I'm interested in getting an electric bike but I'm still undecided. I'm currently considering the "Charger" which was not made by but is distributed by Electroportal, LLC (electroportal.com). It looks a bit on the heavy side but I'm going to demo it tomorrow so I'll see for myself how it feels.
I was hoping to find others who may own or have tried this model to get some opinions not generated by a marketing department. Anyone out there tried this one?
I've certainly not been impressed with their website.
What's that got to do with the bike?
Success of the business. First impressions. They could seel the best ebike in the world.. but if they never upgrade their site... How successful can the business be if they do not take care of the website... yes, many companies did fine before the 'net, but this company DOES have a website, and if they want to impress the world the website needs to speak for them.
So I had my test ride today at electric-bikes.com. It was a lot of fun and quite eye-opening, especially since it was the first eBike(s) I've tried. I was very impressed at how friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable the owner is.
The Charger (Standard model) I tried was also equipped with a Crystalyte hub conversion. I obviously didn't use them simultaneously but it was nice to get to see the difference on an identical bike.
I was riding around an empty park with a lot of straight paths but unfortunately I forgot to explore and find some hills.
I started off on the Charger using its native power system set on level 4 (ď400%Ē power amplification according to their website). It was almost too easy to start moving. Just positioning my feet on the pedals moved me enough to throw me mildly off balance but that was easy to accommodate for once I knew what to expect. Once I started moving I easily reached 12 mph but to get up to 18 and then 20 it really took some effort. My biggest problem with the Charger is that [especially at high speeds] it makes an annoying noise.
To be fair, I am considering this vehicle for a commute through city traffic with a lot of stop lights so the easy start is a good feature and the 12 mph [nearly effortless pedaling] cap is pretty decent.
Back at the shop, the owner removed the Charger battery and snapped the Crystalyte pack onto the rack. He advised me that the motor was a little under powered since it was only using three 10Ah batteries. I canít remember the voltage but for my stated purposes he recommended going to a fourth cell or for added distance swapping for three 12Ah batteries.
I loved the Crystalyte set up. After a few pedals I engaged the throttle and kept pedaling a bit (mostly out of instinct) and then stopped pedaling and let it speed up to 18 mph. It felt great and it was quiet. Probably my favorite was a sharp turn into a parking lot. I stopped the motor to slow before the turn, pedaled through it, and then throttled up as I came out of it. Too much fun. After a few more loops through the park Iíd decided that the hub kit was the way I wanted to go. The Charger seems like the more properly green option but fun needs to be considered as well.
I also wasnít too impressed with the internal shift mechanism of the Charger. Youíre supposed to slow or stop your pedaling while shifting and even though I drive a manual shift car, on a bike this seemed counter-intuitive. To be fair though, Iíve had problems with bad de-railer systems in the past and this might be more reliable once you get used to slowing before shifting.
As to the question about the eletroportal website. The story and the tech are quite interesting to me but I think one of the main reason it's up there is so you see why it's so much cheaper than all the other options. It's essentially a clearance sale. Also, the tech is quite innovative in how low its power use is. But I admit that their website does look like it was created in the late 90's.
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Now that you have tried it, I will tell you I find the lack of throttle foolish. I am feeding and carrying around all those brain cells, I might as well use them. The sensing system can't tell if I need inertia for an upcoming hill or something else. The internal shifter is pretty standard though it is an out-dated Nexus 7 and not an 8. I find the frame heavy like it came from x-mart. On the flat it wastes battery because it continues to power me when I don't need it. The frame was not set up to easily add racks for utility. The first time and only time I have removed the rear tire, took me 2 hours of fustration and that was at home. I would have been ready to kill someone if I had been on the side of a busy highway. The drive chain from the motor has no simple way to loosen so you are trying to fight two chains at once and they keep getting in each others way. I'm sure it will take me only 1/2 hour next time but the Charger instructions doesn't mention flats. It goes up hills OK but you have to creep up them to get the electronics to sense that you would like help. Not the bike of the future. I don't care for hub motors either because of their inefficiency but on a diamond frame bike it seems the best option for now. I ride and Ecospeed equipped recumbent and am very happy with that but the Ecospeed won't work on a DF bike.
I bought a Charger about 2 months ago, and so far it's been great. I was looking specifically for a pedelec bike, and one that would take me up to the top speed of 20mph quickly. In my experience, I shift through the gears easily, and I can get to top speed with little effort. On top of that, the gear shifting allows me to make sure I am making the most of the motor (I can usually tell when I am at a good rpm by the sound of the motor whine). Going up hills is easy. You just have to use the gears judiciously - on a steep hill I just shift to 3rd or 4th gear and then upshift as I gain speed. On a decent hill I've maintained between 10 - 12mph. Also, the motor freewheels very well, so on flats I often just get to a top speed, and then coast for while, thus saving on the battery.
The Charger I bought came with a rack and fenders - I don't know yet how it will do in the rain, as there is a custom rain cover designed by the Electroportal guys. I've got my bike loaded with Panniers and a handlebar bag, and I've been using it pretty much as my commute bike. The range I get at the highest setting is probably in the 12-15 mile range, and more if I reduce the setting. I have yet to use up the battery.