How Do You Best Use Electric Power?

George S.

Well-Known Member
I'm closing in on an ebike to buy, and it's been a very satisfying learning experience. At first I thought I would go for comfort. Now I think that is a little simplistic. I really want to ride the thing.

You don't see many super efficient road type bikes with electric power added. That makes sense, since most road riders are pretty intense, riding around on their carbon fiber frames. But who really wants those narrow tires and the scrunched position?

If you are going to add power to a bike, you might as well use it. In other words, I can have a fatter tire and more comfort features and then let the motor and battery do some of the work. Maybe even enough work to keep me even with a guy on a 15 pound race bike. I'd rather go 15mph on a bike with a lot of capability in terms of where it can go, than be efficient and go 20mph on roads, but only roads.

I used to go down really bad roads in my 4x4 Tacoma. Too often, you'd hit a severe washout after a mile or two. It would be more fun to do that on a bike, and a lot easier to turn around. So many people have ATV's, but they can do a lot of damage. I'm hoping an electric bike can do some of the same things. People buy SUV's for the capabilities, and some of that holds true with a bicycle.

I'm thinking something with a little bit of mountain bike capacity might be a lot of fun. With a motor, that is, to make the bike more capable. I live on a dirt road. There are bits of dirt that are rideable all around me, with the right tires. I've noticed on a lot of high speed roads you can get off the road, but it isn't very nice off the road. But it has to be good on the road.

We always found shortcuts when I was a kid, riding to school. All kinds of weird little places where you could get through. I recently rode down a new highway that is being rough graded. (Go on Sunday.) The dirt was very soft, so it was a lot of work. It would be more fun with pedal assist.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Hey George, I enjoyed your stream of consciousness post there. You're on to some interesting concepts, stuff that's been floating around the back of my mind and I'm sure many others' as well. I especially liked your line: "I'd rather go 15mph on a bike with a lot of capability in terms of where it can go, than be efficient and go 20mph on roads, but only roads."

When I was a kid, I used to have this single speed Huffy with coaster brakes (the kind where you push backwards on the pedals to activate the brake) and it took me everywhere... Actually, my legs took me everywhere and that might be part of why my knees hurt now. Anyway, that thing was indestructible and it became an extension of my body instead of some finely tuned instrument. To be fair, my body at that time was more rugged so I didn't mind the lower speeds and lack of fancy brakes or the drag experienced as a result of larger knobby tires. I loved the feeling of invincibility and even though the bike didn't have any shocks my body never ached after a long ride or a jump or some crazy grassy/rocky shortcut.

My body isn't the same as it used to be but I still remember those great feelings of speed, power and freedom. That's what I really enjoy about electric bikes (in addition to their efficiency, cost savings, environmental friendliness, community etc.) the "feeling" is that of going across those washed out roads or cutting through that field. This may not be the "best use" of electric power but it is the best use of my spirit and I don't feel bad romping around this way on an ebike because as you said, it isn't going to tear up the ground like an ATV or create the noises and pollution a dirt bike or car might. This is why I really like the full suspension electric bikes, in particular the Neo Jumper by Easy Motion. For me, the motor is more than powerful enough, the higher ~27mph top speed in pedal assist is pure speed! Those shocks just soak up anything you throw at them and it feels amazing. It's the closest I've come to that epiphany of what an ebike could be, that idea I'm sure we all have when we hear about ebikes and imagine the power and speed of a jet ski with the light agility and "go anywhere" nature of a bike. Of course, the Haibike XDURO AMT Pro also provides something like this experience... most of the really expensive bikes do, like the Turbo... but I love the suspension and knobby tires and the semi-affordable $4K price tag :)
 

FitzChivalry

Active Member
Speaking of saving money, I ran some numbers on what the bike I'm buying will save me. Total purchase price was $2,901. Battery replacement costs amortized over 1500 charges (750 trips to and from work) amounts to $1.06/day. I read somewhere (maybe this site) that "refilling the tank" runs about $0.10. So now we're up to a total of $1.26/day. I'm spending about $6/day to pay for gas to-and-from work. I calculated my auto repair and maintenance costs over the past three years, divided by three, and halved it (two cars) to come up with a very rough estimate of my annual maintenance costs for my car of $675.00. That comes out to $1.89/day. So now we're comparing $7.89 to $1.26. I can't apply auto insurance costs to the equation because I need to keep my car insured for days that I cannot cycle to work. Even still, assuming a conservative 3 days/week cycling in, I'll save $994.50 ((7.98 - 1.26) * 3 days * 50 weeks) per year. $2,901 / $994.50 = 2.91 years to save as much as I spent on the bike. If we up the numbers to 4 days/week, it goes down to 1.43 years.

