The price of oil and gasoline is always a problem. It rarely goes down and given its environmental bad-boy reputation many people are looking to shed the gas habit and go green. So what can you do to cut your fuel costs, improve the environment and maybe get some exercise to boot? Well, the old-fashioned bicycle is an option - but the newer models aren't exactly old-fashioned, especially when you consider some of the new electric models that promise longer range, shorter charge times and more fun.
Is An Eco-Friendly Electric Bike For You?
Electric bikes are growing in popularity. Is one right for you? If so, there are a number of choices.
Electric bikes have been around for a long time, but until now they've mostly been a curiosity. Their limited power and range, as well as the length of time it takes to charge a battery have kept them far from being serious alternative transportation options.
Today, however, not only has technology made them more user friendly and convenient, they are serious contenders for your consideration and cost a lot less than motor scooters or motorcycles, let alone a car. What’s more, in many cities you can even rent them and you don’t need a license to use one.
Here’s the rundown on some of the latest e-bikes.
While they are well known to bicycling aficionados, Stromer bikes are somewhat of an unknown to the general public. That may be because it is a Swiss company, founded recently (2009) and the bikes are built there. What’s more it’s not yet widely available in the U.S. but they can be found if you try hard enough, especially online.
There are two models, the ST1 and the ST2. What makes the bikes stand out is that they get up to 35 km/h – which is pretty zippy. The one downside is the battery. There’s not a lot of information on the Stromer website and there are what I consider too many cautions about charging the battery regularly and what happens if you don’t. There’s also no pricing information (that may be because of its limited availability in the U.S.). But there are online purchasing sites for the bike. Expect to find them from $2800 to $3500, which takes them well outside the range of the casual buyer. It’s also kind of hefty, weighing in the neighborhood of 60 pounds.
Pedego is another recent entry in the e-bike market. Unfortunately, its price range is only slightly lower than a Stromer. However, the bikes are readily available in the U.S.
The Pedego zero emissions bikes offer up to 30 miles per charge and there are models that sport a 48-volt battery and a proprietary 500-watt electromagnetic motor.
Pedego has 10 models to choose from, all of which look like a fairly typical bicycle. But, each model has several trim lines giving you plenty of choices.
A recent newcomer to the field, A2B is a Germany-based company. It gets a little confusing, because the company also boasts two other brands – HeroEco and F4W. Although it is available in the U.S., A2B has a limited dealer network.
There are 12 bike models to choose from with speeds topping out at about 20 mph and a range of about 40 miles per charge with its Lithium-Ion, 36v 12ah battery. The recharging time is three to four hours. Its weight is about 80+ pounds. Prices are in the $3,000 range although they do have a small folding bike model that comes in at about $1400.
Another electric bike that is widely available via bike shops nationwide or online is the Electra Bike brand. They have a wide range of bike models, but only one (the Townie Go!) that is “pedal assist” which means the motor kicks in after you start pedaling to give you a little boost. Widely available in the U.S., the Electra Bike looks very much like your normal, everyday bicycle and sells for about $2300.
The Townie Go sports a SRAM E-matic electric-assist system with 250W rear hub motor/Lithium-ion battery and boasts an average distance on full charge of 30 Miles. It takes about 3-4 hours to charge and its maximum assisted speed is about15 mph.
Many More Choices
There are many, many choices for e-bikes in this rapidly expanding field. For those that are looking for a lower priced option you might try Currie Tech’s Izip and Ezip brands. They have some models that start as low as $500 and are sold throughout the U.S. and online.
If the e-bike choices are a little overwhelming there’s a great website, electric-bikes.com, that can help you sort through all of the models with enough detail, but easy to read, to satisfy everyone.
There are also a number of dealers, as well as backyard enthusiasts, who can help you convert your existing bicycle into a battery or electric powered vehicle. Search locally for these options.
If the cost or availability of e-bikes is a concern, or if you don’t think one is quite right for you, there is still the plain old pedal-pushing variety. It’s great exercise and easy on the wallet as well.