Are Electric Bikes Really Transportation?

George S.

Well-Known Member
It was great to stumble on this site because it shows just about everything that is available. A few years ago, with lead acid batteries, electric bikes did not make sense. Now they seem completely workable and there are refined products.

For the most part, everything seems like a regular bike with a motor system. Some are higher powered, better balanced, neater, lighter, etc, but not many break the mold. That's fine. I like my regular bike a lot, riding for fitness and to explore. An electric bike might be more flexible, with more range. But I have a problem with the idea that it is transportation. Fun, but how practical?

I'm sure there are places where (any) bike would work, places where bikes are included in the road system. But a bike is a pretty fragile platform. Upright bikes are not built for speed, so you are an impediment to cars, even if they see you. Under the federal guidelines, a bike with a motor is regulated into being a bike with an assist that lets you move at a pedal pace without pedaling, but nothing more. And how much further could you take it, anyway?
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Hey George, welcome to the Community! It really is amazing how much progress has been made, even since 2000 when bikes like the IES Centaur and EV Global Motors eBike were the norm. Most of the models these days do follow a formula with the higher quality ones having integrated battery packs for lower center of gravity and better front to rear balance. There are a few out there that break the mold like tricycles, tandems, electric trailers, recumbents and the ... which is a tiny folding "last mile" sort of creation to help in cities and stuff.

Great points about fragility and aerodynamics. Upright bikes aren't perfect but there are a few velomobiles and body kits designed to address this and make them more like cars. I personally have more of an issue with my own fragility than the bikes themselves. My knees have some issues (from skiing and stuff as a kid) and my neck and back get sore riding over bumps at high speed. This is why I prefer full suspension ebikes, all cars have shocks and so do motorcycles so why not bikes that are designed for transport?

A couple of your points about aerodynamics, speed and dealing with cars makes me think of the Outrider recumbent bikes which are way more efficient and can get up to 45 miles per hour! They also have decent lights (including an LED flag) and can go 100 miles per charge and only take ~2 hours to charge with the fast system. There are still downsides like safety (being so low) and comfort (going so fast and not having shocks) and legality (the bike can hit 45 but the legal setting is at 20mph).

In the USA, the general laws states that ebikes do not require insurance or a license but must be limited to 750 watt motors with top speeds of 20 miles per hour. Recently (in 2013 I believe) there was some new legislation introduced that permits pedal-assisted bikes to hit 27 miles per hour but throttle mode is still limited to 20mph. This was based on the idea that most cyclists can hit 27mph under their own power, so complimenting that power is okay. I believe Specialized worked to get this enacted for their Turbo ebike but now Easy Motion Neo ebikes also use it and some of the new speed pedelecs from IZIP like the Dash.

It really does depend on how you plan to use an electric bike and where you live... When I was commuting to work each day in Austin, TX I didn't have to worry too much about weather. I lived in a place with good bike paths for safety and I worked downtown where traffic and parking were pretty bad for cars. So with an ebike I could actually get to work faster than driving, pay less in terms of gas (electricity only costs < $0.10 to charge my bike from empty) and parking (free bike racks) and I got exercise along the way. Even though 20mph doesn't sound like a lot, according to a census from 2005 (most recent they have) by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (part of the U.S. Department of Transportation), the average distance for people to get to work is 6.2 miles one way. So, given a willingness to deal with some weather, maybe carpool on bad days, and take a bit more of a safety risk (all while reducing health risks from diabetes etc.) biking to work and using ebikes as transportation could really make sense. I decided to sell my car for this reason figuring I could just rent one anytime I need to make a longer trip or haul stuff.

Here's a video I shot of me riding my ebike to work one day in Austin so you can see what it's like ;)
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Hi Court,

I bought a regular bike a few months ago and all I heard about was fit. I ended up buying a larger frame bike online. But there are people who run a lot of tests to really tune a street bike to the needs of the rider. Stress on knees is a huge issue. I noticed a couple of bikes that have frame sizes, ebikes. Many ebikes are stressing comfort but not really pedaling issues. I don't see much about fit. The Easy Motion Neo Cross site gives some geometry. The bike reminds me of the bike I ride.

