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I have a 24 mile commute, what are my options?

Old 06-27-10, 04:54 PM
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JeremyT
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I have a 24 mile commute, what are my options?

I've been a bike or ped commuter for the better part of the past 10 years, and I've just taken a position that's 24 miles away from my house. I immediately ruled out biking under my own power, since 24 miles is a good 2 hours' ride for me on my commuter, and there's essentially no usable public transit here. As much good as 4 hours a day riding would do for me, I can't justify that kind of time commitment.

What I'm looking for in an assist system is something that can bring that time commitment down to what I consider tolerable levels (say, 75 minutes max). So here's the requirements, as far as I see them:

- 24 miles each way means I need either a ~50 mile range, or a ~25 mile range that can recharge within 8 hours

- This route would have what I consider "moderate" hills; it's not flat, but there's nothing massive.

- I'm a heavy guy (230 pounds) so I figure regenerative braking would be a major advantage when dealing with that much mass.

- Since I need to get the commute down around an hour and a quarter each way, I'd need to average at *least* 20 miles per hour (ideally more like 25)

- Price is always a consideration, but I'm willing to pay for something that works better. The BionX 500 seems to be the fastest option, and it's kind of my baseline here at around $2k

So here are some questions:

- Can the BionX 500 handle this kind of usage in the real world, especially on moderate hills with somebody of my size? If it's not, can it be modded to meet these needs?

- If I'm willing to spend, say, up to $4k, is there anything substantially better than the BionX 500?

- Is there any way to figure out what the laws here actually are? I live in NC and people on forums seem to think anything under 700 watts is kosher (beyond that they're classed as mopeds), but I'd love to see some actual laws that say this.

- My commuter is currently a touring bike. Ideally I'd like to continue using that since it rides well and has fenders and a rack, but it crossed my mind that I could use my road bike instead (if it matters). Under human power I gain 2-5 mph on the road bike, but I don't know how that equates to electric assist performance.

If there's just nothing electric that's practical, I do have a car, I just hate to drive if I can avoid it. I'd also consider a scooter, but that still uses gas and doesn't give me the exercise (which is half the reason to cycle commute to begin with).

Thanks!
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Old 06-27-10, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by JeremyT View Post
I've been a bike or ped commuter for the better part of the past 10 years, and I've just taken a position that's 24 miles away from my house. I immediately ruled out biking under my own power, since 24 miles is a good 2 hours' ride for me on my commuter, and there's essentially no usable public transit here. As much good as 4 hours a day riding would do for me, I can't justify that kind of time commitment.

What I'm looking for in an assist system is something that can bring that time commitment down to what I consider tolerable levels (say, 75 minutes max). So here's the requirements, as far as I see them:

- 24 miles each way means I need either a ~50 mile range, or a ~25 mile range that can recharge within 8 hours

- This route would have what I consider "moderate" hills; it's not flat, but there's nothing massive.

- I'm a heavy guy (230 pounds) so I figure regenerative braking would be a major advantage when dealing with that much mass.

- Since I need to get the commute down around an hour and a quarter each way, I'd need to average at *least* 20 miles per hour (ideally more like 25)

- Price is always a consideration, but I'm willing to pay for something that works better. The BionX 500 seems to be the fastest option, and it's kind of my baseline here at around $2k

So here are some questions:

- Can the BionX 500 handle this kind of usage in the real world, especially on moderate hills with somebody of my size? If it's not, can it be modded to meet these needs?

- If I'm willing to spend, say, up to $4k, is there anything substantially better than the BionX 500?

- Is there any way to figure out what the laws here actually are? I live in NC and people on forums seem to think anything under 700 watts is kosher (beyond that they're classed as mopeds), but I'd love to see some actual laws that say this.

- My commuter is currently a touring bike. Ideally I'd like to continue using that since it rides well and has fenders and a rack, but it crossed my mind that I could use my road bike instead (if it matters). Under human power I gain 2-5 mph on the road bike, but I don't know how that equates to electric assist performance.

If there's just nothing electric that's practical, I do have a car, I just hate to drive if I can avoid it. I'd also consider a scooter, but that still uses gas and doesn't give me the exercise (which is half the reason to cycle commute to begin with).

