Electric Bike Reviews
Hello Friends! After being actively involved with eBikes since the 1990’s, I’ve grown to learn quite a bit about them and the various companies who produce them. Please trust me when I say, the electric bicycle industry is one of the zaniest and most confusing on Earth, and I impart the following in an attempt to help clarify this marketplace a bit. This is a young and evolving technology just now coming of age.
I attend the International Bike Show every year where I ride as many electric bicycles as I can. I always have my eyes open and ears to the ground with my customers and fellow dealers for feedback. In addition, several manufacturers have requested my feedback and advice on the design of their bikes during their developmental phase. I have pretty discerning standards for this young and evolving technology, but it is finally maturing to where I once envisioned it would go. It’s a lot like computers and smartphones. Stand warned: You, the customer, will simply go nuts trying to discern the truth of electric bicycles by surfing the internet. You will be misled by inflated and false manufacturer’s claims, non-standardized specifications, and reviews which may likely be written by themselves, their representatives or be paid for by advertising! Like the old saying, “the truth will set you free, it just might p___ you off for awhile,” I have strong opinions on these machines, but they are based on solid research and experience.
A prime example of this are the manufacturer’s who claim their bikes are “made in the USA.” The short story is that none of them really are, and surely not their parts. That’s partially a function of our globalized manufacturing, circa 2014 … but there’s also a certain disingenuity in the claim.
What follows are my honest impressions of the electric bikes I have tried. Rather than offend anyone with my bluntness and opinions, I intend these reviews as constructive critiques for the evolution of products, the industry itself, and guidance for YOU, the customer. My opinions and biases are strong, but they are based on 18 years of experience with eBikes. You may see a bias here toward the bikes we sell, as we naturally select and sell the ones we are sold on. But I am 100% independent. Our selections are a weeding out process, evolving with new developments. But I will not sell a bike I don’t like or feel is the right one for you. I have also included some of former/older/obsolete models for a frame of reference. But like an old SmartPhone or used Laptop, I hereby warn you against buying a used or outdated electric bicycle, as there is no warranty, parts may be scarce or non-existent, batteries will be suspect, and you will not have the best experience.
Note 1: A quality electric bicycle should have had significant research, development and refinement, and be built with engineering intelligence. I mean, you can't just stick a chip in a radio and call it an Ipod, right? In 2014, we are now in a more mature phase of electric bicycle evolution where the integration of features is paramount. The blend and balance of bicycle and electric assistance is the key. It should also be manufactured by a reputable company. The Electric Bike Graveyard has a huge membership, with each tombstone contributing something to ebike evolution: EV Global (Lee Iacocca’s ebike), EV Warrior, Zap, Merida, Trek, Charger, Giant LaFree, Currie (first company), A2B UltraMotor, PiCycle, Ford Think, Mercedes, Wavecrest/TidalForce, Lashout, Santa Barbara Electric Bike, EcoBike, ElecTrec, Rayos, Synergy Cycles, E Plus, Tres Terra, Pathfinder, Hebb, Emoto, etc. etc. I suggest getting a bike from a solid company.
Note 2: Beware of comparing power ratings of motors/controllers/batteries. The design, configuration and quality of the motor (materials/windings/magnets, etc.) and controller, the method of rating etc., often distorts these numbers. Beware of companies that use cheap Chinese batteries and cheap motors to lower their price points. Many bikes with high power ratings are not necessarily more powerful. 500 Watt motors (which peak much higher) are basically the standard at this point. Balance is the key. Another note: you don’t need as many gears on an eBike, and the front derailleur/gears are not really necessary for most people on electric bikes. What follows is somewhat of an updated mishmosh collection from the last several years.
Cruiser Style Bikes:
2011-14 Pedego - A stylish cruiser-style bike. The "Tommy Bahama" of electric bikes, especially with the fat tire option. They are pretty to look at, but seem a bit heavy, out of balance, and underpowered for the hills. Fine for cruising around the flats of the coastal areas for which it was basically designed. Seems to work well as a rental bike for cruising the beach areas. On this bike, weighty battery, motor, controller, and gears are all on the rear -- with nothing on the front except a disc brake -- not ideal for balance or handling the curves -- but OK for upright recreational cruising. The exaggerated handlebar may be too wide for the bike path, your ergonomics, and some people's aesthetic taste. “All show and no go?,” you be the judge.” To their credit, Pedego has a big advertising budget, a rather brilliant and massive public relations campaign, high footprint stores with rental fleets, and very deep pockets. Also, to their credit, they are very devoted and I have heard their support is pretty solid. But what about the bike itself? The Cruiser is throttle only, no pedal assist. The 500 watt (non-geared) motor rating feels optimistic probably because it is direct drive and the bike is on the hefty side. The bike components are mediocre, though some of their colors combinations are tasty. The dual prong kickstand gives solid support when parked, though may hit the ground on turns. This bike was designed for cruising around the beach areas, and it will do that just fine. Not so great on the hills. The 48 Volt Interceptor model has plenty of power with it’s geared motor, but is a bit pricey at over $2800.
2013 Izip Zuma E3 Cantilever – Retro-Styled cruiser with high tech components. Very powerful 500 Watt geared motor and rangy Lithium Ion battery yield excellent performance. The Zuma may look like a beach cruiser, but it is also an urban-assault bike. I've ridden the Zuma over 35 miles on a single charge. Has both single-speed Pedal-Assist (PAS) and Power-on-Demand (TAG), and and advanced controller which lets the throttle override the pedal assist which yields 50% power. Similar concept to the Pedego, but has much more power due to the geared motor and better componentry. Avid BB5 disc brakes, sealed bearings, Kenda Kiniption wrap around tread tires, a forged A1 headset, Shimano gears with Maxi-range gearing, heavy-duty wheels and good bike parts combine to make the Zuma a truly fine machine. Pedals well, powers strong, will last long. The Zuma is truly a blast to ride. Sales to rental fleets where the bikes are abused have proven their durability to me in the long run. Non-Scientific Update: In a drag race with a 36-Volt Pedego Cruiser, the Zuma was MUCH faster, I’d say 30%, and on the hills even more. I also drag-raced a 48-Volt Pedego Interceptor with a 2012 Zuma and it was too close to call.