I looked the recent review of the "wheel" and now I'm starting to wonder if starting with a good bike to ride and then electrifying it might make sense. I actually think a 250-350 watt assist would be reasonable on a bike you wanted to pedal most of the time.

Really appreciate the amount of information you have compiled.

Best,

George
 
Hey guys,

Court, this forum rocks. Thanks for all your hard work.

George, that NEO Cross is a great bike. All of the NEO series are awesome. Geometry/style-wise, you're going find something that's perfect for you in that line. Keep in mind that those "geared" 350 watt motors are still pretty peppy and very torquey. You'll be getting your workout in the 16 - 24 mph range (or just turn the power off completely and then you've got a great exercise bike.)

If you're looking for something that really balances pedal power well at low speeds, check out Bionx kits and tmm4 torque sensor bikes.

I cycled 6 miles to and from work everyday for 6 years before getting my ebike. Now, with an ebike, I'll toss on an extra 10 miles here and there as I feel like it. It's just really liberating and a lot of fun. I definitely think it's worth noting that, half the time, I'm actually faster than traffic because I'm near a city center. Because ebikes give you such a boost off the line, I feel more comfortable in traffic as well.

Assuming your route is safe for a bicycle, I'd say it's one of the absolute best means of transportation.

-Chandlee
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Chandlee,

Thanks for the info. My route into town is part dirt, part highway or I15 frontage road. The upright bike I have with 40mm Kenda tires works OK. Not fast. The traffic patterns are not bike or pedestrian friendly, in spots.

I want to maintain the fitness element to the rides, but extend the range that is workable for me. I think a good bike designed to be ridden and pedaled will work. I think the European power levels are Ok. A British Neo dealer said they were upgrading the battery on that model for 2014. Wanted to look into that.

There is supposed to be a Neo dealer down the road. This is not the season for cycling where I live. Happen to be in Arizona riding my primitive folder, at the moment. Couldn't be nicer.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

George
 

Nebula722

Member
Chandlee,

Thanks for the info. My route into town is part dirt, part highway or I15 frontage road. The upright bike I have with 40mm Kenda tires works OK. Not fast. The traffic patterns are not bike or pedestrian friendly, in spots.

I want to maintain the fitness element to the rides, but extend the range that is workable for me. I think a good bike designed to be ridden and pedaled will work. I think the European power levels are Ok. A British Neo dealer said they were upgrading the battery on that model for 2014. Wanted to look into that.

There is supposed to be a Neo dealer down the road. This is not the season for cycling where I live. Happen to be in Arizona riding my primitive folder, at the moment. Couldn't be nicer.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

George



Did you get a ebike or a kit for your bike. Personally I like kits better than factory ebikes. I have had two factory ebikes and I like my kits better. The kits are less expensive and have more power than a lot of factory ebike like Pedego and others.

I have learned a lot from Court at EBR. I have also learned from Court, a member of this forum.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
I ended up buying a Prodeco Tech X3 early this year. I looked at kits but didn't feel comfortable with the battery packs and some parts of the installation. The X3 was at a dealer, and the dealer wanted to sell it, so it was marked down a little.

For anyone with a low budget, the kit is the best choice. The parts are not that expensive but somehow the ebikes you buy from a factory end up at very high prices. I'm happy with the X3 and the components, but it is a low cost bike. I can see where it might be a mistake to get a cheap bike with bad brakes and put a 500w motor on it.

I like simple ebikes. The new models are getting way too fancy for me, and it isn't like ebikes have really caught on that much. I finally saw someone riding one on a nearby bike path I ride maybe once a week. I was riding my hybrid, and he was gone in a flash.

