- Exceedingly compact, light weight and easy to remove (for temporary unpowered use) though it does produce more noise than most of the ebike kits I've tested
- The bottle style battery pack is beautiful, the cap twists to add power at 50 watt increments up to 250 making it legal internationally, limited top speed of 15.5 mph
- Lots of optional accessories including a twist or trigger throttle, the included five magnet pedelec disc isn't super responsive but works well and qualifies as Class 1
- Compatible with a wide range of bicycle types but may require extra work to install (completely removing the bottom bracket), solid six month battery warranty
The Add-E kit has always impressed me with its compact size and weight. The motor unit can be quickly and easily removed and even the battery pack (which resembles a traditional water bottle) can be taken off and replaced with an actual bottle for drinking purposes or you could get a second holster and double your range for ~$300 and ~2.5 lbs extra. Basically, you can switch between an ebike and your traditional pedal powered bike in under three minutes… but even if you decided to leave the motor and battery connected at all times, the total weight is just five pounds and the friction drive canister doesn’t produce any drag because it “floats” in front of your rear wheel, never making contact unless you hit a small bump. Once the system is switched on and the control unit senses wheel movement and pedal assist or throttle input, the motor spins into action sending it backwards with centripetal force, engaging the tire and propelling you forward. It’s a beautiful system and priced at just over one thousand dollars (for the 250 watt version) or $1,251 for the 650 watt being covered here, it’s one of the more affordable kits I’ve seen that’s all inclusive.
So is the 600 watt Add-E kit faster more powerful than the international 250 watt kit? The short answer is not really. From what I can tell (using both kits, weighing all of the components and using a cycle computer) it appears that the motor hardware is the same, along with the battery pack, and all you’re getting is an unlimited top speed. While it is possible to go faster, it just doesn’t feel much different and still struggles with hills and even grass. The Add-E kit takes a while to ramp up speed and my hopes of using this off-road were dashed after a lackluster urban experience. So maybe it’s worth the extra $250 if you truly just need to go a little faster when riding but the limitations of the battery size remain, your range may decrease to just six miles per charge when riding at “high speed” but I’d still wager a maximum range in the lowest pedal assist mode at 16 miles. There are five power levels to choose from using the twist cap on the bottle battery (gently twist to the left to turn it off and to the right for more power) but without a display it’s difficult to tell how much battery power remains and I noticed that even when it’s “off” the red LED on the base of the motor unit continues to flash which may draw power and run it completely dry. I recommend taking the battery off the bike when not in use.
One of the greatest challenges to overcome when reviewing this kit was installation… but only when using the carbon fiber bottom bracket option. If your bike has a kickstand plate behind the bottom bracket then it’s a breeze. The length of the video review for this kit is a testate to what Sam and I went through to prep our bike platform and ultimately install it and while you may not have quite as many steps as us… it’s still time consuming and special tools may be required such as a bottom bracket puller. Frankly, I’d just ask my local shop to install it for me. The second big challenge relating to installation was setting the unit for high speed operation. When I received it the top speed was only ~15.5 mph (25 km/h) which was confusing and disapointing. Nothing in the manual I received explained how to change it so I called ELV Motors in Santa Clara, CA (the official distributor) and Nate helped me out over the phone. In short… turn the battery up to full power (five clicks to the right) then take it off the bike. Now unplug the white connector from the Add-E motor unit while leaving the black power cable plugged in. Next, insert the small speed chip into the slot that had the white cable in it before then plug the bottle battery back onto the mount. Look at the flashing red LED light on the base of the Add-E and confirm that it’s flashing in intervals of six (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 wait 1, 2, 3… and so on). This is your confirmation that the kit is now “unlocked” for higher speed. Frankly I wish this had been done before I received the kit because the chip is so small and easy to lose and the lack of instructions… hours wasted :(
Note that instead of a seamless look, our final Add-E electric bike demo bike was a bit tackier appearance due to the wire running from the control unit at the motor up to the handle bars for the throttle. I received both a trigger and twist throttle for testing but went with a trigger to leave room for the gear shifters near the right and left grips. For me it was worth it because I like to use throttles sometimes and wanted to test the motor on its own vs. pedaling to see how fast it would go. Due to the safety setup (where the motor won’t start even in throttle mode unless the bike is going 2+ mph) the throttle wasn’t immediately useful but did make filming easier.