2014 Izip E3 Zuma - The revolutionary change for the 2014 is a completely redesigned frame with an integrated battery compartment behind the seat tube. It’s a masterful design and makes the bike handle like a sports car. The 36 Volt battery is still removeable, but sits in a streamlined bay. This makes the bike more balanced and gives it a more integrated look. The new Zuma employs trigger shifting Shimano Acera gears, Avid BB5 disc brakes, Alex rims and slimed-filled Maxxis all terrain tires. It uses the same powerful 500 (1000 peak) Watt geared motor. The 2014 Zuma also has control display on the left side of the handlebars featuring 3 levels of Pedal Assist as well as a throttle. This is truly a performance cruiser, stylish, super high-tech, and solid as a rock. The new design has shed some weight as well, coming in around 52 lbs. The former Zuma’s are great bikes, though this battery position is far superior resulting in a much more balanced and beautiful bike.
Electric Street/Mountain Bikes:
2013-14 Neo Easy Motion - Xtrem/29’er/Jumper - These bikes are evolving to try to bridge the divide between bicycle and electric bicycle. The Xtrem model won a gold medal for design at Eurobike in 2011. They are fairly lightweight at about 50-55 pounds, and feature an innovative design with a removable 36 Volt 8.8 Amp (only) Samsung battery in the downtube of the frame. They fit it out with good quality bicycle parts and theoretically regenerating hydraulic disc brakes. The 350-Watt (though it says 250 on the seat tube) rear geared hub motor is fairly strong for its rating, providing decent power for the light rider due to the reasonable weight and efficient design and the well-integrated torque sensor system. The Jumper is similar to the Xtreme but has full-suspension, and the 29’er employs 700C Mountain style wheels with a slightly larger frame. These features, however, are not without some rough spots, beckoning evolution in future models: The battery is only (36 Volt) 8.8 Amp hours, and physics (and our rider’s feedback) will dictate that range may not be quite what is advertised. Furthermore, the banana-shaped battery is difficult to remove, cannot be charged ON the bike, and the awkward shape makes it strange to re-charge upside down. I think it is essential to remove a Lithium Ion battery when transporting a bike on a bike rack. Most people do not like the standard racing-style saddle, replacement parts are scarce, and the Xtrem, 29’er and Jumper do not come with a kickstand (or fenders, etc.) -- so commuters must park by leaning the bike against the saddle and handlebars. The company is new and undergoing its growing pains as the bike evolves toward a being a winner.
2013-14 Evelo Aries/Aurora - These bikes from a small new company are simply weird bikes, in my opinion. The 250 Watt mid-drive is a nice idea and all -- to leverage the same chain and gears as the rider while pedaling -- but this bike is simply underpowered and takes the freewheeling joy out of the bicycle experience. And the pedal assist has a dangerous lag. What’s also a bit weird is that the Evelo is designed as a full-suspension Mountain Bike, but the motor easily hits the ground off-road, and the bike just isn’t fit for any rough terrain. So it’s a mountain style bike that you ride on the street. As Court Rye states in his Electric Bike Review: “It’s hard to recommend this bike because the truth is the front light bounces a lot when riding since it’s mounted to the plastic fender, the battery pack starts to rattle and is noisy going over bumps and the motor design just doesn’t feel optimal. Even with the upgraded NuVinci rear hub which allows you to switch gears at standstill, this bike just doesn’t ride that well and will be heavier and more expensive as a result.” Strong and clever internet marketing program though.
2013-14 Igo Urban/Titan - Very similar design as the to the Evelo, likely made in thge same factory.
2014 Izip Peak - This is Currie’s first mid-drive and it’s a pretty amazing bike. The frame is similar to the Izip E3 Dash, and uses the same 48 Volt 8.8 amp hour removable battery center-mounted on the downtube, with Currie’s groovy LCD display and 4 speed pedal assist system with a throttle. The throttle however only works independently up to 6 mph, though it can override the pedal assist up to 20 mph as long as you’re spinning. With the pedal assist the bike with power up to 28 mph. Personally, I’d like to see it have a thoroughly independent throttle mode, though certainly no deal-breaker. It uses a very sophisticated drive system with cadence, pedal, and speed sensors which makes the rider feel very unified with the bike in extreme conditions. It employs a 350 Watt Mid-Drive Motor and a special chain which uses the 9-speed Shimano gears through the power range. Mountain bike tires, hydraulic disc brakes, precision Shimano gears, and heavy duty components throughout. This is a very solid bike, and the price point is almost ridiculously low for a mid-drive bike with these features. You’d have to move up to a Felt or a Haibike for $4000-7800 to find something better in this category.
2013-14 Prodeco Outlaw – This is designed to be one “bad-boy” electric mountain style muscle-bike, though most will ride it on the street. Very powerful with a claimed 750 Watts of power, and equipped with decent grade SRAM bike parts, including a double Magnesium front fork, and hydraulic disc brakes. 48 Volt 9 amp battery. Very sturdy looking with certain funky features. There are two models Standard and the SS model which supposedly will illegally go up to 28 mph, but with less torque. The 28 mph bike is sold as “off-road only,” and technically needs to be licensed for the street. I do not like the I-beam battery rack design which is a bit flimsy and could be unbolted easily, nor how far back it sits on the rear -- particularly since the bike itself is very back leaning, and at 62 lbs. a bit tipsy. Prodeco bikes are generally (thumb) throttle only, and the the jury is out on parts availability, durability, and product support. As Court Rye reviews: “The Outlaw series from ProdecoTech features some of the coolest looking electric bikes I’ve seen. These things are monstrous with long travel suspension, oversized tires and enormous motors and battery packs. Unfortunately, the steep geometry of the front fork and high rigid position of the battery pack at the rear create a ride that feels unstable. And even though the motor driving this beast is gearless, the electronics themselves are very simple and forego pedal assist, regenerative braking or an LCD display unit with speed, range or battery level.”
