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are electric bikes "the next big thing"?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

are electric bikes "the next big thing"?

Old 08-16-08, 12:15 PM
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johnny99
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are electric bikes "the next big thing"?

Range is around 20 miles between charges and maximum speed is 20mph. These are probably useful for urban commuting and running errands around town.


https://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2008/...ap5328362.html

Electric bikes selling briskly as gas prices climb
By DAN STRUMPF 08.15.08, 11:50 AM ET
NEW YORK - When Honora Wolfe and her husband moved to the outskirts of Boulder, Colo., she wanted an environmentally friendly way to commute to her job as a bookshop owner in the city.

Wolfe, 60, found her solution about a month ago: an electric bicycle. It gets her to work quickly, is easy on her arthritis and is better for the environment than a car.

"I'm not out to win any races," she said. "I want to get a little fresh air and exercise, and cut my carbon footprint, and spend less money on gas. And where I live, I can ride my bike seven months out of the year."

The surging cost of gasoline and a desire for a greener commute are turning more people to electric bikes as an unconventional form of transportation. They function like a typical two-wheeler but with a battery-powered assist, and bike dealers, riders and experts say they are flying off the racks.

Official sales figures are hard to pin down, but the Gluskin-Townley Group, which does market research for the National Bicycle Dealers Association, estimates 10,000 electric bikes were sold in the U.S. in 2007, up from 6,000 in 2006.

Bert Cebular, who owns the electric bike and scooter dealership NYCeWheels in New York, said his sales are up about 50 percent so far this year over last. Amazon.com Inc. (nasdaq: AMZN - news - people ) says sales of electric bikes surged more than 6,000 percent in July from a year earlier, in part because of its expanded offerings.

"The electric bikes are the next big thing," said Frank Jamerson, a former General Motors Corp. (nyse: GM - news - people ) executive turned electric vehicle guru.

They're even more popular in Europe, where Sophie Nenner, who opened a Paris bike store in 2005, says motorists boxed in by traffic jams are looking for an alternative for short journeys that doesn't involve navigating overcrowded transport systems.

Industry associations estimate 89,000 electric bikes were sold in the Netherlands last year, while 60,000 power-assisted bikes were sold in Germany.

The principle behind electric bikes is akin to that behind hybrid cars: Combine the conventional technology - in this case, old-fashioned pedaling - with a battery-powered motor.

The net result is a vehicle that rides a bit like a scooter, with some legwork required. Most models have a motorcycle-like throttle that gives a boost while going up hills or accelerating from a stop. On some models, the motor kicks in automatically and adjusts its torque based on how hard the rider pedals.

Although regulations vary by state, federal law classifies electric bikes as bicycles, and no license or registration is required as long as they don't go faster than 20 mph and their power doesn't exceed 750 watts.

Price largely determines weight, quality and battery type. A few hundred dollars gets you an IZIP mountain bike from Amazon with a heavy lead-acid battery. For $1,400, you can buy a 250-watt folding bike powered by a more-powerful, longer-lasting nickel-metal hydride battery like those in a camera or a Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ) Prius. At the high end, $2,525 buys an extra-light 350-watt model sporting a lightweight lithium-ion battery similar to a laptop's.

Most models can go at least 20 miles before plugging in to recharge. Although the cost of electricity can vary, fully recharging the battery on a typical model costs less than a dime.

Joe Conforti, a commercial film director from New York, uses a four-year-old model designed by former auto titan Lee Iacocca in the 1990s for running errands or getting to social occasions.

"It's really nice," said Conforti, who is eagerly looking to upgrade to a newer, more powerful ride. "If you've got a date, you go to meet friends - you go out on a (conventional) bike, you're gonna sweat up. You go out in an electric bike, it's great it's terrific, you're not gonna sweat up and you ride home fine."

Bike dealers said the growing demand goes beyond just the uptick in gas prices, but also because of word of mouth. Cebular said business at his store and on his Web site has been booming.

"Fifty percent of that increase is probably because of gas prices, and the rest is that there's just more bikes out there," said Cebular, who has run his shop on Manhattan's Upper East Side for seven years.