Court knows the field as well as anyone.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
Hello George.
"Are Electric Bikes Really Transportation?"
I have little experience with e-bikes. That said, I have a lot of experience bike commuting, daily 34 mi. round trip ending with a 700 ft. climb over 2.2 miles. I will be using my (X3) e-bike for the first time this winter in the northeast. I also have a lot of experience touring and riding my Harley, this all for 30+ years.
In my experience nothing is vehicle friendly all the time. Not car/truck or anything on two wheels! In a few hundred thousand miles (bikes & MC) I've gone down once hard. I was rear ended by a police car while I was waiting for the light to turn green. I guess the lesson is to limit your liabilities, live and enjoy life! Anything can happen, anywhere!
I do not want to see speeds increased for e-bikes. I spend a fair amount of time on rail-trails and other people are very unpredictable. I have had children and adults make silly and sometimes very dangerous moves within yards directly in my path and I am responsible to protect the fool-hardy in my path. People will not self regulate, I've seen gas powered bikes and 28 mph+ e-bikes on bike paths. I do not want to loose access to bike paths and trails.
Are e-bikes really transportation? The question should be: are bi-cycles powered by any means transportation? And of course that has been answered in the affirmative many times. So answering your question, YES! Having read your other posts, I believe you have answered this for yourself in the past 10 months.
George, I enjoy your thought filled posts and your review of the X3 very much, it helped me in making my purchase of the X3. Court, I enjoy your videos and this site as well. Thank you both.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Hi,

My brother commutes ten miles a day on a bike. He was in a couple of accidents with broken bones. It can be tough to get back on the bike, but what's the alternative? I agree about being careful for the 'other guy' just to protect yourself. Even the road bikes on the narrow bike paths here tend to go too fast for conditions. On weekends, the paths are kind of a zoo with little kids and walkers and joggers, no one paying much attention to anything.

Here's to many more years of two wheeled transport. I hope people love it for more than the speed.
 

biknut

Active Member
Hi George, your question is a good one. Are electric bikes really transportation, sure they are. I ride my electric bicycle 26 miles round trip 3 days a week to school, and out of all the bikes, and motorcycles I've ever ridden, it's by far the most fun, and most satisfying to ride. It's truly an electro magnetic marvel.

I'd like to also comment about riding the bike trails.

When I say this I don't mean you, I mean anyone. I ride them fairly often, and even though my bike is probably faster than 99% of all the electric bicycles on this forum, I've never had the slightest problem. Even when riding very crowded trails on weekends, because I know how to ride safely. If you run over anyone on a bike path it's not because your eBike is overpowered, it's because YOU were going to fast to control your own bike for the existing conditions. I've also noticed ordinary bicycles on a regular basis, racing down crowded trails like they own them, going way to fast for the conditions. It's very short sighted of anyone to single out eBikes. It's not the bike, it's the rider. The only fatality on a bike trail in Dallas history was caused by a regular bicycle running down an oblivious jogger wearing ear buds, and not paying attention. Even though the jogger made a stupid move, I totally blame the bicycler for going to fast to control his bike for the conditions at hand. Every eBike has the ability to ride slow.
 

Bike_On

Well-Known Member
Are electric bikes really transportation?

Well, 2000-4500 miles a year of ebike commuting...letting the car sit. Does that qualify?

Based upon a glance at this thread, it seems like your question is meant to ask, "Is ANY bike worthy to be used for transportation?" Because... of the road hazards, difficulty, etc.

Yes, a conventional bike can go anywhere an ebike can, and it can be strenuous and difficult due to time, weather, hills, etc. The ebike reduces time, levels hills, easier on the knees, etc...can't change the weather or road conditions.

It's a mindset to bike/ebike commute. The benefits are marginalized against the risks and costs. Even a perfectly SAFE route, with a high power ebike (750W+) and no restrictions, will still cost the rider time, energy, sweat, etc vs driving a car. Geesh, it will never be a car. If it is a bike first, then we have to accept it IS expected to be exercise and effort in some degree. So if transportation is a fast, dry, no effort, safe movement of the body, then NO, no bike is transportation.