Hybrid-Style Performance Bikes:
2014 Izip E3 Dash - If you’re looking for a hybrid-style performance ebike (i.e. the Neo Cross, eFlow Nitro, Stromer ST1), but at a more affordable price -- you may have found your pot of gold. Currie has centered the removable battery on the down-tube (at last!) on this lightweight beauty (49 lbs.), bumped the voltage up to 48 (8.8 amp), and utilized a silent 500 watt gearless motor. A large backlit display sits on the center of the handlebars, as well as a button pad for changing levels of pedal-assisted power. You can use it as a throttle/pedal bike or over-ride the torque-sensing assist at any time. In pedal assist mode, the motor will give boost up to 28 mph. 9-Speed trigger-shifting Shimano Deore gears, a quality Suntour lockout front shock, and good quality bicycle parts are employed throughout. Because the Dash can go fast and is designed to be ridden anywhere but the toughest terrain, it employs more powerful Shimano disc brakes, and Alex 700C double wall rims rolling on CST 45mm tires. The Dash is a blast.
Easy Motion Neo Cross - Similar to the Xtrem and Jumper, but with 700C (road/hybrid bike) wheels and hybrid street tires. It’s a solid and nice riding bike with good components, though again, the inability to charge the battery on the bike and the difficulty of removing the battery may be a concern. I have heard they are considering changing this in the future. From my experience and testing, the manufacturer’s range claims are a bit optimistic for it’s 36 Volt 8.8 amp battery (320 Watt hours). I appreciate that the bicycle itself uses good quality bicycle components. The Neo’s were born in Europe where there is a 250 Watt regulation on motor power, and the frame’s have a 250 Watt decal on them, though they say they use a different controller which bumps it up to 350 Watts. I’d like to see them bump the motor up again to 500 Watts, put a charging port and handle on the battery so you can pull it off easier and charge it on the bike. Then they’ve got a winner here.
2012-13 Focus - Uses quality bicycle components. Features a huge 18-Amp hour battery and a 250 Watt mid-drive motor with pedal assist only. I found the bike to be smooth, but to lack the ‘Wow’ factor that I like in an electric bike. The Focus appears to be designed for the European Commuter as a car replacement, covering long distances. In this price range there are lots of other options which I prefer.
2013 Izip E3 Ultra – 500 (1000 Peak) Watts, 49 Lbs. in a gorgeous hybrid style frame with 700C wheels. This bike uses the same powerful geared motor as the Zuma and the Metro, so with its light 700C wheels and hybrid geometry -- this bike simply FLIES! For 2013, it now has both a throttle and 3 modes of pedal assist. The battery is concealed in the down-tube so it does not look like an electric bike. Excellent quality bicycle parts, i.e. Sram 24-speed gears, Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes, sealed bearings, etc. This is a performance cyclist’s electric bike. We drag-raced a Stromer with an Ultra and it won pretty easily. One potential drawback, however, is the down-tube concealed battery which while replaceable, is not readily removable. I prefer the the Ultra to the Neo Cross first because it is made by Currie/Izip -- the biggest and best electric bicycle company with world class support. Secondly, the primary way to charge a bike is on-board (on the bike), and with the Neo you must remove the tight-fitting banana-shaped battery and awkwardly turn it upside down to charge. With the Ultra, you just plug and play. Third, personally I like the extra power. As of this writing, some 2013 Ultra’s are available at a big price drop; an excellent candidate for the performance rider.
Hybrid Style Comfort/City Bikes:
2013 Izip E3 Path - A lightweight and stylish (50 lbs.) upright Euro-style eBike with comfortable upright riding position, light hybrid 700C wheels, and a gorgeous contrasting color scheme, including gum-walled tires. Pedals very nicely as a regular bike. It uses a 24 Volt Lithium Ion battery and a 250 Watt geared motor, though because of its light weight and has low rolling resistance 700C wheels -- has a delightful balance of power and pedaling. The pedal assist is just one level at up to 50% power, which isn’t enough power for some riders, but you can override it with the twist throttle at any time. The bike is outfitted with fenders, kickstand, comfy saddle and ergo grips. The Path is really for street riding only, a good fit for someone who likes to pedal. And it pedals nicely without any assist. If your budget is around $1400 (originally 1800) and a 2013 is still available, this is a really nice bike. If you can afford a little more though, look at the 2014 Path Plus, which takes this bike to the place it was meant to go.
2014 Izip E3 Path Plus - Currie has refined the Path with major upgrades that make a sweet bike into a dream bike. They’ve boosted the power up to a powerful 500 Watts with a silent gearless motor, doubled the battery power with 48 Volts (8.8 amp), and added several excellent new features. These include a multi-function backlit LCD display on the handlebars which gives readouts of range, speed, miles, etc, and a remote panel for selecting between 4 levels of pedal assist (up to full power), and even has an awesome cruise control! feature! The rear wheel can be easily removed with the quick disconnect cable and quick release lever. Like the 2013 Path, the bike is fully equipped with fenders, kickstand, ergo saddle, good mechanical disc brakes, and 700C (road) wheels with slimed 38 mm CST tires, but there have been major improvements and refinements. The 48 Volt battery has a handle on it and slides easily out of the functional rear rack which can be used as a regular rack accomodating standard bicycle accessories. This bike is special. It rides with a precision feel and with the new TransEx power system which employs 12 sensors on the pedal assist provides an incredibly responsive and intuitive feel which makes riding a pure joy. At $2200, I think Currie has whacked the ball out of the park on this one and my customer’s have gone out of their way to express their satisfaction.
2013-14 Pedego City Commuter - This is a second generation bike from Pedego and represents quite a departure from their comfort cruiser. It employs a more powerful 400 Watt geared-motor, a 36 Volt 10 amp battery, 5 levels of pedal assist as well as a twist throttle, built in lights, dual disc brakes, and a multi-function backlit computer for $2495. Pedego also offers a 15 Amp battery upgrade for an additional $295, as well as a 48 Volt 10 Amp version with a 500 Watt motor for $2895. The bike is responsive, smooth and comfortable, with the exception of some lurchiness in the pedal assist which may take some getting used to. The things I don’t like are minor: the tubing on the rack is too thick to accommodate panniers or standard accessories, the large kickstand can hit bumps, and the battery is a bit hard to pull out. The City Commuter marks a positive evolution for Pedego and is an attractive and nice bike.
