will be interested to see how they do. I have always wondered why there was not more effort to develop the hybrid configuration.
    Raymond

  18. #18
    Member Loyal's Avatar
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    Th Honda Insight and Toyota Prius are the 2 "big" electric/hybrid vehicles on the market. The Honda is a 2+ while the Toyota seats 4. Here in Canada they are both $30K+.

    I have noticed 3 e bike systems: 1/ friction-motor presses against the tire and spins the tire, 2/ the hub mounted 700amp versions (not sure how it turns the wheel) & 3/ motor turns crank (no manual assist).

    I was off one day last week so I dropped into Motor Vehicle Inspection to inquire if an e bike would require licencing to operate on the roadway. They looked at me really weird . . . discussed it among themselves . . . and didn't know, but were interested themselves. They are lookin into it for me.

    For you guys in the US . . . just came across this article on "new" legislation on e bikes.

    http://www.autonet.ca/autonetstories...m?storyID=1713


    Loyal
    Zuki

  19. #19
    dark and cynical PapeteeBooh's Avatar
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    Law and ebikes.

    Here in NM, I called the Motor Vehicle Department once about it and they said "Electric bicycle? I did not know such thing existed". However, I studied the question a bit and here, there are no law for these devices in particular which means that they tend to fall into the category of motorized vehicles, hence requiring license + insurance. I used to belong to several eletric scooter newsgroups that debated the topic (regional legislation) at length.

    In CA (and perhaps some other states) these vehicles are the object of a special law and are legal and the same applies in some other countries.

    However, even when technically illegal, the police is seldom interested in them, although you are taking a gamble since driving without insurance (and perhaps without license ) is a pretty serious offense. There was a kid in that group who got arrested for driving a zappy electric-scooter and charged with driving without license and without insurance. Some other members had problems with authorities as well.

  20. #20
    dark and cynical PapeteeBooh's Avatar
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    Just read the link posted: that is good news! But as the article implies, until the law is passed, technically if there are no law for it in your state, it probably classify as motorized vehicle. Be aware that no insurance (I believe) is willing to insure these devices either.

  21. #21
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    In my state, Georgia, it is considered a bicycle as long as it's maximum motor speed is about 15 or 20 (?) mph (I forget the exact speed).

    The internet is a wonderful tool for reasearching laws that often, many police did not know about. Check out your state's laws (and print some to carry with you) in case some officers want to stop you.

    I'm not sure where it was posted, but Cambronne said that a policeman stopped him on his bicycle (not electric) and told him he had to get off "his road". Cambronne was armed with a printed version of the law, which he showed the officer, who responded with, "I'll be watching you", and drove away.

    To be fair, I've never had that kind of problem.

  22. #22
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    in my state (WA), electric bikes are treated basically as bikes. no driver's license or insurance required, and they're allowed on multipurpose paths or bike lanes. however the law states that you must be 16 or over to ride one, and the bike itself must have a limited motor output, no greater than 1000w and the motor cannot propel the bike over 18 mph. (you can propel the bike faster than that, of course, you just have to do it without the help of the motor.)

    in response to papteebooh's post, my experience is that the speed and range of the bike (referring to the particular model i use) seems accurate to the manufacturer's specs. this particular bike will travel 25 miles, about 2 hours over hilly terrain, tested on my rt commute, on a single charge. that's with human assistance throughout though. they do need to recharged each time though, unless you're going very short distances - but these bikes are more of an answer for longer commutes.

    yes, they are very heavy bikes - you can't get away with not using the motor at starts or on hills (or starting on hills, especially). but as a heavy bike, they have good momentum and you can get away with not using the motor on the flats.

    in my opinion, there's quite a few possible benefical reasons to use one - commuting is just one. i think they have more potential apps than just a toy "for really unfit people." but as with any bike, riding one regularly will improve your fitness. if it fits your particiular situation/commute/transportation need, it's a nice win-win situation.

    and another benefit to having these bikes on the road - cars get exposure to fast cyclists. i ride responsibly at all times, but because of the greater acceleration of the ebike i am able to take the lane when needed, make speedy lefts thru large intersections, and assert my position on the road. that's a benefit for all cyclists on the road.

  23. #23
    Member Loyal's Avatar
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    junebride . . . the system that you use attaches to the rear hub . . . correct? Does it use friction to power the rear wheel or is there another sprocket added to the hub to which the motor is hooked via a chain?
    Zuki

  24. #24
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Junebride will answer this, but I wanted to stab at it: I think it's an internal hub motor.

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    hmm... let me see if i can answer this, not being very well versed in the mechanics of the thing. there is a separate small motor and drivetrain/freewheel that is attached to the hub of the rear wheel opposite the rear cassette. power through the motor is controlled with a thumb throttle up top, and that moves the secondary drivetrain (which is a short little chain on a tiny one gear freewheel). power is transferred thru the hub to accelerate the rear wheel. or so it appears. haven't not taken the thing apart (the motor is safely sealed away and the drivetrain is not fully exposed) i have to admit i'm not entirely certain just how it works.

    -jb

    edit to original post - i just found a link on ebicycles.com that show the motor set-up and explains a little more about how the rear chain drive works:

    http://www.ebicycles.com/ebicycles/chtuspd.htm

    they also have other electric bikes on the site with other types of drive (hub and friction motors), for those interested in what's currently out there.
    Last edited by junebride; 03-15-01 at 03:56 PM.

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