- An extremely affordable, fast and high powered electric bike with 30+ mile range and 30 mph top speed
- Uses non-proprietary batteries that are affordable to replace but may only get ~600 charge cycles
- Not as polished as bulk-produced ebikes, uses generic low-end components, battery not easily removable
Warning, in some configurations this electric bike is classified as a moped or motorcycle and may not be ridden on cycling trails or paths. It may require licensing, insurance and lights when used on public roads.
The Fusion Electric Bike blends entry-level components with affordable off-the-shelf batteries and a powerful direct-drive hub motor to deliver speed and range beyond that of most other ebikes I’ve tested in this sub $1,000 price range. It easily tops 30 mph in off-road performance mode and can travel in excess of 30 miles per charge on throttle alone without pedaling. Of course, you can extend that by pedaling along in one of five pedal assist levels. The addition of regenerative braking here also improves range and helps to reduce wear on the already challenged rubber v-brakes. This is a 95 pound electric bike with four Lead AGM batteries that aren’t designed for off-bike charging, meaning you’ll need to park close to an outlet. The drive system comes preset to 20 mph to conform with US legal code but you can easily up the power and speed for private and off-road use.
The 1,000 watt direct drive gearless rear hub motor used on the Fusion is street legal in California but most other states in the US limit nominal wattage to 750 watts… You may be able to register it as a moped and add some lights but otherwise, do be careful and definitely consider a helmet. The motor is smooth, quiet and very zippy with peak output up to 2,000 watts. It’s heavier than a planetary geared hub motor, weighing in around 19 pounds, and does experience some light cogging but also offers regenerative braking. During my ride tests, regen was noticeable but not super strong (I was told that it’s being refined right now). I love that the LCD display unit clearly shows that regen is active, I was able to pull the Wuxing levers gently and avoid wearing down the rubber v-brakes while still getting it to engage. Speaking of brakes, these ones did a solid job stopping considering the extra weight of the bike but did require more effort in my hand muscles. I only weigh ~135 lbs so this bike felt pretty responsive but definitely required more distance to stop than lighter ebikes and those with hydraulic disc brakes.
The batteries are the real star of the show here… the founder of Cutler Cycles (Lamont Cutler) said he was inspired by the low price, wide availability and chemical stability of Lead Acid batteries and wanted to figure out a way to use them on an electric bike. He ultimately chose to work with the more advanced AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) variants which are designed to offer ~600 charge cycles if cared for (don’t let them get discharged, top them off monthly). These packs are relatively small and only cost ~$40 a piece. The system here combines four 12 volt 15 amp hour blocks in series to create a ~48 volt 15 amp hour power system. In my opinion the weight is well distributed across the frame for balance (one pack is above the top tube, one is below and two are below the downtube near the front tire).
The otherwise ugly square blocks are protected and beautified by the custom aluminum shields on either side of the frame. I like the faux carbon fiber vinyl sticker they chose to coat the aluminum and the circle-punched vent on top is sturdy but functional. The big downsides here (aside from weight) are that the batteries are more or less permanently bolted to the frame so you can’t take them off for easy charging or transport and they are somewhat exposed to water and mud. The top battery might also make the already high diamond frame more difficult to step over and could cause some interference if you came down hard on your crotch. Generally, bicycles keep this area of the frame clear for safety reasons while motorcycles and other vehicles fill it with a gas tank. Note that the final version will have a cover over the battery here just behind the vented bit above the controller.
Operating this electric bike is fairly typical, once the packs are all charged up you just press the middle “mode” button on the control pad which is mounted near the left grip. It’s easy to reach and use even while riding… there are just three buttons here and the top and bottom ones let you navigate up or down in assist through 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Unfortunately, you can’t operate the throttle in level zero but the good news is, you get 100% throttle power in all of the 1-5 assist settings. The display offers a wide range of readouts including the standard speed, range, battery level and assist level but I love the extras like regen, throttle output max speed and ambient temperature. In addition to the standard display which is mounted front and center (and not removable or easily swivelable) is a second LCD mounted just below the controller and this one shows your watt-amp meter and has a log function. Neat :)
Okay, so at the end of the day what you’re getting here is a $150 Mongoose Status 2.2 bicycle frame (with some fairly basic components), $160 in off-the-shelf AGM batteries and a generic gearless hub motor… along with a decent LCD, eight sensor pedelec system and motor cutoff brake levers. On their own, these pieces might seem ordinary but what Cutler Cycles has done here, in my opinion, is combine them in a way that truly is fun and impressive. The bike is fast, has good range, looks nice and is super cheap. You could probably build something that performs like this on your own but the metal shields look great, the battery brackets are strong and well placed and I’m not sure everyone out there has the tools to make that happen… or buying power and patience to order parts from China in bulk and then assemble ad hock. With this bike, for under a thousand dollars, you also get a warranty and support from an upstart team of guys who may posses perfect grammar skills (judging by some of the Kickstarter dialog… and who am I kidding, neither do I) but are honest and passionate about the space. This bike isn’t for everyone but I really enjoyed it and admire what they’re trying to do. This campaign isn’t about exaggerating specs, hyping performance or simply ordering a pre-built lot of Alibaba bikes. The Fusion Electric Bike is partially hand crafted and has a team of close friends supporting it (and already selling it) which obviously sparks my enthusiasm.
- Extremely affordable ~$800 with shipping if you buy on Kickstarter and ~$900 if you buy direct from Cutler Cycles
- Unique battery choice, they can be replaced at your local battery store, are highly recyclable and very affordable at $40 a piece (you’ll need four packs total)
- Excellent range at 30+ miles in throttle mode (more in pedal assist) and a higher top speed ~30 mph for off-road, private or licensed use
- Neat aesthetic with either slick or knobby tires, a custom aluminum shield housing and two LCD displays for more advanced drive feedback
- Very quiet operation, the gearless direct drive motor is smooth and the frame is tight so there isn’t a lot of jingling or shaking noises even at speed and off-road
- Solid warranty with 1 year on the batteries, two years on the electronics and motor and five years on the frame supported through Cutler Cycles
- Integrated motor inhibitors in the brake levers cut power in pedal assist mode and also activate regeneration for increased range and reduced wear on brake pads
- Cadence sensor is very responsive even though it only uses an eight magnet disc, you don’t have to push hard once the bike is going to keep assist active
- The suspension felt hard and didn’t offer much travel, it’s better than nothing but not the smoothest or most comfortable I’ve tried
- Lower-end Mongoose frame and Shimano Tourney drivetrain, they work well enough but might wear out quicker and require more tuneups
- Very heavy compared to most ebikes I’ve tested at ~95 lbs due to the Lead based Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) battery packs and custom built mounting brackets
- More limited charge cycles on the AGM batteries at ~600 cycles vs. a Lithium alternative which might get ~1,500 if cared for (avoid letting the battery drain completely)
- Small, relatively new company with limited funding, if they do change course most of the components are generic and can be fixed by the end user, no proprietary stuff here
- Battery packs are not easily removable, this makes charging the bike more difficult if you cannot bring it inside, charging takes a long time
- Only available in one frame size (medium) and one color scheme for now
- No bottle cage bosses available because the battery mounting points and shield obstruct them
- The controller, second LCD and battery packs aren’t very well protected from water so you may want to cover them when parked or avoid wet riding conditions
- Standard mechanical v-brakes offer decent stopping power but may wear faster with the heavier frame and definitely require more physical effort to engage than a hydraulic disc setup
- No “throttle only” mode, you have to be in one of the five levels of assist to activate with the twist throttle (the throttle does get 100% power in all assist levels however)