2013 Easy Motion Neo City - A well made bicycle with the same components, battery/motor/controller as their Xtrem/Jumper/Cross bikes. This bike actually has a kickstand! -- as well as fenders, headlight and taillight. Again, my basic issue with the bike is the 36 Volt 8.8 Amp battery system which cannot be charged on the bike. Also, I think it is essential that a Lithium Ion battery be removed from an electric bike if being transported on a bike rack. First, you won’t kill yourself lifting it on the rack, which likely wasn’t designed for the extra weight. Secondly, if dropped off the rack or hit by a car, the battery could become a bomb. Otherwise, it uses the same good quality components as the other Easy Motion bikes, is durable and rides nicely.
Premium Performance Commuters:
2012-2013 Stromer – Good quality hybrid-style eBike which intelligently puts the battery in a compartment in the down-tube. The motors were rated was at 600-Watts, but didn't seem quite as strong to me as the 500 Watt Izip's. The new Stromer’s have re-rated their motor at 500. Remember, there is no real standard for wattage ratings, and the marriage of motor/controller/battery modifies the power profile. The agressive hybrid foward-leaning design is specific to a flat-bar hybrid, like a Trek FX, Specialized Sirrus, or in electric terms, the Izip E3 Dash, Izip E3 Ultra, or eFlow Nitro. It uses good quality bicycle components, though I do not like the torque sensor located in the rear frame dropout. I’ve heard they are considering changing that. Has both Power-on-demand and Pedal Assist modes. The removable battery locks into the down-tube of the frame: Good design. Rated at just 20 miles range in the standard model, with 25% more range with the bigger battery option priced about $700 higher. At between $3500-4200+, and with its flat-bar style, this bike is in the specialty niche of higher-end performance hybrids. Just to be clear, the Stromer bike is not “made in Switzerland,” though it may have been designed there. The earlier Stromer’s had their issues, though the current models have evolved into nice bikes.
2014 Stromer ST1 Elite/Platinum - Stromer has worked the bugs out and refined this bike into a nice premium grade performance hybrid. Both Platinum and Elite models are now available with a long range Samsung 14 amp battery as a $700 option which increases the range 20%. These bikes ride beautifully, though a bit stiff like a performance sports car, and not as comfortably as I would like with their aggressive leaned over riding position. I’d certainly have to change the saddle if I were to ride it extensively. The Stromer employs quality bicycle components, i.e. Shimano Gears, Magura hydraulic disc brakes, and Schwalbe tires. The Stromer’s have evolved into a high quality premium-level bike, and if you’re shopping in this price range, certainly worthy of consideration. I hope the company hangs in for the long run. Weight comes in at 62 lbs. which is a bit on the high side if you’re in need of lifting the bike.
2014 Currie eFlow Nitro - Super hi-tech hybrid-style sporty performance commuter bike in a similar theme to the Stromer. Currie has employed a very high-quality Samsung 14.7 amp battery (522 Watt hours) into the seatpost where it sits right over the center of gravity and where is virtually disguised by the riders legs. The ride is very smooth and powerful, featuring 4 levels of torque-sensing pedal assist as well as a throttle. Quality bicycle components are used throughout, including 20-speed SRAM Apex gearing and battery-regenerating Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes. The eFlow Nitro employs a gorgeous hydroformed aluminum frame, with a front RST mono-shock, which enhances both the look and feel of the bike. It is available in both step-thru and diamond (men’s) designs. Apparently the 500 Watt motor is designed with tighter windings and higher quality magnets, and I felt that translated into a strong and liquid-feeling ride. The ride is similar to the Stromer, though I found it to be much more comfortable than the Stromer over bumps, likely due to the Mono-shock, Maxxis tires, cushier saddle, and slightly more relaxed frame geometry. The bike rides with a magic-carpet feel, beautifully balanced, responsive and just a ton of fun. This is sort of the Tesla of electric bikes. A 14 Amp battery will be available by July 2014 if you feel you need more range, though the current 11 amp should be plenty for most riders. Comes with either the torque gearing which accelerates faster, or the speed gearing which will add power up to 28 mph. Weighs in at 50.5 lbs. The eFlow won the 2012 Gold Medal for exceptional achievement in design at the International Taipei Cycle Show. Warning: Riding this bike will spoil you. I rode it all over Boot Canyon on the Interbike Test track and was blown away by the liquid smooth feel, efficiency and balance of the Nitro. The Nitro truly represents a new generation of evolution in electric bikes.
2013 Ohm – The top model is a nice bike featuring high quality bicycle parts, but the price tag ($3750) puts it into the premium niche. This is a BionX conversion bike that has been integrated a little better than just a standard conversion kit. This is a cyclist's electric bike.
2013 Izip Express: The $3995 Express is a powerful performer, fast and long-range, and a blast to ride. Police forces are beginning to order these as pursuit bikes. They will fly with the 750 Watt motor and go far with the 18 Amp battery. They make an other wordly whining sound that verifies you are whipping through the wind. The Express shines as an awesome long-range commuter, though is not recommended as your general recreational bike. Note: they are only power-assist machines with no throttles. If you are a power-pedaler and want to go fast and far, this machine will match your power and you will fly.
2014 Juiced Riders ODK - This is the true SUV of electric bikes. A 20” wheeled cargo bike with a powerful geared 500 Watt motor and hummungus 48 Volt 22 Amp hour battery. It also has large storage capacity with its big rear rack. Good quality bicycle parts, including internal 3 speed gearing. This is a specialty bike designed to be a second car replacement. It performs it’s purpose well. The downside is the heavy weight (78 lbs.) and difficult removability of the battery. If you are riding from garage to errands and back, this could replace your car having a bunch more fun.
2013 Izip E3 Metro – Featuring distinctive colors and an upright design, a powerful 500 Watt geared (1000 peak) motor with both Pedal Assist and Power on Demand Modes - the Metro is strong, smooth and a delight to ride. Commuter equipped, the Metro also features an integrated bamboo-based front basket and rear rack. Down-tube frame enclosed Lithium Ion battery provides security, ideal as long as you don't need to remove it for off-board charging. You need to consider if that is an issue for you … it is for me. Also features 5 levels of power assist. Comfortable bike, plenty of power, lots of fun. A very evolved electric bicycle. The bike disguises a 36 Volt 10 Amp battery by placing it balanced in the downtube. However, while replaceable, it is not easily removable for off-board charging, which may be an issue for some.
