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Old 01-11-10, 08:50 AM   #1
pavers
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2010 and ebikes? have they come of age?

Greetings - this is the 3rd year I've been looking at e-bikes. Haven't yet taken the plung though. Has anything changed since last spring? Reasons I've held back in the past:

-I want lithium (it's cost to weight, and from what I hear even reliability had not been good).
-prefer something "out of the box" in the 1k-1.5k range. Most out of the box is the crappy wal-mart.
-want a road bike with skinny to medium tires, not a mountain style bike
-would like to be able to disconnect battery and take it into the office with me
-something reasonably rain resistant

so far ez-kits (albeit a kit, it seems easy to set-up) and the schwinn have come the closest. Has anything changed for 2010? Maybe I should check back in June.
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Old 01-11-10, 09:55 AM   #2
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I've been checking out the e-bike and conversion kit market for the first time, and am dissapointed in the peformance, reliability and cost of what is currently available. I expected the technology and quality to be further along at a more affordable price. I definitely haven't found an ebike that fits my needs for under 1.5. But in all fairness, my requirements for mountain commuting are extreme.
Bikes that seem to be breaking new ground are over 2.5 and may be overpriced. These include Sanyo enveloop, Kalkoff Pro Connect S, and Schwinn Tailwinds.
Ironically, the kit that I'm most impressed with for the money, is the Currie electro-drive. They are the same company that makes the Walmart bikes.
Since I've never been on an ebike, I'm not really a good person to ask, but these are my initial impressions.

Last edited by 1-track-mind; 01-11-10 at 10:09 AM.
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Old 01-11-10, 10:09 AM   #3
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There are companies that are pushing development of their products. I know for example, Amped bikes are continuously being improved. I don't think the time is right for a pre-made setup. In fact, I don't know if it will ever be time, because I like my own bike and wanted to choose a kit to fit my needs. With such a small market, I think it would be too difficult trying to mass produce a product that would meet the needs of many.
I'd say go with a kit. They are easy enough to set up and can be reasonably priced. And you get to keep your own bike!
Front hub motors are easiest to install, but they just make me nervous.
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Old 01-11-10, 11:49 AM   #4
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Certainly the stand alone ebike is a hot seller, especially in the EU right not. But because the regs there are set at such a low wattage all the development by bike manufacturers has to go that route in order to sell their wares. The advantage that the kit market has is that they can be more flexible and offer wattage more in line with what we currently can use here in the US.

After years of different trials of trying to fit kits, both electric and gas, to bikes I always come back to the fact that no matter what you do the kit always compromises the bike in some way and takes the bike out of the loop for being what it was, just a bike that you could ride at your leisure. So at this time I am putting together a trailer that will be driven by a hub wheel and hold the battery/controller and have the ability to hold another 40 or so lbs. of stuff as well. All that the bike will have to have aboard will be some wire and a throttle which will not keep the bike from being a bike when I want it to be. This type of principal can apply to any bike, including recumbents. This is not an original idea by any means but it is the one that I keep coming back to for some reason. The cost of this project is well in line with the OP's budget given the fact that he already has a bike.
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Old 01-11-10, 12:23 PM   #5
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Mabman
Please keep us posted on this, sounds like a good idea.
I have a Bob trailer with suspension used it on a 10 day self-contained tour. It worked great, but you have to be real careful going downhill on gravel roads. I love the idea of getting all that weight off the bike and being able to use the electric assist with different bikes.
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Old 01-11-10, 12:50 PM   #6
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Certainly the stand alone ebike is a hot seller, especially in the EU right not. But because the regs there are set at such a low wattage all the development by bike manufacturers has to go that route in order to sell their wares. The advantage that the kit market has is that they can be more flexible and offer wattage more in line with what we currently can use here in the US.

After years of different trials of trying to fit kits, both electric and gas, to bikes I always come back to the fact that no matter what you do the kit always compromises the bike in some way and takes the bike out of the loop for being what it was, just a bike that you could ride at your leisure. So at this time I am putting together a trailer that will be driven by a hub wheel and hold the battery/controller and have the ability to hold another 40 or so lbs. of stuff as well. All that the bike will have to have aboard will be some wire and a throttle which will not keep the bike from being a bike when I want it to be. This type of principal can apply to any bike, including recumbents. This is not an original idea by any means but it is the one that I keep coming back to for some reason. The cost of this project is well in line with the OP's budget given the fact that he already has a bike.
A big part of the problem with those wanting e-bikes to have motorcycle performance in terms of speed is that world-wide some governmental entities have placed significant restrictions on the size and speed of electric motors that may be used on power-assisted bicycles that use regular bicycle frames and parts. Specifically, in the EU and parts of Asia the maximum size motor allowed is 250W. (Efforts by the US Highway Safety Administration to apply moped/motorcycle safety standards to all electric bicycles led to legislation being enacted by the US Congress in 2001 that clarified that "low powered" electric bicycles with electric motors 750W and under and speeds no higher than 20 MPH only have to meet safety standards set for consumer bicycles by the Consumer Product Safety Administration. However, those electric bicycles with motors over 750W or that can travel over 20 MPH must still meet safety standards for mopeds/motorcycles set by the Highway Safety Administration. These bikes must have beefier frames, better brakes and components and safety lighting such as turn signals, headlights, tail lights, etc--these bikes will be significantly more expensive because of enhanced engineering and more costly production costs. At present conversion kits aren't covered by these safety standards but I expect that to change as more powerful hub motors continue to be sold by Chinese exporters.)