Improved technology also has made electric bikes more popular, Cebular said.

"When I started, there was only one bike that had a nickel-metal hydride battery - everything else was lead-acid and was 80 or 90 pounds," he said. "That's a huge improvement."

Jay Townley, a partner at Gluskin-Townley, said the latest electric bikes are sleeker, better looking and hide their often-clunky batteries better than ever. That goes a long way to attract baby boomers and other mainstream customers.

"The new designs that we've seen in the marketplace are going to inure to the benefit of the electric bike companies," he said.

Ultra Motor, an England-based electric bike and scooter company, is betting big that it can capitalize on what it seems as a growing market for attractive-looking two-wheelers designed specifically for U.S. commuters. The company on Tuesday unveiled its "A2B" model, a slick, low-riding electric bike.

Ultra Motor took a conventional bicycle and redesigned it with fatter wheels, a lower center of gravity and a thick shaft designed to hide the lithium-ion battery inside, U.S. Chief Executive Chris Deyo said. The result is a cross between a motorcycle and a mountain bike.

The company already has signed up 75 dealers nationwide to sell the $2,500 bike starting next month.

"A year ago, when you mentioned the word electric bike, people looked at you and they really weren't sure what it was," Deyo said. "Today, what we're finding is we're actually having dealers call us seeking an electric bike to meet the demand."

Jamerson, the former GM executive who has become a staunch advocate for electric transportation, believes this is only the beginning for electric bikes. He retired from GM in 1993 after helping develop the company's EV1 electric car, and he's been an avid follower of alternative transportation ever since.

The EV1 project, though widely seen as a spectacular failure, helped convince Jamerson of the value of electric transportation. Given soaring fuel prices and thinning patience with foreign dependence on oil, Americans are ready to embrace electric vehicles, he said.

"Did you know there are 70 million electric bikes on the road today in China, and they are selling at the rate of 2.6 million electric bikes a year?" he said. "The public at large needs to understand that it is the right thing to do to move to electric transportation, and electric bikes and electric scooters will allow you to do that, to get that familiarity."

As for Wolfe, she could not be happier with her bike, a 48-pound mountain bike with a lithium-ion-powered assist made by California-based IZIP. A self-described "tree-hugger for decades," she drives her Honda (nyse: HMC - news - people ) Insight hybrid car or rides the bus when she's not using her bike to get to work.

It's part of her own personal campaign to reduce her carbon footprint. She also powers her home with help from a set of rooftop solar panels, and a geothermal furnace heats and cools it.

The furnace, she adds, even heats her water. Just one more way to reduce emissions, she said.

"Even my 92-year-old mother has a Prius," she said. "So I come by my green credentials genetically."

AP Business Writer Emma Vandore in Paris contributed to this report.
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Old 08-16-08, 12:54 PM
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On some models, 20mph is about what they do. It's somewhat akin to a scooter, but you can pedal it too. If you build a serious ebike, they'll go alot faster than 20mph. The one I'm working on will easily cruise over 30mph for up to 25mi. The nice thing, is it allows you to haul alot of stuff, and still get there quick, versus a regular bike which really slows you down when fully loaded with alot goods.

Do ebikes really have anything to do with road cycling? No, but they are alot of fun, just like any other two wheeled vehicle.
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Old 08-16-08, 12:56 PM
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I can see them being used for police applications, but our police department isn't even using their Cannondale. Maybe bigger cities will like them for traffic\parking enforcement.
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Old 08-16-08, 01:04 PM
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I've seen people wax enthusiastic about them in the Electric Bikes forum, but they just seem fairly pointless to me. Around here, I suspect that most people that don't want to ride a bike because it's too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too dry or too dark, etc., probably don't want to ride an electric bike either. I'd be more inclined to get an electric "bike" if it was built like a motorcycle rather than a bicycle.