George, what have you concluded?
 

ChloeSnow

Member
George S.: to address your issue with fitness, I don't know if you've heard of Optibike or not, but they actually include an option for a fitness trainer with your e-bike now, and offer competitions to lose weight with cash prizes and the possibility of winning a bike. I agree with the previous post that putting forth "time, energy, sweat, etc" is something that is integral to this experience. It's a big part of why I'm buying a new e-bike. I want something that will motivate me to do those thing and I think this is it. It's a hell of a lot more fun to hop on a nifty electric bike than walk to a bus stop, wait, ride a smelly bus, walk to another stop, wait, ride a smelly bus. Ebikes are also a great transportation option for people in a city, if you're not in a city, then no, it's not a good idea. Most places I go I can go on a bike. Another thing about a bike is that you don't have to wait in traffic. So I guess if you're cool with riding a bike, the questions to ask are "how far will I be going" and "how long would I be waiting in traffic" and "is it worth it". For me all of those answers equal a resounding yes to this.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Are electric bikes really transportation?

Well, 2000-4500 miles a year of ebike commuting...letting the car sit. Does that qualify?

Based upon a glance at this thread, it seems like your question is meant to ask, "Is ANY bike worthy to be used for transportation?" Because... of the road hazards, difficulty, etc.

Yes, a conventional bike can go anywhere an ebike can, and it can be strenuous and difficult due to time, weather, hills, etc. The ebike reduces time, levels hills, easier on the knees, etc...can't change the weather or road conditions.

It's a mindset to bike/ebike commute. The benefits are marginalized against the risks and costs. Even a perfectly SAFE route, with a high power ebike (750W+) and no restrictions, will still cost the rider time, energy, sweat, etc vs driving a car. Geesh, it will never be a car. If it is a bike first, then we have to accept it IS expected to be exercise and effort in some degree. So if transportation is a fast, dry, no effort, safe movement of the body, then NO, no bike is transportation.

George, what have you concluded?

All I can give you is the long answer, and it is "Maybe". The thing is, most of the ebikes around here are being sold to people over, say, 60, and it is recreational. That's me, basically. I don't see people commuting, except around the campus. You can't say recreational uses are transportation. So, there are people who are commuting or shopping, etc, but it's not the main purpose.

You end up with a lot of problems when you try to create a transportation system built around bikes. The city of Copenhagen may be the place where they try the hardest, and they have learned a tremendous amount:

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2...nnovation-lycra-louts-green-wave-bike-bridges

You can't dismiss the dangers of cycling. You have to build a system that is designed for cycles. And then there is the problem that we are defining ebikes as bikes, and leaving all these questions about access for ebikes with no answers. You can't push ebikes too far. At some point they become motorcycles. But if you want to build bike infrastructure, bike lanes and things like that, how much motorized stuff can you reasonably allow?

The 'Lycras' distort everything. They are the elite, so if you want to build a system for 80% of the people, they distort the picture. You want people on bikes, and you probably want to allow some help from a motor. But you have to be really careful, if you are building a transportation system, to keep it accessible to large numbers of people. Ebike manufacturers are pushing capabilities that have little to do with building a transportation system around bikes. So the Lycras are just not the normal rider, and the ebike is not being sold as a moderate assist bike that will work well in a dedicated bike transport system.

Battery tech is making electric motorcycles a lot more interesting. Yamaha has some cycles in the manufacturing process. Genze has a clever scooter that will be out in the Spring. I think most of this stuff should be in the motorcycle group, and I wish some of the ebikers who want a very high level of performance would work on better motorcycle regulations. Bikes are limited by aerodynamic drag above 20 mph, especially ebikes where riders sit upright.

But I actually think that electric motorcycles would be a very complete transportation solution, and probably at reasonable costs as battery tech lowers the prices. Thank Tesla. It may simply make a lot more sense, right now, to get on an electric MC and keep up with traffic, on the streets. Bikes need to work out the bike infrastructure. Electric MC's can work better on the streets, as they exist in most cities.