There are some high-end, expensive electric bicycles that have higher performance standards but they are constructed to meet moped/motorcycle safety standards. The E-Rocket out of Germany is perhaps the most impressive. It doesn't have a throttle, you have to peddle to get the electric assist to work, but it can significantly amplify the speed of your peddling, achieving top speeds between 37-50 MPH. At present they're only making 10 a year and the cost is well over $40,000 USD. US-based Optibike has impressive performance; one model (850XLi) has added torque for enhanced hill climbing. Again, the price tag is too steep for the average person--about $10,000 USD.

Realistically, I don't think we'll see high-performance e-bikes that can reach high speeds. Rather, if battery technology develops more, we may see electric motorcycles with decent speeds and range. That's probably not a bad thing since bicycle frames and components aren't engineered to withstand the stress of continued, high torque that can be generated by electric motors. For those wanting to have a vehicle that they don't license or insure, well they'll have to settle for speeds of 20 MPH or less.
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Old 01-11-10, 02:07 PM   #7
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I am not interested in going fast and am fine with the legal speed limit as regulated, I just want to get to that speed as quickly/efficiently as possible with a load and hold to it as much as possible during uphill travel. A 250w motor won't do that but a 750w (Fed) or 1000w motor that is legal in the state I reside (OR) should with the right setup due to the higher torque available. Just a matter of the right motor/controller and how much battery as to how long it will do so.

As far as the dynamics of using a trailer with a bike I am thinking that the use of regen as a brake on the motorized wheel itself on the trailer may take care of the tendency that they have in a situation such as 1 track mind had. Will have to wait until I get the setup completed in order to fully substantiate this.

As I said this is not a new idea. The trailers in the pictures were made 6 or so years ago. The company that did the two all electric units (Thunderstruck EV) and others like it hasn't made them for awhile and has moved on to bigger and better things. As you can see both hub and chain drive motors are possible. Even gas/electric is possible as shown in the last photo. (credit ibdennyak)

BOB does not condone the use of their trailers for motorization btw but I know of at least one of the original TS units that is still in use without any structural issues.
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Old 01-12-10, 12:20 AM   #8
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Ecospeed is still the only ebike setup that I like for loads and hills. They now have one for upright bikes but I haven't ridden one yet.
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Old 01-12-10, 01:15 AM   #9
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I agree that the eco speed is a fine setup. Surprised me though that they have the upright bike motor mounted in that position though, especially being PNWet homies. I saw the same type of mounting with a 25cc Robin up in B'ham under development and I told them it didn't seem like a good environment also.

The funny thing is that for a cargo bike like they have pictured on their site mounting it behind the seattube would not be a problem room wise and alot easier to shield from excess moisture? Will have to look that crew up when I am in the metro area next month.

If money was no object I would spec their big boy on a Kona Ute with a Nuvinci developer kit, bypass the crank and go right to the hub ala Staton and stick on a nice sized ah battery. That would be about 4 trailer builds, but would haul as much in one trip.
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Old 01-12-10, 10:04 AM   #10
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Looking into putting a Phoenix Brute (Crystalyte 5305) on the back of a Bob. Do you see any problem running a 20" wheel instead of the stock 16" ? Also curious about SLA configuration to power it.
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Old 01-12-10, 11:40 AM   #11
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A 20" wheel won't fit. Take a tape to your BOB and see if you have 2"es more clearance in front of your stock wheel setup to confirm this?

You can get the 5305, make sure it is a front (100mm) spacing hub, and get it laced to a 16" rim. The spokes are going to be really short and finding them stock is nearly impossible, but a wheelbuilder with a spoke cutter can do the job. That may be tough to find in your area however?

In order to do SLA and get enough range/power for your needs you are looking at a battery pack similar to the middle picture above. That type of setup using the chain drive that TS did would probably do what you want it to btw. You might want to talk to Brian at TS about it if you can get ahold of him?
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Old 01-13-10, 03:01 AM   #12
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I agreed that it is hard to find an ebike that meets your specfication & price because most sellers are not ebikers. Also, they simply follow what sells the most. I personally suggest you to build one yourself if you have the time & money. If not, go to your local wally store and get a cheapest one to begin with as an experiential unit.
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Old 01-15-10, 02:44 PM   #13
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Like what, a free place to drop your business website?
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Old 01-16-10, 07:18 AM   #14
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I've been waiting a while and I'm also not thrilled that batteries are still the big problem. However, it does appear that ebikes have gotten past the point where you had to use them with batteries - I'd like to use it as a regular bike some of the time. I'm seriously considering the new Treks although all are over $2000, or putting a Bionx PL350 on my current old hybrid. Both of those options should give me an ebike that I can do my 30 mile r/t commute on with ease - well, more ease than I have now.