Come to think of it, isn't the Segway just an electric bike?
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Old 08-16-08, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by johnny99 View Post
"I'm not out to win any races,"
I can relate.
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Old 08-16-08, 01:11 PM
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Here is the bike in question, the A2B:



https://images.businessweek.com/ss/08...s/source/2.htm
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Old 08-16-08, 01:17 PM
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No.
Road bike = fun.
Motorcycle = fun.
E-Bike != fun.
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Old 08-16-08, 02:11 PM
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They aren't fast enough and don't have enough range to be any more useful than a regular bike, unless you just don't want to have to exert yourself. Why not just get a motorcycle or a gas scooter?
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Old 08-16-08, 02:14 PM
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Seems like all electric bikes are limited by current battery technology, which makes them heavy and gives them a short range. Once lightweight batteries start showing up, e-bikes should be alot more attractive. Imagine a 15lb carbon fiber race bike with an electric motor that can power you up to 30mph... drool.
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Old 08-16-08, 04:48 PM
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I definitely do not think electric bikes are "the next big thing".

I have kind of a slant against them, although I have heard some convincing arguments about niches where they're very useful. People who want to bike commute to work but live where there's huge hills between them and work (San Fransisco I think?). People who want to start bike commuting to work but are to out of shape to do it (they'll ride the electric bike to get into better biking shape). Older people with arthritis.

I just don't think it's going to become a "big thing". See, if you're decent biking shape you can bike pretty much as fast as an electric bike can go anyways. I mean, I suppose an electric bike would let you do that in jeans and regular shoes rather than mountain bike shoes and biking shorts (I'm not talking spandex - I have the regular looking bike shorts). Once you start going faster than a regular road bike can do, you start to run into safety issues. I know the pros go much faster, but your average person starts to freak out when they're going 30 mph on bike with a 1.5 inch tire. If they didn't, you'd see more mopeds on the road.

hmm...I guess this isn't an extremely coherent response. Don't have time to revise it. I guess I just feel like the extra weight of the battery, plus the need for wider tires basically evens out the advantage of an electric motor. With advances in tech you could theoretically go faster, but once you start going that fast you run into safety issues - I take the risk on my road bike sometimes, I suppose, but I'm not sure I'd want to hit something or fall off my bike at 45mph.
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Old 08-16-08, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard_Rides View Post
Here is the bike in question, the A2B:
"Priced at $2,200 and available through specialty retailers, it runs at speeds up to 32 km per hour (20 mph) and goes up to 70 km (43.5 miles) on a single charge."

On my bike, I run at speeds up to 54 km/h and go up to 100 km on a single charge... and I suck. My bike cost about the same, but I could do the same on a bike that cost half as much.
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Old 08-16-08, 05:45 PM
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I can't wait to read "Yeah I was riding with the "A" group at 21.2MPH average, then at 42 miles, the battery gave out and I had to pedal for the rest of the century ride."
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Old 08-16-08, 05:56 PM
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The attraction of an electric bicycle for me (old codger)...........

nice bike+ flat surface= fun!
nice bike + down hill = fun!
nice bike + steep uphill = varying degrees of discomfort!

nice electric bike + flat/down hill/ steep up hill ............ITS ALL FUN!!
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Old 08-16-08, 06:53 PM
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The added weight of the motor and batteries makes them impractical for pedal only propulsion. Combine that with the lack of range and a pedal only bike actually looks better all the way around. They may have a place for people that can't exert themselves and only have to travel short distances. But then a gas powered moped is a cheaper and more functional alternative.
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Old 08-16-08, 07:04 PM
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Originally Posted by topeka111 View Post
The attraction of an electric bicycle for me (old codger)...........

nice bike+ flat surface= fun!
nice bike + down hill = fun!
nice bike + steep uphill = varying degrees of discomfort!

nice electric bike + flat/down hill/ steep up hill ............ITS ALL FUN!!
Really? You don't get that nice rush from a hard workout? I can't live without that buzz. An electric bicycle would be like trying to give a crack addict coffee as a substitute to me. I'm not too old but there are some old bastids around here that still kick my butt.

E-Bikes in general are kinda neat. In most states you don't have to pay registration fees or pay tolls. If you had a commute under 15 miles it maybe a practical alternative to driving. Then again, a regular bicycle also works but it's so much work.
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Old 08-16-08, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by phinney View Post
The added weight of the motor and batteries makes them impractical for pedal only propulsion.