2014 Izip E3 Metro - Currie completely redesigned the Metro for 2014, with an all-new frame with a removable 36 Volt battery integrated in the seat tube. This is your SUV of electric bikes. It has the same powerful 500 Watt geared motor as the 2013 model, but how has Currie’s sweet LCD display with multifunction features and control pad for feature selection. They’ve also include rack, bottle and fender bosses on the frame if you want to install these. Like the 2013, the Metro uses good quality including Avid disc brakes, wide range trigger shifting Shimano Gears, and wide footprint CST tires. Features a beautiful large bamboo-lined porteur rack in the front and a bamboo-lined rear carrier. This is a powerful, fun, and utilitarian cargo hauler.
Value Priced Bikes:
2014 Currie Recreational Commuter - (may only available in Diamond (Men’s). This is a value-priced bike that may be all you need for your first ebike. OK, it is in Currie’s Ezip value line (6-month warranty), but this is a nice bike. Designed for the recreational rider or casual commuter looking for value, comfort, and performance, this intelligent design features tasty styling and comfortable ergonomics. You sit upright on a cushioned saddle with your arms draped in a natural position on the butterfly handlebars with ergo grips. The bicycle components are alloy and of decent mid-range quality, including Maxi-Range Shimano low gears. The 450-Watt outboard motor (like the original Currie Cruisers) is mated with a removable/lockable rack-mounted 9.6 amp Lithium Ion Phosphate battery pack. If you need more range (double) you can add a second battery pack to the other side of the rear rack. Range is around 20 miles, which of course, depends on how much you weigh, how much you peddle, and the kind of terrain you ride. You can ride it in a variety of modes: pedal it like your regular bike, ride power-only like a motorcycle with the twist throttle, or do any combination of both with the twist throttle. You can also just flip the switch and give yourself an automatic boost to your effort with the pedal assist mode, which gives 50% power -- but can be seamlessly over-ridden to 100% by the twist throttle.
2013-14 Izip E3 Vibe: Affordable-level eBike that has some decent things going for it: Style, comfort, economy, and versatility. It is a rather weighty 250-Watt hub motor bike, so don’t expect much power. Bike parts are mediocre at best, but remember the low price tag. Gorgeous bright colors are integrated throughout the wheels, frame and details. You can start for $1100 with a single removable Sealed Lead Acid Battery on the locking rack and can add a second if you need more range. You can upgrade to Lithium Ion at any time for about $300. For the recreational rider wanting to cut the wind or climb the hills and ride with a smile. Upright Comfort/City Bike styling, comfy saddle. Throttle (TAG) and 50% Pedal Assist (PAS). The Vibe is a bit back-heavy with the standard SLA battery. This is a decent bike for the price, though by the time you get the Lithium-Ion battery options, there are other choices. I like the Recreational Commuter much more.
2011-13 Prodeco - The enigma of electric bicycles. High points for marketing as they sound good on paper, though some of the claims are downright curious at best and disingenuous at worst (i.e. “Made in USA” and the range and battery life claims). Clients have sent me Chinese websites with these same bikes. They may be assembled in the USA, though that doesn’t make them “made.” I do not like the weak I-beam battery rack which seems flimsy, easily unboltable and sits too far back, the off-brand batteries, the low-wind direct-drive motors, nor the frame designs/quality. To be blunt, the claims for range and battery cycles seem downright exaggerated. Like everything in life, “if it seems to good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Getting parts also has not been easy in the past. Then again, I know some people that are having a good experience with their bikes. But I think there may be more than meets the consumer’s eye here. Further reviews are forthcoming. To their credit, I know the company is evolving and each year they seem to be improving.
RideKick – A completely different concept and a product to consider. This is an electric trailer unit which attaches easily to any bike. It assists you by pushing - like a locomotive. The trailer has a motor, battery and controller, and has enough storage room to take home your goodies from farmer's market or the store. You can move it from bike to bike, with only a simple detachable throttle and clamp. It actually rides and handles very well. At the $700-800 price range, the RideKick is for those who have a bike, and only want to electrify it for cargo purposes, or periodic fun. It could use a little more cargo capacity, though has enough room for beer and farmer’s market veggies.
2010-13 A2B UltraMotor – Has a pretty strong motor, but is really heavy with small 20" wheels. I consider it more of a scooter than a bicycle, so. Some people like the macho and stylish heavy-duty look. One A2B dealer affectionately calls it the "Testostorosa." Good for people mostly using the power, like a scooter, not pedaling. Handles a little weird with the small 20" wheels, unconventional frame, and wide tires. It’s heavy (78 lbs.) for pedaling or transporting. Long chain and pulley system for the gears with inexpensive derailleur too noisy. Strong motor. I have not reviewed the current A2B line as yet.
Note: The challenge of an electric bicycle is to create a dynamic balance between it's ability to be a hybrid: to be pedaled, assisted by power and freewheel (coast). I think it should pedal well as a standard bicycle with the pedal and power modes synergistically enhancing each other.
2011-13 A2B Velocity - Less expensive, lighter and more like a bicycle than the UltraMotor Metro. But it felt out of balance to me with all the weight on rear, was not very comfortable, and was lacking in performance.
2013 Bodhi Bike – Stylish and smooth riding eBike with a lot of features I like to see: Nexus internal gearing, battery integrated into the down-tube of the frame. The battery is a little small and the 250W direct drive motor is not suited for hills. Lighter riders on moderate terrain might want to look at this bike. New company and I hope they keep evolving this bike which is on the right track.
2013 E-Joe Epik - At under 40 pounds, this is probably the lightest electric bike available today -- making it portable and manageable. It is powered by a 250w motor (430w peak), so with its low weight seems sufficiently strong. The single speed is all you really need. I love the disguised design of placing the hidden 36 Volt/7 Amp/Hour battery in the top tube of the frame … simply brilliant! With its small size, low weight, and 20-mile range, this compact ebike can keep up with full-sized ebikes, and you can stash it in your trunk, plane, boat, train or closet. If you want a folder, this is the one, now that the eMoto Crosstown is (unfortunately) no longer available. A higher end model is becoming available with 7 speeds and a larger capacity battery.