Thanks!
Check with your DMV, many states treat e-bikes that can travel faster than 20 MPH or that have electric motors larger than 750W as mopeds and require them to be licensed and insured. The reality is that it's difficult to attain high speeds and distance without pedalng. If you're willing to pedal as well as use motor assist, your range will be improved (and your speed if your legs are powerful). One bike that could probably get you that speed is the Optibike, but it's almost $10,000. https://www.optibike.com/ Another ready-made e-bike brand to look at is E+. https://epluselectricbike.com/ They've got two motor options, the more powerful one might get you close to the speed you're looking for. They also sell a conversion kit. Their prices are more reasonable and you should be able to buy a ready-made e-bike within your. Good luck.

Last edited by nwmtnbkr; 06-27-10 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 06-27-10, 05:48 PM
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Have you considered a gasoline assist unit? They seem to be legal and/or tolerated in some states.
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Old 06-27-10, 06:38 PM
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Get a Harley 883 Sportster, and cycle on the weekends.
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Old 06-27-10, 06:42 PM
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I can't help you, but if there isn't anything that fits your needs, you could always just drive part of the way and then bike the rest.
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Old 06-27-10, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by nwmtnbkr View Post
Check with your DMV, many states treat e-bikes that can travel faster than 20 MPH or that have electric motors larger than 750W as mopeds and require them to be licensed and insured.
That's a good idea, I'll try to check with them.

The reality is that it's difficult to attain high speeds and distance without pedalng. If you're willing to pedal as well as use motor assist, your range will be improved (and your speed if your legs are powerful).
Oh yeah, I plan to pedal hard, maybe lightening up when I get near the office so I'll stop sweating at the end. The only reason I'm looking for assist is to get my average speed up.

One bike that could probably get you that speed is the Optibike, but it's almost $10,000. https://www.optibike.com/ Another ready-made e-bike brand to look at is E+. https://epluselectricbike.com/ They've got two motor options, the more powerful one might get you close to the speed you're looking for. They also sell a conversion kit. Their prices are more reasonable and you should be able to buy a ready-made e-bike within your. Good luck.
Thanks, the E+ 1000W kit looks spot on. I think it might make me a "moped" but I'll have to look into it more (I *think* that just means that I need to wear a helmet, anyway).
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Old 06-27-10, 11:05 PM
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Have you considered a Stokemonkey? I'm setting up a Surly Big Dummy with one now using a Ping 36v20ah Lithium Iron battery. Its not the cheapest setup, but if you are willing to pedal, then its perhaps the most efficient available electric assist. It provides assistance like a stoker on a tandem, and its power is fed through the gears. This is a huge advantage in speed and efficiency over a hub motor, which is stuck with a single gear ratio. It's not the cheapest setup, but it beats using a car. The range a Stokemonkey setup is capable of is going to depend on the watt-hours in the battery and your riding style, just like any other electric assist. With the research I've done, I think with a 15-20Ah battery, you'd be able to easily squeeze out 50-60 miles at 20mph. If you have to opportunity to charge at work, you'd be totally in the green to open up the throttle all the way to work with such a setup.

Give the Stokemonkey page a looksy and see what you think.
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Old 06-28-10, 12:41 PM
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I make Stokemonkey. It can do the job, but not within your budget. Since you don't have any very severe extended grades and passengers or equivalent cargo to haul (Stokemonkey's ace in hole), you can get what you want for less money. Since going faster than 20 puts manufacturers in hot liability water, you'll have to assemble and build it yourself from components, rather than buy something plug and play.

Check this tool to see your power requirement to cruise at 25mph on level ground: https://www.mne.psu.edu/lamancusa/Pro.../bikecalc1.htm . You can ignore many of the fields, but figure your bike will weigh at least 60lbs when all is said and done, and you're probably not going to want to stay in an aero tuck the whole way. I took some guesses and came up with a little under 450W as what you need.

"Is that all?" Be wary of advertising claims of 500/750/1000W systems. You won't find fine print, but if there were some it would probably clarify that that's the peak amount of power that can be DRAWN from your battery instead of DELIVERED to the road, and that this "peak wastefulness" occurs only at very low road speeds when the system is struggling to climb too steep a hill.

Next go to https://ebikes.ca/simulator/ and play with motor/wheel/electrical combinations that can deliver that _output power at 25 mph_.

A Nine Continents 2805 hub motor with a 36V/20A power supply can do it with some room to spare (always give yourself some extra).