Combine that with the lack of range and a pedal only bike actually looks better all the way around.


They may have a place for people that can't exert themselves and only have to travel short distances. But then a gas powered moped is a cheaper and more functional alternative.


This seems true at first glance but there is not much difference between a 150lb. biker pedaling with a 35lb battery pack and a 185lb. biker pedaling. Point being.... 35lbs of battery make a bicycle impractical only if speed is your greatest concern ....IMHO.

Using a battery as a power assist (to pedaling) only uphills results in a 50 mile range... (YMMV).

The problem with a gas powered vehicle is regulation/licencing/insurance/noise/restrictions (can't use bike paths) etc.

Last edited by topeka111; 08-16-08 at 07:51 PM.
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Old 08-16-08, 07:57 PM
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answer, No.

Next forum, next question
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Old 08-16-08, 10:53 PM
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The is some promise, 0.5% of the population of Holland bought one last year, probably better then real bikes did in the US last year.

They are also better for the environment then a scooter and Americans thing they are way better since we forget our power comes from coal.
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Old 08-16-08, 11:01 PM
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Not in the U.S.

Since oil been down to $115 from $142, I hear we're going back to our old habits... really sad.
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Old 08-16-08, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by jsmithepa View Post
Not in the U.S.

Since oil been down to $115 from $142, I hear we're going back to our old habits... really sad.
You know what would be impressive, a nice hike in gas tax to keep prices high and force peoples hands. Seems to have worked for the rest of the developed world. I hear they have transportation systems, not just roads.

Not to mention, the US road infrastructure could use some help, that tax money could be well spent on new bridges, etc.
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Old 08-16-08, 11:06 PM
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What's the difference between an electric bike and a moped?
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Old 08-16-08, 11:51 PM
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"The attraction of an electric bicycle for me (old codger)...........
"nice bike+ flat surface= fun!
"nice bike + down hill = fun!
"nice bike + steep uphill = varying degrees of discomfort!
"nice electric bike + flat/down hill/ steep up hill ............ITS ALL FUN!!"

I see LOTS of codgers out riding uphill, downhill, flats, and having great fun. How? They're all riding Harleys. That's sort of my point. If you enjoy motorized transport, you'll likely enjoy a better motor, more.
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Old 08-17-08, 01:26 AM
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I think just like with cars the next stage would be more likely a hyrbid like what ecycle has been working on https://ecycle.com/powersports/hybrid.htm Their initial prototype I saw a few years back looked more like a real motorcycle, the prototypes on that page are not so good.
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Old 08-17-08, 05:15 AM
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I don't think that, in their present form, e-bikes are "the next big thing". However, I think that as the search for energy-efficient and less-expensive means of getting around continues, some of the technologies that are being pioneered will become "the next big thing".

I've noticed increasing interest in the realm of lightweight cars - velomobiles, for instance. In my home state of Kentucky, for instance, they just passed legislation permitting the registration and operation of lightweight low-speed "autos" - think "golf cart", right now - on certain surface roads having a speed limit of under a given amount (>45 mph, I think). This is part of an attempt to lure the construction of a manufacturing plant to the state to build such a vehicle. (The company won't build the plant in a state that prohibits the operation of the car, and rightly so.)

I think that folks that are doing things like adding a Bionx drive to, say, a tadpole recumbent, then wrapping the whole thing in some sort of weather-protecting fairing or body - and then commuting in the thing - are on the bleeding edge of this movement. Think about it: If your commute is, say, 30 miles, and you can build or buy such a vehicle that has a 45 mile range at 30 mph, you can charge the batteries at night, drive to work, charge the batteries again at the office (for free until your boss finds out), then drive it home - what's not to like?
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Old 08-17-08, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by jsmithepa View Post
Not in the U.S.

Since oil been down to $115 from $142, I hear we're going back to our old habits... really sad.
If "we" go back to our old habits, oil won't stay at $115 for very long. Maybe it's time to speculate on crude futures again.
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