The concept of an electric bicycle always seems like an oxymoron. Why not an "Zero Emissions" motorcycle? The whole idea of riding a bicycle is to somehow exercise and navigate using human power, isn't it? but we can't deny the allure to flick a switch and have a tiny electrical motor do the pedaling for us, specially if we are using the bike to commute and we encounter some hills on the way.
There are a wide array of options depending on how deep is your pocket: as much as a brand new Porsche Carrera to the most inexpensive DIY route using only power tool's parts.
The most common parts for an electric bike (manufactured or a DIY one), consists of some kind of electrical motor connected to a set of gears that drives the rear wheel, a potentiometer to modulate the acceleration and a battery pack. This is actually the heavy part of the equation as it can get as high as 15 pounds, depending on the wattage and reserve/charging time.
Electric bikes have some features in common with traditional bikes. They have working pedals, and most have gears. They look similar to traditional bikes, and riders of both types follow the same rules of the road. But the differences begin when a rider starts an electric bike's battery, often with a key. On some models, riders can twist or thumb the throttle on the handlebar and move forward without pedaling. On others, they can pedal lightly and accelerate quickly.
Electric bikes are typically used at speeds of up to 20 mph without pedaling, and can generally cover 20 to 50 miles on a single battery charge, well within the distance of many daily commutes. At the end of a ride, the battery can usually be taken out of its compartment and plugged into a wall with a special cord. After a few hours of charging, it is ready for use again.
For example, we have the Terra by Pacific e-Bike. It has a 7 speed drivetrain, front disc brake, front suspension and 26" wheels. The power comes from the rear 250watt hub motor and 36volt 10 amp hour lithium ion battery pack. At only $897, the price is reasonable. This E-Bike is the perfect choice for the person who wants a strong city commuter with the riding characteristics of a mountain bike. Low handlebars and a longer stem give the Terra model an aggressive riding position, and quick responsiveness.
The Pacific Cycles' IF Reach DC is a pedal assisted folding electric bike featuring our outstanding Reach frame and IF Technology (Integrated Folding), allowing it to fold into a compact package in seconds for convenient storage and transportation.
The IF Reach DC has a maintenance free bottom bracket electric drive system. This type of electric bike assist is the most efficient motor assist you can purchase. The fact that the motor pulls at the pedals, together with your own input makes this a true hybrid bicycle - acting on all gears you select.
Another cool version is the Ultra Motor A2B electric motorbike, beautifully built, super-smooth machine. A powerful electric motor, very comfortable ride, and stylish design make the A2B stand out from the rest. Full suspension, thick, durable tires, and a plush seat make for an extremely comfortable ride, even on rougher roads. Front and rear disc brakes allow for safe riding in all kinds of weather.
With a 500W motor and 20-inch wheels, you can expect a lot of torque for hill-climbing. Combine that with 7-speeds and you have all of the range you'll need for the inclines and the flats.
Enter the expensive one:
The Black Trail is an electric bicycle made from carbon fiber designed by PG Bikes with engineering by UBC. The bike is a limited production piece, with only 667 pieces being built. The bike has a top speed of 62 mph and a cruising speed of 31 mph with a range of 30 miles and 120 miles respectively.
Built using carbon fibre, high-alloyed aluminum, titanium and magnesium, the bike only weighs 44 pounds, but at aprox $80,000, it will be out of reach for everyone except the most affluent.
For the DIY set:
Who could forget about this great idea? A charger for a mobile phone that produces electricity from you pedaling the bike!
Then, we have Russ Finley, who took actions with his own hands and made his own "full suspension" electric bike with some knowledge and spare parts from some power tools. His DIY is based on a $170 mountain bike. This is what he did:
"I chose a full-suspension mountain bike frame because the roads and even the bike trails here are so bad. I wanted to isolate the batteries, controller and my butt from the shocks. I also jump off curbs a lot."
"I wired pairs of 36-volt Dewalt power tool batteries in series to get 72 volts and then wired each of these pairs in parallel. I can carry two, four, or six battery packs, depending on how long the trip will be. I replaced my 36-volt, ten-amp controller with a 72-volt, 35-amp version. It also has immediate start, which means the controller does not wait until the wheel is rolling before it puts power to the motor. This lets me get through intersections faster and safer (although I have to be careful or my front wheel lifts off the ground)."
"I used a rear wheel motor because front wheels here tend to get bent by potholes and fixing one can be expensive if you have a motor mounted in it."
"By doubling the voltage I gave this bike twice the power of my first one. That is a 100 percent increase in torque and speed. It is an incredible machine -- efficient, fast, carbon neutral, and flexible."
Now, you can see the whole array of models, from DIY ingenuity to luxury items and they all achieve the same task: help you out when the tough gets tougher while being efficient and good to the environment.