There are incidental costs and benefits that are not calculated in, of course. Replacement tubes, occasional bike tune-ups, bicycle insurance if I decide to get it, cycling gear (clothing, accessories), time costs by spending 60-75 minutes each way to work instead of 35, increase enjoyment of the outdoors by being on a bicycle instead of in a car, increased cardiovascular exercise, and so on. Some of those are one-time expenses and some are hard to put a pricetag on. But a <3 year return on investment isn't too shabby!
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Awesome computations there Fitz, thanks for sharing! One other thing you could investigate to save some money is an "infrequent driver discount" which could reduce the cost of your auto insurance. I did this with State Farm before I ultimately sold my car (just rode with friends, used cabs and Car2Go in Austin, TX). After that, I was saving ~80 per month so the ebike got paid off real quick! Plus, bikes are free to park in big cities vs. parking garages where I was spending $15 per day! Can you believe that...

I agree with all of your qualitative anecdotes about riding as well of course. It's hard to put a price on good health, a bit of cardio vascular workout each day, the sun shine, the friends you make (for me the dates I went on with people I wouldn't have met on my way to and from work on my bike) the concerts, craft fairs, garage sales, farmers markets I would have skipped because parking was crazy or I just wouldn't have passed them. So, I'm obviously a fanboy here but I do think it's a great way to live and it's neat to see the financial pieces worked out. It is also possible to work out the environmental costs (gray costs) of driving and using gasoline, the impact that has on everyone's health and our future family members. I keep this in mind when I ride my own, on the one hand I could die prematurely or become injured riding a bike vs. an armored SUV but I will definitely be injuring others by driving and that includes those who fight to secure and protect energy resources. I think it improves your life in so many ways to be conscious of these things, the way we live and how that impacts the universe of things (us, friends, nature, future)
 

FitzChivalry

Active Member
I like your response for the naysayers who tell me how dangerous it is biking around here. (The Lowcountry isn't known for being bike-friendly... and, in fact, a local doctor was killed a few years ago by being knocked off of a bridge and into the pluff mud). I'll point out that I'm doing my part to live greener so that I'm not contributing to air pollution, and that I'm also reducing traffic congestion.

In a few years, once the Pedego City Commuter is amortized/paid off, I plan to look into the Elio Motors vehicle for replacing my four-seater Saturn. That way, when I DO need to drive, at least I'll be getting 85 MPG. :)
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Wow Fitz, I've never seen the Elio before. It's a neat concept! I did a quick search and found an article on Business Insider that says "The car, made by American auto-startup Elio Motors, gets 84 miles per gallon and costs only $6,800" Now that's awesome!

elio-motors-car.jpg
 

EddieJ

Well-Known Member
George, like yourself I used to have a 4x4 and dirt bikes, and even fancied a quad, but ended up buying my BH NEO Xtrem on impulse. I even had that horrid sick feeling for a couple of days thinking "what have I just done" then I started to ride the bike and that was pretty much when my life suddenly expanded into something good. It isn't just about using battery power to go fast, which was my first priority, that priority has now ended up pretty much my last.
Getting out on the e-bike has opened up a whole new world. My first proper ride one evening last July will always stay with me and pretty much sums up what ring the bike is all about for me.

The day had been beautiful clear and warm and this had continued into the evening. After a mile or so of riding I'm onto quieter roads out in the country side and gradually became aware of things that I'd never noticed when driving.
The smell of bracken growing to the sides of the roads through the forest, the smell of damp dust as the evening air changed, the amazing bird songs and the sight of animals that normally would never be seen. And because I'm on an e-bike the distance that I covered was so much further than I could then have done on a normal bike, and rather than concentrating on pedalling hard and breathing, I was able just to relax and effortlessly ride.

I guess that what I'm trying to say is that whilst speed may be high on your list of priorities, that may change when you buy the bike and in my case, the priority is measured in miles before charge. :)

I should also add that I've met some fantastic people whilst out on the bike, people that I would never have other wise engaged with. An E-bike always gets people talking.
 

James

Well-Known Member
So true EddieJ! That very similar thing happened to me last week on my very long (normally difficult/boring) commute. I started noticing the huge mountains ( I live in BC) and was even smiling to myself! I used to never do that. It was always go go go. Now, even though I am actually moving faster I'm enjoying the sights and smells so much more.

James