Electric powered bikes, bicycles with motors Stories about electric bikes, powered bicycles

15Mar/122

E-Brompton Banter-Part 1- Great E-xpectations

By Turbo Bob

Bob riding his non eBrompton in anticipation of the big day.

Bob riding his non eBrompton in anticipation of the big day.

What a great time it is for electric bikes. The quality and ride keep getting better, as the weight and inefficiency gets trimmed. I just got the thumbs-up to be involved in an extended test on one of NYCeWheels’ E-Bromptons and I couldn’t be more excited. As Izzy builds this great converted Brompton for me, I will spend some time to think and dream about the pleasures to come.
You may have read my ’Boy Gets Brompton’ series of articles on one of the NYCeWheels’ sites. I got to spend three months with a Raw Lacquer M3L and came to understand it very well. Some of the stories were a little whimsical, but overall, I really got to dive deep into all the plusses and the few minuses of this great folding bike. Bottom line is, I love Bromptons.
As too, I love E-bikes. The electric-assist bike has been carving out its place in this world, and the word keeps getting spread. Great for so many people and reasons, adding a electric motor assist to a bike can make all the difference for utility and recreation riding. So what better combination then the ultimate folding bike, paired with an electric-assist system? It would seem to be a match made in heaven.
So let’s talk about the bike headed my way. First off, the base bike will be the new H3L. This brand-new version has a longer stem that allows the handlebars to sit two inches higher than the original layout. This will not only lend to my comfort (my 6’ 2” frame), but to the comfort of all riders who desire a more up-right seating position. This up-dated model still has the same super small folded size, and every great feature the L model offers. That includes fenders too.

An e-Brompton near NYCeWheels in NYC

An e-Brompton near NYCeWheels in NYC

You must know by now that you can get your Brompton bike in the most cool selections of colors. You can mix and match, or have yours in all one color. NYCeWheels offers their basic E-Brompton in black or white, but for a little extra, the color palette is wide open. They can also convert your existing Brompton to an E-bike so your color style doesn’t have to change. My new H3L E-Brompton is going to be the ‘in-your-face’ white. Talk about standing out in a crowd. It should be awesome.
The E-bike conversion is one that they have perfected to a ‘T’. With quality pieces from twenty different sources, Bert and Peter (Izzy too) have gone far out of their way to make sure this bike is right on the money. I’ve seen the videos and poured over the specs, and I am sure this E-bike won’t disappoint. My desire for the increased capacity 10 Ah battery was oked by the shop, so my fun rides will be extra long.
The battery will fit into the included ’C’ bag that impressed me so much on my last Brompton bicycle test. It has many pockets, is water-resistant, and comes with a water-proof cover bag just in case you want to ride in wet and wild conditions. There will be plenty of room to keep the battery charger in the bag so it will be handy when I am out-of-town. And believe me when I say, I plan on taking this bike to some far-away places. That is just one draw of a folding bike like this.
With a strong 250 watt front hub motor, I expect to have all the power I need. It will be a brushless and gearless motor. That means it will be quiet and efficient. With virtually no moving parts, it should last longer than who knows what. A thumb throttle will allow me to use the power when I like, with none wasted. That should net me some long rides with an easy way to the top of any hill or grade I encounter.
The whole conversion will add about 18 to 20 Lbs to the overall weight. It might make carrying the bike a little tougher, but almost half of that will be in the detachable carry bag, so I don’t expect it to bother me too much. And any weight penalty will be more than overcome by the power which the motor will add to my legs. If you have ridden E-bikes, you fully know what I’m talking about.
So, as I wait for the delivery driver to make his way to my house, I know that this E-Brompton will make it all worthwhile. Expect to see a flurry of articles about my new folding bike hit these pages. Take this time if you will, to read the ’Boy Gets Brompton’ stories to find out more about my take on Bromptons. Also, I hope you get a kick out of my E-titles for each post.
Thanks for reading, Turbo Bob.

Of course, you could always just order your own E-Brompton and find out for yourself... ;) or an convert your current Brompton to an eBrompton.
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”---Ernest Hemingway, By-Line.

6May/107

buying an eBike – doing the research first

I (Joe) recently became interested in ebikes, have done some extensive research, and finally bought a commercial model on which I’ve put a few hundred miles in the last two weeks. I’ll provide a review of that bike shortly, but first wanted to collect some more general thoughts on ebikes which I’ve consolidated from my research, personal experience, and a good dose of engineering basics. I’m certain almost everything I discuss here has been stated better and more thoughtfully elsewhere, so please forgive my repetition and perhaps naive thoughts. I will say, I think I would have found this type of write-up helpful to me early-on, and hope this discussion may help other potential new ebike riders as well.

