Hello Friends! After being actively involved with Ebikes since the late 1990’s, I’ve learned a few things. 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 clarify this marketplace. This is a young and evolving technology just coming of age. The marketplace is much more mature in Europe, yet somewhat embryonic in the United States, with only a few product entries truly worthy of consideration.
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 ebike manufacturers request my feedback and advice on the design of their bikes during their developmental phase. I have pretty strict standards for this young and evolving technology. Stand warned: You, the customer, will simply go nuts trying to understand 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 or their representatives! 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.
What follows is 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 15 years of experience with eBikes. You may see a natural bias toward the bikes we sell, as we usually become dealers for the bikes we like. I will not sell a bike I don’t like, and it will have to pass rigorous scrutiny for quallity and value. I have also included some of former/older/obsolete models for a frame of reference. But like an old SmartPhone or Laptop, I hereby warn you against buying a used or outdated electric bicycle.
Note 1: A quality electric bicycle must have 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? 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.
Note 2: Beware of comparing power ratings of motors/controllers/batteries. The design and configuration of the motor (and controller) especially – i.e. whether it is geared or direct drive – the method of rating etc., often distorts the numbers. Many bikes with high power ratings are not necessarily more powerful. Some bikes with lower wattage ratings might be plenty powerful if they are lightweight and integrate an efficient design. It’s complicated, that’s why I recommend you take advantage of my expertise.
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.
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.
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.
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 not suited for hills. Lighter riders on moderate terrain might want to look at this bike. New company.
Pedego - Stylish cruiser-style bike. The "Tommy Bahama" of electric bikes, especially with the fat tire option. A little underpowered for the hills (motor is 500 Watt direct drive – not planetary geared), fine for cruising around the flats. I have had it said … “then why do you need all that motor/battery/controller, not to mention the expense?” On this bike, 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 curves -- but OK for upright recreational cruising. The exaggerated handlebar may be too wide for the bike path 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 solid. But what about the bike itself?
The Cruiser’s are throttle only, no pedal assist. Their 48 Volt Interceptor has plenty of power, but is $2700+. Pedego’s City Bike has many nice features, though at $2600, I’d like to see better bicycle components and build quality.
Now, If you would like a much more powerful Cruiser that will conquer the hills and provide endless thrills, look at the Izip E3 Zuma. Izip’s were the original Cruiser starting back in 1998. (Please see the picture of my original Currie Cruiser on the Zuma (bottom of the page) that I started Electric Star Power Bicycles with: http://www.electricstar.org/ZumaE3.html
2014 Currie Recreational Commuter - Brand new as of June, 2013, this is a value-priced market entry to get really excited about. OK, it is in Currie’s Ezip line (6-month warranty), but this is a really nice bike, benefitting from the wisdom of all the models which have come before it. Designed for the recreational rider or commuter looking for value, comfort, and performance. The most intelligent design features tasty styling and comfortable ergonomics. Bicycle components are alloy and of very decent quality -- all alloy and even a Maxi-Range derailleur and gears! The 450-Watt external Power-train (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 + or - 20 miles, which of course it depends on how much you weigh, how much you peddle, and the kind of terrain you ride. You can use it infinite ways: pedal it like your regular bike, modulate in power 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 with the pedal assist mode, which gives just 50% power -- but can be over-ridden by the throttle. It's seamless. two Currie Commuter's for the price of one premium-line electric bike! And if your like the majority of first-time or part-time electric bicycle riders, this might be everything that you need. I like it, especially for around $11-1200 ready to go!