2012 Pathfinder - Same as the Hebb and Ezee, but no longer in business. Good news for Pathfinder owners: Most Hebb parts fit Pathfinders and while Hebb is no longer producing bikes will be stocking the parts for several years.
2009-13 Hebb ElectroGlide 500 – Well equipped 350-Watt geared-motor bike. 3 years ago, I considered this to be one of the best values in electric bikes featuring Nexus gears and well-appointed extras. But heavier and performance-seeking riders often want more power than this bike provides, and proprietary features may need special attention. Throttle only. Looking forward to the upgrade with 500 watts, quick disconnects and pedal assist. At 62-65 lbs., a bit heavy. Note: Hebb is no longer producing electric bikes, though does stock parts.
2012-13 Hebb ElectroGlide 1000 - Same bike which has evolved with upgrades throughout, and now with 500 watts and 5 levels of pedal assist. The bike has improved significantly with a stronger motor, a bigger 15 Amp Hour battery, and all of the little changes which were beckoning. Premium grade bike with the outstanding Hebb customer support. Let’s hope Bill Hebb stays in business as despite massive craziness in the Electric Bike world, he raised the bar for quality and support in many ways.
2009-14 Ezee - Essentially the same as the Pathfinder and Hebb, but support has been challenging in the past. Ezee USA and Ezee (Europe/Asia) were two different distribution companies with very different visions, creating much confusion in the marketplace. Hebb and Pathfinder were manufacturered by Ezee (Asia) to their own specifications, and Hebb’s dealer network and support made it the better choice. Now, it appears Ezee will be one entity, with the principal’s wanting to move their products in a positive direction.
Emoto Bikes (no longer available):
2013 Emoto Malibu and Daytona - (No longer available). These are the new low step and standard frame designs for 2013. Emoto has boosted the power with a strong 350 Watt (600 peak) geared hub motor propelling these machines with lots of torque. just 51 lbs. The 3-speed Pedal Assist system works beautifully, and combined with the wide range 8-speed Index shifting works kind of like a Tiptronic transmission going through the gears. Inexpensive Disc brakes, sealed bearings, suspension fork. Plush leather looking saddle and handlebar grips. Features a huge 37 Volt 13 Amp Samsung battery with high capacity cells. Test riders have gotten over 40 miles! Plus, pedaling in the top gear with pedal assist can get very high top speeds. These bikes are good values, though will be redesigned soon. Must remove saddle to remove battery.
2013 Emoto Crosstown - (discontinued). A highly innovative folding electric with 20 inch wheels. I just love the new Emoto Crosstown. It’s fast, nimble, light, beautiful, versatile, and comfortable. The powerful 350 Watt motor is the same powerplant used in their full size bikes and with a 17 amp controller peaks at over 600 Watts. So at just 42 pounds and small 20 inch wheels, this beauty flies. With no gears to worry about shifting, and 3 speeds of pedal assist and a twist throttle, the Crosstown is truly a kick to ride. Lovely champagne colored frame accented with root-beer brown fenders, super plush brown leatherette saddle, ergo handgrips, and brown kenda tires with reflective sidewalls. It features tons of storage with sturdy front and rear racks and a classy woven basket to stash your stuff. The flyweight 9-amp Panasonic lithium-ion battery locks neatly into place behind the saddle and runs for over 20 miles. Folding the Crosstown with its center hinge and telescoping handlebar is a snap, and I was able to snug it into the shotgun seat of my little Mazda Miata! The fastest folder on the market. Unfortunately, they are no longer available. I am testing the new E-Joe folder which looks like it may be the next evolution in a folder.
2011-12 Emoto Velocity 2.5 - (sold out) This was the flagship of eMoto’s 2011-2012 line, and was one of the lightest ebike’s on the market at 47 lbs. It features their VPAC torque sensing pedal-assist system which is a delight to ride, giving instant power to your pedaling at take-off. It is a 250 Watt (350 peak) bike, but because of its light weight has decent power, though top speed peaks at about 16 mph. Shimano gears, sealed bearings, Tektro disc brakes, zoom suspension fork, and decent bicycle components throughout. Available with a throttle option. Very balanced with the premium Panasonic battery located in the
center of gravity. Unfortunately, they are sold out.
2011-12 Emoto Liberty 2.0 (sold out)- Similar to the Velocity, but has a smaller frame for more petite riders. Sold out. Emoto is working up a new design for April 2014.
2012 Trek + I always liked the 7000 series of Trek Bikes and the BionX kit which is what this bike starts with. - Trek has made 2 big mistakes with this bike. 1. They put all the electronics on the rear! (The best feature of the Bionx kit -- the position of the battery balanced in the center triangle – is discarded) and 2. They made the bike pedal assist only - like a treadmill, instead of Power-on-Demand, or both.
Currie Ezip Trailz: This is a steel-framed, sealed-lead acid (24 lb.) battery entry level electric bike weighing 80 lbs., sold essentially by big box stores. They are a bit rough. Now, a carefully and professionally assembled Ezip with a few modifications could be a decent entry level bike for the value customer. The problem is, the Big Box stores have them shipped in bulk, and do not assemble them properly. Buy your electric bike from an Independent dealer who specializes in electric bikes, not someone selling fishing tackle. You get what you pay for. Currie does a good job at hitting bottom-fishing price points, but at best, these bikes serve the purpose of introduction.
2011- Sanyo Eneloop + The closest an electric bike has come to having Regenerative capabilities, hence the "loop" in its name. - The bike is made for the Euro/Asian laws limiting it to 250 watts of power, though it barely feels like that. When I rode it at InterBike I thought it was very underpowered. Perhaps Generation 2.0 with come out with a USA model with more poop.
Santa Barbara Electric Bike - These were the bottom of the food chain circa 2005, so don’t expect them to be more. You can’t change a cat into a dog, right? The market was flooded with these at a very low price point, and there are many floating around used. There are no parts and if they are functioning, will need repair soon. I’d recommend staying away from these. Cheap, heavy (80+ lbs.), Sealed-lead acid battery, bottom-barrel parts. To their credit, they were stylish, and if loved and well-maintained, could run quite a while. Warning: DO NOT buy one used or you will violate the law of diminishing returns and drive yourself nuts. It’s like buying an 8-year old laptop from Walmart and expecting it to be a Macbook.