How big a battery? 450W for one hour is ... 450 watt hours. But that assumes perfect efficiency, and at the target speed, efficiency is around 75% so you need 600Wh. A 36V 20Ah battery pack is 720Wh (V x Ah=Wh). This is therefore a good pack size for your trip. You could top it off at work. If you pedaled with good effort the whole way, chances are you'd make both ways on a single charge while still averaging better than 20mph.

Aerodynamic losses are your biggest enemy at these speeds (check the calculator). If you can stand the dorkiness, going recumbent or otherwise reducing your air drag will cut your power needs way down.

I would not recommend taking your nice touring bike and turning it into the electric rocket commuter goat. You want heavy duty all around.
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Old 06-28-10, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by tfahrner View Post
I make Stokemonkey. It can do the job, but not within your budget. Since you don't have any very severe extended grades and passengers or equivalent cargo to haul (Stokemonkey's ace in hole), you can get what you want for less money. Since going faster than 20 puts manufacturers in hot liability water, you'll have to assemble and build it yourself from components, rather than buy something plug and play.

Check this tool to see your power requirement to cruise at 25mph on level ground: https://www.mne.psu.edu/lamancusa/Pro.../bikecalc1.htm . You can ignore many of the fields, but figure your bike will weigh at least 60lbs when all is said and done, and you're probably not going to want to stay in an aero tuck the whole way. I took some guesses and came up with a little under 450W as what you need.

"Is that all?" Be wary of advertising claims of 500/750/1000W systems. You won't find fine print, but if there were some it would probably clarify that that's the peak amount of power that can be DRAWN from your battery instead of DELIVERED to the road, and that this "peak wastefulness" occurs only at very low road speeds when the system is struggling to climb too steep a hill.

Next go to https://ebikes.ca/simulator/ and play with motor/wheel/electrical combinations that can deliver that _output power at 25 mph_.

A Nine Continents 2805 hub motor with a 36V/20A power supply can do it with some room to spare (always give yourself some extra).

How big a battery? 450W for one hour is ... 450 watt hours. But that assumes perfect efficiency, and at the target speed, efficiency is around 75% so you need 600Wh. A 36V 20Ah battery pack is 720Wh (V x Ah=Wh). This is therefore a good pack size for your trip. You could top it off at work. If you pedaled with good effort the whole way, chances are you'd make both ways on a single charge while still averaging better than 20mph.

Aerodynamic losses are your biggest enemy at these speeds (check the calculator). If you can stand the dorkiness, going recumbent or otherwise reducing your air drag will cut your power needs way down.

I would not recommend taking your nice touring bike and turning it into the electric rocket commuter goat. You want heavy duty all around.

Wow, thanks for all that info!

So you say the Stokemonkey is out of my price range, how much does it cost? It looks like the base kit is $1300, then what, another $1k or so for the battery/charger? I guess I'd need to buy a bike specifically for it? I live fairly close to Cycle 9, so maybe I should go talk to them in person.

It sounds like no matter which assist system I settle on, I'll need to consider a new bike to go with it to make best use of it. I always love an excuse to buy a bike
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Old 06-28-10, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by JeremyT View Post
So you say the Stokemonkey is out of my price range, how much does it cost?
~$3K is the lowest TOTAL cost of a complete stoked Xtracycle based on all new components that don't suck. But the particular setup I'm thinking of isn't geared appropriately for 25mph cruising, and it had a smaller battery than you'd need.

Originally Posted by JeremyT View Post
It looks like the base kit is $1300, then what, another $1k or so for the battery/charger? I guess I'd need to buy a bike specifically for it? I live fairly close to Cycle 9, so maybe I should go talk to them in person.
That's a good idea. They know their hub motors, and while they carry SM, I think we'd all agree that hub-motor systems are more cost effective for your stated needs.
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Old 07-02-10, 09:57 AM
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I commute 14 mile each way and have the Trek FX+ which has the BionX system. On level 2 which is 75% assist my speed is between 15 to 16mph. On Level 3 which is 150% assist my speed is 18 to 19mph. On level 2 you can get 22mph on a full charge. On level 3 you can get 10mph on a full charge. Eventhough I love the bicycle for my commute my previous bike was a Montague folding. I can tell you a lighter and faster bike does make a difference. However, for your commute the Trek FX+ BionX system would not work you would not have enough range.