So, that's my answer. There's a long way to go to make bikes and bike-like ebikes a real transportation system.
 

Nebula722

Member
It was great to stumble on this site because it shows just about everything that is available. A few years ago, with lead acid batteries, electric bikes did not make sense. Now they seem completely workable and there are refined products.

For the most part, everything seems like a regular bike with a motor system. Some are higher powered, better balanced, neater, lighter, etc, but not many break the mold. That's fine. I like my regular bike a lot, riding for fitness and to explore. An electric bike might be more flexible, with more range. But I have a problem with the idea that it is transportation. Fun, but how practical?

I'm sure there are places where (any) bike would work, places where bikes are included in the road system. But a bike is a pretty fragile platform. Upright bikes are not built for speed, so you are an impediment to cars, even if they see you. Under the federal guidelines, a bike with a motor is regulated into being a bike with an assist that lets you move at a pedal pace without pedaling, but nothing more. And how much further could you take it, anyway?


My ebike and etrike are my only transportation. I started using them for transportation when my neurological problems suggested driving a car is too dangerous. I have saddle bags I use to go to the grocery store. I have a Schwinn trailer I take to the grocery store when I buy bulky items like paper towels. I have a separate cargo trailer that I take to the lumber yard when I need a few 2X4's or concrete.

Are ebikes transportation? Yes, without a doubt.
 

biknut

Active Member
Most peoples problem with commuting on their eBike is range. I think we're about 1 battery breakthrough away from electric bicycles being able to have all the range anyone would want. My butt can only handle a little over 40 miles, and I can already do more than that, but not without limiting my speed to less than I like. With roughly twice my current battery capacity of 18ah I'd have no complaints about either range, or speed.

Actually we're already there. I could build a 40 ah battery out of 18650 cells right now, that would be the same physical size as my 18 ah LiFePo4.

What I'm hoping for from the next generation, is a battery will be both power denser, and lighter, with the same ah, and drastically shorter charge time..
 

Bike_On

Well-Known Member
All I can give you is the long answer, and it is "Maybe". The thing is, most of the ebikes around here are being sold to people over, say, 60, and it is recreational. That's me, basically. I don't see people commuting, except around the campus. You can't say recreational uses are transportation. So, there are people who are commuting or shopping, etc, but it's not the main purpose.

You end up with a lot of problems when you try to create a transportation system built around bikes. The city of Copenhagen may be the place where they try the hardest, and they have learned a tremendous amount:

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2...nnovation-lycra-louts-green-wave-bike-bridges

You can't dismiss the dangers of cycling. You have to build a system that is designed for cycles. And then there is the problem that we are defining ebikes as bikes, and leaving all these questions about access for ebikes with no answers. You can't push ebikes too far. At some point they become motorcycles. But if you want to build bike infrastructure, bike lanes and things like that, how much motorized stuff can you reasonably allow?

The 'Lycras' distort everything. They are the elite, so if you want to build a system for 80% of the people, they distort the picture. You want people on bikes, and you probably want to allow some help from a motor. But you have to be really careful, if you are building a transportation system, to keep it accessible to large numbers of people. Ebike manufacturers are pushing capabilities that have little to do with building a transportation system around bikes. So the Lycras are just not the normal rider, and the ebike is not being sold as a moderate assist bike that will work well in a dedicated bike transport system.

Battery tech is making electric motorcycles a lot more interesting. Yamaha has some cycles in the manufacturing process. Genze has a clever scooter that will be out in the Spring. I think most of this stuff should be in the motorcycle group, and I wish some of the ebikers who want a very high level of performance would work on better motorcycle regulations. Bikes are limited by aerodynamic drag above 20 mph, especially ebikes where riders sit upright.

But I actually think that electric motorcycles would be a very complete transportation solution, and probably at reasonable costs as battery tech lowers the prices. Thank Tesla. It may simply make a lot more sense, right now, to get on an electric MC and keep up with traffic, on the streets. Bikes need to work out the bike infrastructure. Electric MC's can work better on the streets, as they exist in most cities.