Neo Easy Motion - (Cross/Xtrem/29’er/Jumper/City/Street) - These bikes are evolving to bridge the divide between bicycle and electric bicycle. Each production run includes refinements toward a high quality bike. The Xtrem Won a Gold Medal design award at Eurobike. They are lightweight at about 50 pounds, and feature an innovative design with a removable 8.8 Amp (only) Samsung battery in the downtube of the frame. They fit it out with quality bicycle parts and theoretically regenerating hydraulic disc brakes. The 350-Watt geared hub motor is pretty strong and provides good power due to the lightweight and efficient design and the well-integrated torque sensor system. These excellent features, however, are not without some rough spots beckoning evolution in future models: The battery is only 8.8 Amp hours, and physics will dictate that range may not be what is advertised. Furthermore, the banana-shaped battery is difficult to remove, cannot be charged ON the bike, and the awkward banana-shape makes it difficult to re-charge upside down. 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 kick stand -- so commuters must park by leaning the bike over on the saddle and handlebars. The company is new and undergoing growing pains as the bike evolves toward a being a winner.
Focus - Uses quality bicycle components. Features a huge 18-Amp hour battery and a 250 Watt crank drive motor with pedal assist. i found the bike to be smooth, but 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.
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.
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.
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 Standard: This is a sealed-lead acid (24 lb.) battery entry level electric bike weighing 80 lbs., sold essentially by big box stores. They are a bit rough and I would not recommend buying one. A carefully and professionally assembled Ezip with a few modifications could be a decent entry level bike. 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.
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 Pro.
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 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.
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. The will fly with the 750 Watt motor and go far with the 18 Amp battery. They make a 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, 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.
Izip E3 Vibe: Affordable-level eBike that has alot 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 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 Pedal Assist (PAS). 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 bikes to compare with. I like the 2014 Currie Commuter more with its Lithium Ion Phosphate battery for 1000-1200.
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. I've ridden over Zuma 35 miles on a single charge. Pedal Assist and Power on Demand. 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, A1 headset, quality wheels and parts make the Zuma a truly fine machine. Pedals well, powers strong, will last long. A customer recently brought over a 48 Volt custom Marin, and to his surprise, I toasted him in a drag race. The Zuma is truly a blast to ride. 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 raced a 48-Volt Pedego Interceptor with my new $1200 Currie Commuter at the Solstice Festival and lost by a bit, but less significantly than to the Zuma!
Izip E3 Path - A lightweight and stylish (50 lbs.) Euro-style bike with comfortable upright riding position, light hybrid 700C wheels, and a gorgeous contrasting color scheme. Pedals very nicely as a regular bike. It just has a 24 Volt Lithium Ion battery and 250 Watt geared motor, though because of its light weight and narrow wheels, has a delightful balance of power and pedaling. For street riding only, a good fit for someone who likes to pedal.
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.
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.
Emoto Crosstown - 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.
Emoto Velocity 2.5 - 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.
Emoto Liberty 2.0 - 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.
Pathfinder - Same as the Hebb and Ezee, but no longer in business. Good news for Pathfinder owners: Most Hebb parts fit Pathfinders.
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 an upgrade with 500 watts, quick disconnects and pedal assist. At 62-65 lbs., a bit heavy.
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.
Evelo - Mid-drive 250 Watt bike which theoretically uses the bicycle’s gears. It’s an interesting idea, though frankly, almost every other electric bicycle does fine with independent electric and human drive systems which integrate seamlessly. You shift much less on an electric bicycle, and some of the best bikes I have ridden have only one bicycle gear. This is a brand new market entry, and I would like to see it evolve through some production runs before we re-invent the wheel.
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.
Izip E3 Metro – Featuring distinctive colors and an upright design, a powerful 500 Watt (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, great if you don't need to remove it for off-board charging. Also features 5 levels of power assist. Comfortable bike, lots of fun. A very evolved electric bicycle.
Izip E3 Ultra – 500 (1000 Peak) Watts, 49 Lbs. in a gorgeous hybrid style frame with 700C wheels. This uses the same powerful motor as the Zuma and the Metro, so with its light wheels and hybrid geometry -- this bike simply FLIES! For 2013, it has both throttle and 3 modes of pedal assist. The battery is concealed in the down-tube, so like the Neo Easy Motion, does not look like an electric. Excellent quality bicycle parts, i.e. Sram 24-speed gears, Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes, sealed bearings, etc. A Cyclists electric bike. Outperforms the Stromer at $1000 less, though the down-tube concealed battery is replaceable, but not easily removeable. I prefer the Ultra to the Neo (Easy Motion) Cross 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. For the recreational rider or high-performance commuter, the Ultra is a fantastic choice.