BionX kit has a 30% more range then the Trek BionX system. The 500 watt kit would give you speed but it uses the same battery as the 350W. Therefore your range will be even less. Even with the regen mode this will only slow you down.

Unfortunately BionX does not have the option of extending the battery. You would have to purchase a 2nd battery at a cost of 1300 with a total cost at around 3500. This would give you the range and speed but you would have to manually change the battery on your commute.
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Old 07-02-10, 10:17 AM
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You may want to consider a Lightfoot Cycle Smoothie. https://www.lightfootcycles.com/smoothie.php It can be ordered with the Eco Speed system built in. It would have the speed and range you are needing. Rod also makes it with a cyclone motor however it has the external controler. It would be a 500 watt 36 volt system. You can scroll down to the bottom of the page and see the bike with a 1.6 Subaru engine. I have one of their Rangers with the Subaru engine on it. My son has an older model Worl Traveler with the Cylone 500 watt system. Both are great bikes.

Another consideration is comfort. My Long Wheel Base Recumbent with the full fairing is by far the most comfortble bike I have everr ridden. The fairing would help when you get caught in bad weather. My grand son said it best when he saw me riding my bike for the first time. "With that bike you can relax and get some excercise at the same time".
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Old 07-03-10, 08:09 AM
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You may want to check out the cyclone ebike setup. I have the 500W version and it's worked out great for me. You can check out my documented build at https://cyclone-ebikedocumentary.blogspot.com/
For now here's my take on your situation.

- 24 miles each way means I need either a ~50 mile range, or a ~25 mile range that can recharge within 8 hours
With a 24V 20A LiFePo4 I get 20 miles with a huge hill in the middle of my route, cut that out and I get over 30. Recharge time is max 6 hours

- I'm a heavy guy (230 pounds) so I figure regenerative braking would be a major advantage when dealing with that much mass.
I weigh about 270 but with all the stuff I've seen about regen it's more of a marketing thing than something that you will actually use. The amount of power it takes to get up a hill is much more significant than anything you will get back with regen.

- Since I need to get the commute down around an hour and a quarter each way, I'd need to average at *least* 20 miles per hour (ideally more like 25)
With the Cyclone 500W system I get about 26 mph, 28 if I have a slight downhill.

- Price is always a consideration, but I'm willing to pay for something that works better. The BionX 500 seems to be the fastest option, and it's kind of my baseline here at around $2k
The cyclone kit costs $298, include a Pingbattery.com LifePo4 your total cost for the kit should be around $850 including shipping

So here are some questions:

- My commuter is currently a touring bike. Ideally I'd like to continue using that since it rides well and has fenders and a rack, but it crossed my mind that I could use my road bike instead (if it matters). Under human power I gain 2-5 mph on the road bike, but I don't know how that equates to electric assist performance.
I don't have much experience with road bike conversions but as I understand it you'll probably have to go with a high end kit like the Bionix to get one that will fit your frame. Unless you get the cyclone that mounts in front of your cranks I don't think it would be compatible.

Last edited by SoCal Commute; 07-03-10 at 08:23 AM.
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Old 07-30-10, 05:46 PM
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I just converted my old school Gary Fisher Mamba into an ebike. I ordered the on sale 350 watt geared rear hub kit from ebikekit, and a 36V 12AH LiFePo4 battery. I love it. I live in the foothills of Denver, and everything is either up or down, hardly any flat at all. I weigh around 350lbs, and the bike has to be around 60, maybe a little more since it is a steel frame. I've been getting around 2.5 miles per Amp Hour. My average speed is 13 MPH and my top speed is 25 MPH. The range may have something to do with me not using the throttle, and just using it as a pedelec. Or it might be something to do with the controller only putting out 22A, probably a combo of the two.I still get a good workout riding this bike, but it does flatten out the hills.