2005-08 Lashout -- Electrec -- Rayos - These ran between 2004 and 2008 and were an evolution of the famous Currie E-Ride which was no longer in production. Strong 600 Watt external motor, 12-14-amp sealed lead acid battery, heavy dual-suspension frame. For their time, they were a fairly well-designed workhorse, a good hill-climber, and the best value at the time in an electric bicycle. Now, They are now pretty much obsolete. A piece of electric bike history. I would not recommend buying a used one at this point.
(2009-10) Ecobike This was a 2008 entry level Lithium-Ion battery bike. A little weak on the hills, uses inexpensive bike parts. It appears to spec like a more premium bike, but falls short in stress tests. Uses inexpensive bicycle parts and lower-tech Lithium Ion Manganese battery. In head-to head comparison, other 350 Watt bikes were far stronger, and had quite a bit more range. This bike is basically obsolete at this point. You may find one used on Craig’s list, and I’d recommend staying away. You can buy a brand new Lithium Ion Phosphate powered Currie Commuter for 1200, so why busy an obsolete used bike?
Giant Electrics (Twist, etc.) + A fairly well-crafted electric bike which we would like to like. However.... it's 250 Watt motor in this design will only go 15 mph and lacks the wow-factor. Premium-price. On the other hand, it should get good range. Also, the Giant electronics are proprietary, and add unnecessary complexity should something go wrong. Rides smooth and should have good range, but you can do better. Giant makes excellent regular bikes, but electric’s are just not really their forte. Stay away from tempting deals on used bikes.
iGo + R.Martin R10 - The R Martin R10-h (R.Martin is a distributor and does not manufacturer bikes), and the iGo Titan are essentially the same bike, manufactured by the Chinese company, Tonaro, who calls this model "The Bighit." It comes in Black or Yellow. R Martin, I Go, and other companies that rebadge these bikes are actually distributors, but there is some variation in how they are accessorized. Here's the manufacturer's page - http://www.tonaro.cn/products.html. They make all kinds of stuff besides bicycles. I don’t know how you would get a part for these bikes which are fully proprietary.
2011 E+ This is a reincarnation of the failed Tidalforce with the kinks worked out. Has a strong motor, but is complex, cumbersome, and costly. Not for me.
High Power Cycles - This is sort of your “chop-shop” of electric bicycles. These guys are very devoted to converting mountain bikes with strong motors. They are in a rapid period of evolution. I have Zero idea where they get their wattage ratings from me, it seems to defy the laws of physics. And, the lack of security of the velcro-fastened top-tube battery bag and the exposed controller on the down tube make this a candidate for research and development into a real product. But these bikes are fast and fun, if not entirely practical.
Stealth – 50 MPH, 4500 Watts, 50 Mile Range, 9-Speed Gearbox, Hydraulic Disc Brakes, 2 Hour Recharge. For $10,000 you can get this machine which will thrill you to the gills. Somewhere between scary and frightening fast, this is an electric machine on steroids. The Stealth is in a class by itself, and at 115 lbs, is really an off-road electric motorcycle with pedals. But if you're looking for the Ultimate in all-terrain power and big thrills, your electric dreams have come true.
Various Cheap Chinese Clones - There are many cheap bikes – call them "off brands" (extreme, r. martin, dogleg, etc.) of inferior/marginal quality with short warranties out there which I will caution you about. The cheap off-brands are lower quality, have no support, and will not last and give you the kind of experience you deserve. Stay away and save up for a good bike from one of the reputable companies.
The Copenhagen Wheel - A great fantasy, kind of like a perpetual motion machine. Unfortunately, it's years away, if not light years.
2011-12 The PI Mobility - Absolutely beautiful design. Really fun to look at. The problem is the riding position, the price, and the fact that it would be a security risk anywhere you leave it.
Kahlikoff - Well made bike with good bike parts that will get you there and back. Expensive at $3-4000. 250 Watt Motors and 16 MPH not enough at this price point. Designed for the European commuter, and it would work well there.
2010 Schwinn Tailwind – Discontinued and you may see this bike discounted here and there. Underpowered, low quality parts for price, and outrageous list price ($3295). Not worthy of consideration.
2011-13 Buscetti - Inflated claims, not ready for prime time. Battery and Motor are OK, but the bicycle parts are POS. Run.
The Others - The electric bicycle industry is super dynamic and changing almost as fast as Smartphones. There are many electric bikes in the marketplace which I haven’t reviewed here. Feel free to give a call to get an update on the state of the craft.
Used Electric Bikes - Be very careful if you are considering buying used. Most are only warranted to the original purchaser. Battery condition is critical, as replacement of Lithium Ion batteries is costly. Parts availability for older bikes is sketchy at best. Smaller companies may no longer exist. If you buy one, pay about ½ of what you think it’s worth.
A Glimpse into 2015
Here’s Larry Pizzi, President of Currie Technologies’ view for the future:
“Continued improvements in battery capacity, drive systems and sensor enhancements along with new connected devices and communications technologies. These will continue to enhance the user and dealer experience, making eBikes more enjoyable to use, sell and service.” But will they keep getting more expensive?
Electric Bike Economics
Electric Bikes get the equivalent of 1000 MPG with Zero Emissions!
-- At 10 cents a charge for 25 miles -- 100 miles costs you just 40 cents!
-- A car getting 20 MPG at $4 gallon costs about $20 for 100 miles just for the gas. That's 40 times as much!
The Real Costs of Driving
-- AAA says the REAL cost of driving is over $1 a mile (maintenance, insurance, registration, repairs, financing, depreciation, etc.) That would be $100 for each 100 miles. That's 250 times as much as an electric bicycle.
--GAS MILEAGE BOOST FOR YOUR CAR - Ride your electric bike 20 per cent of the time and you've boosted your gas mileage 20%. Voila!
-- Car Pollution: A Car getting 20 MPG dumps 22 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere! That's over 1 pound every mile -- more than 12,000 pounds a year or every 12,000 miles!
Electric bikes emit zero emissions, and require no Licensing, Registration, or Insurance, and may be ridden anywhere: street, bike path, alley, or off-road.
Power on Demand -- This is a throttle bike. Also known as TAG (Twist And Go).
Pedal Assist -- Power is added to your pedal stroke. AKA PAS (Pedal Assist).