So, if you’re like me, the idea of an ebike is appealing. Gas prices are up, “green” transportation is in, and bike commuting has a number of distinct advantages over other forms. Personally, I’ve been a bike commuter for about 3 years now. My regular job is outside Santa Fe, NM, and I have a decent enough means to bike commute about 10 months out of the year, with snow and weather leaving a few weeks for the car. Of course, bike commuting entails other compromises, such as the difficulty in accommodating “business” clothes, “helmet” hair, inclement weather, and of course, safety. As experienced bike commuters known, there’s pretty good solutions to most of these issues, with equipment, planning, and setting realistic expectations all playing a role.

eZee Cadence

eBike, bicycle with electric assist motor

The appeal of an ebike to me is the ability to commute a bit farther, to eliminate the more difficult portions of my commute and arrive “sweat free”, to perhaps save a bit of time, and to allow farther in-day trips from my main work site to various other locales at my employer (which is spread over 43 square miles, I often need to travel to more remote sites where I work). As important, is what an ebike for me wasn’t. It’s not a replacement for a motorcycle. I didn’t want to travel long distances just punching a throttle. I wanted this to be mostly bike with the added benefit of power assist. Taking my bike on public transport, into my office via an elevator, parking with other bikes, etc. are all important.

So, how does this lengthy preamble relate to choosing an ebike? If you read the ebike forums, there’s a near-obsession with specific characteristics of these bikes such as top speed, weight, and perhaps most prominent, range and battery capacity. Naturally, everyone has a list of requirements and desires that they want their bike to meet. At the top of many lists are reliability, range, light weight, top speed, and of course, low cost and maintenance. This wish list quickly runs head-on into the reality of engineering and design. You quickly discover there’s no one perfect bike that does it all. Some of the better ebike retailers start with a very good list of questions to help determine a customers desires. Given this, they can direct you toward a particular system, design, or model.

I stated many of my desires above. Considering my criteria, it was clear that a pedal-assist application is the way to go. The engineering analysis of pedal assist is itself a fascinating topic. In order to appreciate the benefits of pedal-assist, and of ebikes more generally, I found it enormously helpful to discuss and understand some specific characteristics of the most important motor on the ebike. No, not the electric hub, but YOU. Your power output and contribution to propulsion, and understanding the highly non-linear nature of that power output, is actually the key to understanding why pedal-assist is such an attractive option. So, if you’ll forgive my diversion here, I’d like to discuss a few elements of human power output.

You and I consume energy just by living. A resting person weighing 150 pounds has a metabolic rate of about 70 Watts (W). Light activity such as walking and just doing your day to day thing without exertion bumps this up to about 100-125 W. That’s just how our bodies have evolved in our environment. As you start to exert yourself, you spend more energy. This relationship is highly nonlinear. A moderate workout, in which you get your heart rate up and sweat quite a bit, has a total power output of about 200 to 250 W. Tour de France riders with years of special training, nutrition, and conditioning can sustain power outputs of 400 to 500 W for hours on end. You and I, not so much. Over about 300 W, and we’ll tire pretty quickly. So, 100 W is literally “no sweat”, while that next 100 W isn’t nearly as easy. It’s this nonlinear relation between exertion and power output that makes a pedal-assist ebike so attractive.

The goal is to transmit efficient power into the bike. As a rider, you can contribute a nice, healthy 50-100 W (on top of your metabolic 70-90 W) for a very long time, and you won’t notice this as much exertion. These should be the “first Watts” that the bike sees. It just so happens, that pedaling a bike on level ground in no wind requires roughly 100 W to sustain a speed of roughly 25 km/hr. This is the level that most folks would see as “easy” without much exertion. Of course, add a headwind, or hills, or a higher speed, and things quickly turn against you. Further, starts and stops require quite a bit of extra energy, too. Nearly every rider knows this intuitively without the engineering degree, and this helps to explain why bikers don’t particularly like to stop if they can help it, safety be damned.

Now, let’s consider a throttle-only, no pedal ebike versus a pedal assist. If your goal is to get long range with much less exertion on your part, the numbers quickly tell the story of why pedal-assist is so attractive. Remember that 100W figure for sustained 25 km/hr on level ground? At the theoretical limit, a throttle-only vehicle would last about 3 hours with a typical 36V, 10 Amp-hr battery pack (360 W-Hr), whereas a pedal-assist wouldn’t be contributing at all, and would have infinite range, since the rider is providing that first 100 W. Now, this is all theoretical. In practice, hills, starts/stops, the efficiency of your bike and motor, etc. quickly degrade these numbers. More typically, that throttle-only bike with a 360 W-hr battery may have a range of 30-40 km in total. Conversely, a good pedal-assist system in practical use on level ground driven in a way so that you don’t exert can have a range on order 80-90 km or even more.