I bet with a 48V battery you could get some more top speed, but I liked the fancy enclosure and rack that the 36V ebikekit unit had.
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Old 07-31-10, 08:07 AM
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My personal experience...as well as observing friends...people who buy motor/battery kits to do "pedal assist" usually end up sitting and not pedaling, and just enjoying the ride
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Old 07-31-10, 08:12 AM
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Mine was 26 miles. I did it. Often in about the same time as a car. Considering California traffic and blocked freeways. An electric bike. It's not a bike. You want a motorcycle, then get a motorcycle. As long as your commute is reasonably flat , you can do it.
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Old 07-31-10, 10:55 AM
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PMed you
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Old 07-31-10, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by pengyou View Post
My personal experience...as well as observing friends...people who buy motor/battery kits to do "pedal assist" usually end up sitting and not pedaling, and just enjoying the ride
I can see how that could be the case! My setup is a bit under powered for that, though. I did get a great workout riding 10 miles each way to and from work, which was my original idea. 350 Watts moving 410 lbs! 18-19 MPH seems to be my max pedal assist speed on the flats.
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Old 08-01-10, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by pengyou View Post
My personal experience...as well as observing friends...people who buy motor/battery kits to do "pedal assist" usually end up sitting and not pedaling, and just enjoying the ride
Wow - my experience is exactly the opposite. I wonder if it's because we don't do it for just the ride but to commute. My wife and I commute on our Tidalforce's and pedal all the way there and back. My commute is 24 miles round trip with a total 800 ft elevation gain going. I have an M750x that can hit 30 but I mostly keep it down to 18 mph on average. I keep a charger in my office to ensure that if I need to make an out of the way run going back I don't have to worry about a drained battery. I used to commute on a Navarro Buzz hybrid set up for commuting but was getting tired of getting to work as one big blob of sweat and ready for a nap. Good luck!
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Old 08-01-10, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by pengyou View Post
My personal experience...as well as observing friends...people who buy motor/battery kits to do "pedal assist" usually end up sitting and not pedaling, and just enjoying the ride
Totally disagree with you. My wife and I both ride just for fun and we ride 98% on trails. Unless we are having a health problem preventing us from peddling we peddle 80% with motor assist and the other 20% we rest while letting the motor do all the work.
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Old 08-01-10, 08:47 PM
  #21  
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You may want to touch base with Trek, they sell some e-bikes. I ride an FX+, which has been the greatest commuter bike I've ever owned. The FX+ model, as Jerry mentioned, doesn't have the range you are looking for, but they just added a new utility bike to the fold, a Gary Fisher branded bike, which uses the same system, but has a different battery. I don't know anything about it specifically, but it may be a larger capacity battery. If that's the case, and if you can special order that battery to work with an FX+ (or valencia), that may fit your range.
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Old 08-02-10, 01:47 AM
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Originally Posted by tfahrner View Post
Aerodynamic losses are your biggest enemy at these speeds (check the calculator). If you can stand the dorkiness, going recumbent or otherwise reducing your air drag will cut your power needs way down.
That's kind of rude, and hypocritical coming from someone who makes something called a "stokermonkey". I am sure you look very cool on your electric upright dorkmobile. /s
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Old 08-02-10, 06:17 AM
  #23  
JeremyT
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Originally Posted by pengyou View Post
My personal experience...as well as observing friends...people who buy motor/battery kits to do "pedal assist" usually end up sitting and not pedaling, and just enjoying the ride
I'm sure some people treat it that way, but remember I'm coming off of a "normal" bike commute. My goal here is to get that lost exercise back into my daily routine, so pedaling is key to me; if I was just out to save gas, I'd probably buy a scooter.
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Old 08-02-10, 06:26 AM
  #24  
GTR2EBIKE
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If you looking to get the exercise back then you may actually want something slower like an e-zip with a bigger lifepo4 battery pack. Or if you want to have the best of both worlds buy a kit and limit it to the perfect amount of power for you so you can still get some exercise but if your ever late for work you can turn it up and fly there.
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Old 09-19-10, 09:35 AM
  #25  
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I have the Bionx 250 system and I commute 11 miles each way on what I'd consider to be a reasonably flat route with a couple of short, steep hills. I seem to average anywhere from about 15 to 18 mph riding fairly hard (ymmv with your route and lights that you have to stop at). This uses roughly half to two thirds of the battery each day (I don't recharge at work). The regen sounds like a great feature, and I've used it on the downhills to slow me instead of braking. I haven't noticed that it adds back a significant amount of power. Granted the battery for the 500 system is 36.9V compared to the 25.9V that I have, but given your description I would think the only way you could hit the speeds you want over the distance you want is to buy a 2nd charger and charge your battery on both ends.

I doubt you could make it round trip without recharging and not run down the battery completely.
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