Is it price effective? No, I can take the train and it will be cheaper I think. But I get to enjoy the ride far more on the bike. I'n far from rich but I'm not in debt and have a decent chance at retiring in the next ten years or so - I'm closing in on 58. So, since I could die any day, doesn't it pay to buy a toy I'd really like? But I can't even find one of the Treks around, and I'm in NYC. Maybe I'll look at some of the ones you suggested although there don't seem to be any dealers for them around near me. I ruled out the Giants because they're all just 250s.
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Old 01-16-10, 10:41 PM   #15
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Is it price effective? No, I can take the train and it will be cheaper I think. But I get to enjoy the ride far more on the bike. I'n far from rich but I'm not in debt and have a decent chance at retiring in the next ten years or so - I'm closing in on 58. So, since I could die any day, doesn't it pay to buy a toy I'd really like?
Get a hold of a book called "Younger next year" and you will understand that your health does not necessarily have to decline after you hit 50, but you have to get regular exercise. If the "toy" enables you to do this, then you could not make a better investment.
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Old 01-18-10, 03:34 AM   #16
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As far as out of box is concerned I haven't been all that impressed with the low budget models. They seem more about pushing you to a grocery store around the corner than actual commuting. I just finished building a ebike from a 26in mountain bike off craigslist and a 500W cyclone kit from the taiwan headquarters. I'm using Pingbattery.com 24V 20Ah LiFePo4 battery. Total cost $940 and change. I took it for it's first test ride today on a 6% 1.25 mile mountain and got up it just fine. I don't have a cycleanalyst so I figure from recharging time that I used between 7 and 8 amps for the climb. This was with small pedal effort from myself. Overall I am quite impressed with the kit. Since it's a kit you should expect some bumps along the way as far as assembly goes, but I couldn't be happier.

If you want to see my full build, I have documented it fully here http://cyclone-ebikedocumentary.blogspot.com/
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Old 01-18-10, 09:07 AM   #17
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Get a hold of a book called "Younger next year" and you will understand that your health does not necessarily have to decline after you hit 50, but you have to get regular exercise. If the "toy" enables you to do this, then you could not make a better investment.
I'm aware of the series but haven't partaken yet. I bike 60 - 90 miles a week, swim, surf, play tennis, and take classes at the local gym. I do eat badly though. Still, things do change after age 50 - there's a reason that pro ballplayers are young but I intend to stay active, physically and mentally, as long as I can. I'll read the book - it can't hurt.
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Old 01-20-10, 09:08 PM   #18
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if you want a powerful e-bike, you'll have to build it yourself. I built mine. Mine is still a work in progress. I have one more battery pack to buy so it will be 48v. It's a 36v right now. Mine still goes almost 30 mph at 36v. I got a 5303 hub motor with 36v20ah of lithium. The whole bike cost about $1400 to put together.

$750 - 5303 hub and controller from ebikes.ca
$400 - 36v20ah lithium battery from elitepowersolutions.com
$250 - wires, bike rack, rear bike bag, connectors, watt meter, etc etc, new brakes

If you want a good lithium battery for cheap, check out elitepowersolutions.com.
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Old 01-22-10, 04:48 PM   #19
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Though I'm currently sidelined by surgery, I ride a Bacchetta Giro recumbent with a Bionx PL350 kit. I don't feel I need to use the electric assist all the time and the bike still feels like it oughta. (It was no light-weight in the first place, and I suppose neither am I.) For example, I respect the speed limit on our multi-use trail, and don't use any assist there (at least in the down-hill direction.)

Using Lithium-based batteries placed low and thougtfully on your frame and a light-weight motor can go a long way toward preserving the bike-like feel of your ebike.

Charlie
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Old 01-25-10, 09:01 AM   #20
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Using Lithium-based batteries placed low and thougtfully on your frame and a light-weight motor can go a long way toward preserving the bike-like feel of your ebike.

Charlie
http://ElectricCyclist.com
That's my one worry about the Treks; the weight would be better balanced by having the battery lower on the frame. Of course, I often have that much weight in my rear bag right now once I load it up with stuff from the store. I'm considering front panniers just to get some weight on the front wheel though.
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Old 01-25-10, 07:52 PM   #21
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Spend a little and get a Bionx system. If you want to go faster than 20mph, get the Bionx PL500HS. There isn't a kit out there that does a better job at making you feel like you're still riding a bicycle. Power is initiated by pedalling and the delivery is very smooth. Battery has a lock system so you can easily unlock it and take with you. It's weatherproof. Mine's survived 2 Seattle winters. You get great range... 40 miles or more. My system rides on 700x32c smooth tires.
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Old 02-01-10, 07:32 AM   #22
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Spend a little and get a Bionx system. If you want to go faster than 20mph, get the Bionx PL500HS. There isn't a kit out there that does a better job at making you feel like you're still riding a bicycle. Power is initiated by pedalling and the delivery is very smooth. Battery has a lock system so you can easily unlock it and take with you. It's weatherproof. Mine's survived 2 Seattle winters. You get great range... 40 miles or more. My system rides on 700x32c smooth tires.
The Trek system is Bionx. It isn't really possible to spend much more...
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