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.
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.
Prodeco - The enigma of electric bicycles. Sounds good on paper, though some of the claims are curious. I do not like the Ibeam battery rack, the direct-drive motors, the things that seem too good to be true. Like everything in life, “if it seems to good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Getting parts might not be easy. Then again, I know people that are having a good experience. But I think there may be more than meets the eye here. Further reviews are forthcoming.
Prodeco Outlaw – This is designed to be one “bad-boy” of an electric bike. Very powerful with a claimed 750 Watts of power, and equipped with good SRAM bike parts, a double Magnesium front fork, and hydraulic disc brakes. Very sturdy looking. There are two models Standard and the SS model which supposedly will illegally go up to 28 mph, but with less torque. I do not like the I-beam battery rack design, and it won’t have much range with just a 9 amp battery, but it will be fun while it lasts. Prodeco bikes are generally throttle only, and the ajury is out on parts availability, durability, and product support.
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.
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.
Stromer – High quality hybrid-style eBike which intelligently puts the battery in the down-tube. Motor rated is at 600-Watts, but didn't seem as strong to me as the 500 Watt Izip's. Remember, there is no real standard for wattage ratings, and the marriage of motor/controller/battery modifies the power profile. The hybrid design is specific to a commuter-style bike, like a Trek FX or Specialized Sirrus. Good parts and quality, though I do not like the torque sensor located in the rear frame dropout. Power-on-demand and Pedal Assist modes. Removable battery locks into the down-tube of the frame. Rated at 20 miles range in the standard model, and the bigger battery option prices it higher. At between $3500-4000, this bike is in the specialty niche. The Izip Ultra is $700-1000 less and outperformed it in our performance and range tests. The removable battery is an advantage though, but don’t be deceived by the “Swiss-born” claims, this bike is made where most of the others are --- Asia. %he new $3995 Izip Nitro with battery in the seat tube is the next evolution of generation 3 electric bikes.
Various Cheap Chinese Clones - There are many cheap bikes – call them "off brands" (extreme, r. martin, dogleg, etc.) of inferior 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.
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.
Ezee – Similar bike to Hebb, made in the same factory. 350 Watt, Throttle only. New 500 Watt bikes are coming, pretty good machines, though heavy.
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.
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.
Buscetti - Inflated claims, not ready for prime time. Battery and Motor are OK, but the bicycle is a 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.
2013 and beyond -- The trend seems to be toward fancier technologies and higher price tags. Stay tuned. The new mid-drive systems are starting to appear, though the US is about a year away. For me, the mid-drives are not as much fun to ride, but get lots of range and have their benefits. Panasonic and Bosch will be battling patents during their roll-out in the United States. Then there will be the knock-offs. Wait on these.
Used Electric Bikes - Be very careful if you are considering buying used. Most are only warranteed 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.
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 15 per cent of the time and you've boosted your gas mileage 15%.
-- 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 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. 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. eMoto, 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: We have had our best luck (trouble-free). Lithium Ion Polymer batteries are safer for transport. 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.
Sealed Lead Acid Batteries
-Inexpensive at purchase.
-Inexpensive to replace
-Easy to find
-Serves the purpose of introduction. Not obsolete, but
Disadvantage: About ⅓ to1/2 the charges, power drop-off as depleted, 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 Batterys, 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.
More is not necessarily better. Golf carts use 6-Volt batteries rather than 12 because of their slow discharge rate. Plus the individual batteries are less expensive to replace. Higher voltage batteries yield more power (wattage), but are more expensive to replace. Lower voltage batteries are lighter and require less power to recharge. So again, this is a question of balance. Replacement of higher voltage lithium ion batteries is very expensive, so a cost-benefit analysis might be in order. A well-designed high quality 36 Volt bike with a 500 Watt motor should be more than enough power for an electric bike. And 24 Volts might work fine for many riders and be more economical.
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.
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. 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.
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