So, that's my answer. There's a long way to go to make bikes and bike-like ebikes a real transportation system.
George,
Good reply. Technically, transportation is simply moving the body from one location t another. Thus, the regular bicycle is the most efficient machine on the planet, I would suggest a light weight ebike to qualify as well and just do it faster, on average.

Lycras- Do most people drive Porsches and Coravettes going 100+mph? Of course not. Most people can't propel themselves 25mph either. The beauty of the electric assist is to teach the lycra snobs a lesson, when needed, by cruising past them in an upright position, sipping a latte. You have to smile, yes??

Court has posted about some serious movement (not a bowel) in the mtn bike national level committes to classify ebikes for trail purposes. Unfortunately, they try to speak for all ebike applications, like road commuting, racing, leisure, while their classifications tend to pacify the regular bikers in order to get trail access. This is unfortunate. I would like to separate the road from the off road and have two classification systems. This will help solidify ebikes as legit transportation , IMO.
 

Nebula722

Member
Most peoples problem with commuting on their eBike is range. I think we're about 1 battery breakthrough away from electric bicycles being able to have all the range anyone would want. My butt can only handle a little over 40 miles, and I can already do more than that, but not without limiting my speed to less than I like. With roughly twice my current battery capacity of 18ah I'd have no complaints about either range, or speed.

Actually we're already there. I could build a 40 ah battery out of 18650 cells right now, that would be the same physical size as my 18 ah LiFePo4.

What I'm hoping for from the next generation, is a battery will be both power denser, and lighter, with the same ah, and drastically shorter charge time..

I am hoping the same thing! We could be asking too much. I live by "You don't get what you don't ask for".

Bye,

Tommy
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Most peoples problem with commuting on their eBike is range. I think we're about 1 battery breakthrough away from electric bicycles being able to have all the range anyone would want. My butt can only handle a little over 40 miles, and I can already do more than that, but not without limiting my speed to less than I like. With roughly twice my current battery capacity of 18ah I'd have no complaints about either range, or speed.

Actually we're already there. I could build a 40 ah battery out of 18650 cells right now, that would be the same physical size as my 18 ah LiFePo4.

What I'm hoping for from the next generation, is a battery will be both power denser, and lighter, with the same ah, and drastically shorter charge time..

The scooter that GenZe is planning for Spring has a 1.5 Kwh battery (25 lbs), and weighs 200 pounds (all in). That's triple the capacity of most ebikes, and triple the weight, give or take. I don't know what the cost of the GenZe battery will be, wholesale or retail, but the scooter is offered for $3000 now. Everything is being driven by battery technology, it seems. Ebikes seem heavy, but in the real world, they are incredibly light and efficient. Battery tech can make more weight work. Somewhere between a Tesla and a 70 pound ebike, there may be something really great.

If you make a $5,000 ebike, there may be 200# electric motorcycles on offer with a city commuter range (30 miles?) soon enough, at a similar price.

The other way to look at it is that the basic ebike with a 250 watt motor and a 300 watt hour battery could get a lot cheaper, just by maintaining the basic spec, using a cheaper battery. So the ebikes you see today for $1500 could be $1200.
 

JoePah

Well-Known Member
Well Chinese buy around 20 million Ebikes a year specifically for transportation.. They are those pretty fugly scooter types with lead acid batteries. Europe has a very serious bicycle culture, esp Northern Countries.

The United States is Unique... We love our cars and trucks and high speed....Most places it isn't safe to ride an Ebike during rush hour... So it's about how safe you feel riding every day to determien whether ebikes are transportation or not.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Genze is interesting, because it is backed by Mahindra. Mahindra is an Indian company that makes small tractors. Curiously, by sales volume, they are comparable to Deere, basically huge. They sell two low cost ebikes, $1500, which Court rather liked. This is a company that could be around a while.