SLA – Sealed Lead Acid
LiOn – Lithium Ion
Battery Chemistry Basics
Lithium Ion Batteries
- Longer Range - typically 2-3 times that of Sealed Lead Acid
- 3-4 Times more charge cycles -- typically up to 700+ instead of 2-300. Beware of inflated claims with Lithium Ion Phosphate (LiFePO4), the chemistry is new and they are not real world ratings.
- Lower Weight -- 1/3 - 1/2 the weight. They hold charge better with no memory effect.
Beware: There are several grades of Lithium Ion Batteries. The Phosphate batteries (LiFeP04) have been hit and miss for us, but show promise for the future. Inflated claims of the number of charge cycles though have proven unrealistic, and are obviously not real-world tested. If it’s phosphate, it should be from a major manufacturer like Samsung or Panasonic. New Lithium Ion chemistries are coming on line with other blends such as Cobalt. There is a wide range of grades of Lithium Ion, though the reputable manufactuer’s (i.e. Stromer/Currie/Izip, Easy Motion) use high quality Samsung or Panasonic cells. The cheaper bikes (i.e. Prodeco, etc.) may use cheap Chinese batteries which suspect. Wait on these until they are proven with actual charge cycle results from real world tests.
-- Makes the bike more expensive to purchase (but pays off in the long run).
-- More expensive to replace. But the cost/benefit ratio now exceeds any other chemistry.
Note: Lithium Ion Polymer batteries are safer for transport because the polymer separates and cushions the cells. Lithium Ion Manganese, are 30% heavier and are generally used by the less expensive bikes. LiFePO4 (phosphate) batteries have a wide variance in quality, and the cheaper ones have not yet lived up to their inflated claims of charge cycles, show promise, but are not a panacea. I can recommend the Samsung or Panasonic batteries.
Sealed Lead Acid Batteries
-Inexpensive at purchase.
-Inexpensive to replace
-Easy to find
-Serves the purpose of introduction. Not obsolete, but almost.
Disadvantage: About ⅓ to1/2 the charge cycles, power drop-off as depleted, very heavy.
Weight -- 3 times heavier. Weight distribution with battery on bike not nearly as good. Environmentally not as clean.
Bottom Line: If you can't afford Lithium Ion Batteries, SLA batteries will get you going until you can. Generally, I prefer Lithium Ions for lots of reasons. But in a marginal economy, good SLA's will do the job if you want to get budget electric.
24-36-48 Batteries -- The Watt Hour Concept
Production electric bikes will either come in 24, 36 or 48 Volt configurations. I remember changing my old VW bus from 6 Volt to 12 Volt, and voila!, bright headlights, fast windshield wipers, and it fired up immediately. Higher Voltages get more efficiency from the motor. Amp hours are the capacity or “fuel tank” size. The simplest formula for understanding battery performance/range is the concept of Watt/Hours: Volts X Watts=Watt hours. So a 24 Volt 10 Amp battery = 240 Watt Hours, a 36 Volt 10 Amp = 360 Watt Hours, and a 48 Volt 10 Amp battery = 480. The higher the number the greater the battery capacity and thus the range of the bike. Higher Voltage batteries will also allow the motor to use more power.
Most electric bicycles carry a 1-year manufacturer’s parts warranty. A few offer 2 years. Dealer service is generally not included, similar to a laptop computer. The most important thing is the quality of the bike so you never have to use warranty service, and the electronics on a good ebike should perform worry-free, like your Smartphone and simply require basic bicycle maintenance. This is why you shouldn’t buy a cheesy electric bike.
What about the Weight and Balance of an Ebike?
It is difficult for a lot of bicycle enthusiasts to understand that electric bicycles don't need to be flyweights. Since you are also using the power to accelerate up to cruising speed - this eliminates one of the major reasons for lightweight bikes. At a certain speed and up to a certain weight, the additional heft of an ebike actually increases the rolling speed due to inertia. It has a "flywheel effect" at certain speeds. Now if it is too heavy, it does become cumbersome to pedal in many circumstances. Batteries are removable for lifting onto your bike rack. A good Electric Bike should pedal nicely as well as power well. The key is the balance! Bicycle purists generally have a bias about electrics because they are spending hundreds/thousands of dollars to make their bikes lighter. There is no way around an ebike being too light as you add 8 lbs each for the motor and battery/controller, and the frame and spokes need to be a bit beefier.
The Self-charging or Regenerative electric bike:
fact or fiction?
"Do you have that electric bike that recharges itself?" ….. Not!
Regenerative braking is marketed as the holy grail of electric bikes as people dream of infinite battery life. But while it is true regenerative braking can extend your range by 2-7% percent under ideal conditions, you'd have to ride about 200 miles downhill just to charge the battery enough for a 20 mile ride. This is, of course, impossible. Unfortunately, the complexity of the electronics and their possibility of needing service/maintenance becomes a diminishing return for "Regen." Regen can also create "drag" (BionX,, Stromer) which is the opposite of a bicycle's "freewheeling" principle. Electric bicycles which advertise "Regen" are mostly using it as a gimmick. The manufacturer's have told me this themselves. Get a 12V to AC power inverter for your car, and your ebike battery while driving for free, if you like the idea of energy regeneration.
What about Solar?
25 Trillion Kilowatts of Solar energy beam down on the Earth every day. Yet humans only harness less than .001 percent of this. After the BP and Fukashima disasters, we really need to rewire our consciousness toward alternative energy. You can certainly charge your battery with a solar panel, like one from an RV. But you will not find Solar charging built in to electric bikes, as it would require too much surface area to be practical or cost-effective. Electricity is still ultra-inexpensive -- about a dime for a full charge. It takes about 24 hours to do a solar charge. You can also charge from a power inverter for your car; then your electricity cost is zero!
Ken Kalb has been involved with bicycles since he was a child. He helped start Planet Repair, a free recycle Bicycle Shop in Isla Vista in the 70's, been a triathalon champion and avid tourer, had a custom road bike shop, and been involved with Electric Bicycles since the mid-90's. He has sold and serviced many product entries during the entire evolution, and consulted on the design and development of several eBikes. He is the owner of Electric Star Power Bicycles, www.electricstar.org