While I’m still very impressed with the price, size and ease of use after installation… the Add-E kit remains noisy and I feel the 600 watt rating does not accurately reflect the difference in power or speed coming from the 250 watt version. This is basically a 20 mph kit and possibly 250 watts nominal up to 600 watts peak but with pretty low torque. Still, I’d rather have an unlimited kit than one that cuts out at 15.5 mph even if that means my battery drains a little quicker. If we look at my ideal commuting setup then it would cost ~$1,600 for the system with one extra battery plus the price of a bike so it’s not much less expensive than a purpose built ebike that’s much powerful and capable of longer rides. However, this is one of the few kits that can be mounted on a super efficient road bike platform and that’s exciting. There are very few kits that offer what the Add-E does and if they could make it silent I would be twice as interested and excited. It’s a beautiful system and one that sort of grows on you after the initial shock of the sound and lackluster power. It’s going to work better on some bikes than others and is probably best suited to light weight riders.
- The bottle style battery is extremely convincing and I love the way it operates (twist the cap to the right for additional power (there’s a difference between level 1 and level 5 but the middle all feels similar)
- It’s great that this kit can work as pedal assist only or you can opt for twist and trigger throttle options depending on your needs (throttle mode will likely drain the battery faster if you choose not to pedal as actively and requires the bike to be going ~2 mph to activate)
- The kit is extremely light weight (~5.5 lbs for all pieces combined) and minimal in appearance, the basic pedal-assist only setup has only one wire and keeps the handlebar area of your bike clean, if you add a throttle you’ll have one wire going from the battery area to your bars
- Once the mounting plate has been installed, it’s pretty easy to remove the Add-E motor by loosening one bolt and unplugging the power… then simply take the bottle battery off and you’re back to a normal bike
- The bottle cage battery adapter can be used with traditional water bottles (if you take the battery and Add-E off) but the bottle won’t sit perfectly flat at the bottom due to the plug interface
- You can get additional batteries for ~$300 to increase range and since they fit into normal bottle cages you could potentially have two mounted to the bike if you have bosses on the downtube and seat tube, each pack only weighs ~2.5 pounds which is nice
- Because the motor and battery are mounted at the middle of the frame you get excellent balance and reduce unsprung weight compared with a hub motor… that said, I don’t think it would work well with a full suspension bike due to wheel movement and limited travel of the Add-E
- To unlock the higher speed of this Add-E kit I had to use a little computer chip that was included but there were no instructions… In short, remove the battery and unplug the white cable then insert the chip there, now turn the battery all the way up to level five (twist to the right) then plug it into the bottle cage interface, now look for six red flashes (repeating) at the base of the motor then unplug the battery from the bike and you should be good
- The battery design is cool but didn’t appear to have an auto time-off so if you forget to manually twist it to off you may drain the battery slowly, without a display unit or lights to show that it’s on it’s just easier to overlook
- Despite being rated at 600 watts and labeled as a speed pedelec, this version resembles the base 250 watt kit in terms of performance, I feel that it may be the same motor but have the top speed limit removed
- There are no display readouts so you can’t tell how full the battery pack is, how fast you’re going, how far you’ve traveled or anything else… you have to estimate or get a separate cycle computer but that still won’t display your battery
- The battery capacity offered by this kit is extremely small compared to most kits and bikes I review (about 30% of average) so the range is lower, but it’s also much lighter than traditional offerings
- You absolutely need space to mount the bottle cage but Add-E does sell an adapter kit for those without threaded bosses on their seat tube or downtube
- Depending on the frame design of your bicycle this kit may be easy to install (using a kickstand plate just behind the bottom bracket) or difficult (mounting Carbon fiber plates directly to the bottom bracket) it took us several hours and special tools to get it working
- The five magnet pedelec disc isn’t as responsive as a 12 magnet disc and you don’t get brake levers with integrated motor inhibitors so there are brief moments where you may be braking against the motor
- If you mount this kit using the kickstand plate you may no longer be able to use the actual kickstand and your bike may tip… consider an aftermarket chain-stay mounting kickstand