And it’s the deviations from this ideal ride where pedal assist becomes so appealing. Take hills, for example. The added power to crest that hill can be contributed by the battery, so you don’t have to exert. You’re not constantly climbing during your ride (well, for most rides that is), and the addition of power assist as the last Watts added is what provides that marvelous ability to extend range, open up a whole-new way of biking, and achieve the near-nirvana of long-range, reliability, ease, and (relatively) low cost for an ebike. (And BTW, some studies have shown that the more constant exertion of steady, light exercise may be as beneficial as other forms. Pedal assist hybrid on ebike indeed may be a have-your-cake and eat-it-too proposition when it comes to fitness.)
Ok, so the previous is basically an engineering discussion of ebike propulsion. How does it work in practice and how can you use this understanding to maximize your ebike experience? A couple of things are important right up front, namely, speed and acceleration. Most folks want more speed, its only natural. Unfortunately, things quickly turn against you as you go faster from an energy management standpoint. Top of the list is drag. Drag increases as the square of your speed. Given that most of your energy (on flat ground) goes to moving the air out of the way, this gets ugly quick. If you’re willing to go a little slower, you have the enormous payoff of greatly extending your range. From a practical standpoint, 30 km/hr or so (19 mph) feels about right to me as a nice compromise between speed and efficiency. Others will balance this differently. It just so happens that 32 km/hr is codified in US law as well. At first, I wanted that super-fast ebike that did it all. After spending some time on my current bike, I’ve come to the conclusion that a moderate speed really is best, not only for efficiency, but for safety as well.

Ditto acceleration. My ebike (Trek Valencia+ with the Bionx system) has a 27-speed drive-train which I thought was ridiculous at first, since I could easily keep this in the lowest gear, and just let the motor pull me away from stops. It turns out, this is really bad energy management practice. Hard acceleration is inefficient and sucks tons of precious amps from your battery (just look at the meter on a Bionx system). I’ve come to realize that those extra low gears on the Valencia are actually very useful. Now, I down-shift at stops most of the time, and take just a bit longer to get up to speed, with the Bionx system providing more of a gentle nudge than full-on zippiness. Of course, that zippiness is there is you want it, or when time or safety require. The payoff in backing away from jack-rabbit starts is greatly extended range.

I rode the Critical Mass ride this Friday in San Francisco on the ebike, including some substantial distance to/from the event (yes, I mentioned my job was in New Mexico; I’m spending the year in the Bay Area on another assignment). I got about 50 miles out of the Trek/Bionx system, and had a grand time. Trek worked with Bionx and changed a number of factors in the Bionx system, some of which I think are not well-understood by the ebike crowd, including a change in battery voltage and capacity.

So, I’ve written a tome as a first post. Please forgive this. My goal was to pass along some of the things I learned in my research leading up to my first ebike kit purchase. More experienced folks here will no-doubt correct errors or offer additional points, which I look forward to.

Joe M.

21Apr/072

eBike

The ebike is a specific electric bike manufactured by EV Global motors. The ebike is a name brand for an electric bike that is very popular. Though the ebike is a 5 year old design, it still is one of the best performing ebikes.

Since there is some confusion about the ebike, or e-bike, or electric bike, etc., it is important to clarify some of that.
An e-bike is a short term used for an electric bike. There are a number of different manufacturers and many different models of e-bikes or electric bikes. If you are specifically looking for an ebike or eBike from EV Global Motors give the folks at NYCeWheels a ring. They stock the eBike SX and the new Enviro - both using the Heinzmann motors.

If you are looking for ebike reviews, or ebike parts than you can look through our resources page to find appropriate links for these.
In terms of the eBike (the company that makes electric bikes), these German made electric bicycles are well designed and well made. The powerful ebike electric bikes are popular because they offer powerful, reliable and efficient transportation.

There is a 36 volt eBike SX which is a high performance machine that many electric bike fans consider one of the finest electric bicycles made.

Today, the term "ebike"; or "e-bike" is more commonly used as a short-hand for an electric bike. It is a good idea to make sure you understand this so you are not confused.

If you are specifically looking for an eBike model, rather than a different make or model of electric bike than you will want to clarify that with the retailer.

The better retailers will obviously know the difference between an "eBike" (manufacturer) and an "e-bike" or "ebike" a generic term used to define electric bikes, so finding a reputable and knowledgeable retailer is always your best bet to ensure you are getting the right ebike.

25Jan/073

Electric bike, throttle activated or pedal activated?

Electric bikes come fit into two main categories.  Though different manufacturers and retailers may refer to electric bikes in different ways it seems almost universally accepted in the motorized bikes industry that the difference in the two types of electric bicycles is based on how the power of the electric bicycle is initiated.

Electric bikes fall into two categories and most retailers and manufacturers label these as power-on-demand motorized bikes and power-assist motorized bikes.  Knowing the difference between these two types of electric bikes is important.

Power-on-demand electric bikes are throttle activated or gear activated, it is not uncommon to see manufacturers use one or both of these terms when they are referring to power-on-demand electric bikes.

These types of motorized bikes can and will do 100% of the work for you when they are activated.  The most powerful types of power-on-demand electric bikes can easily propel you up even a steep hill when activated – much to the delight of men and women in San Francisco no doubt!

The power-on-demand electric bike is great for someone who needs to travel a longer distance than they are comfortable doing on their own.  Whenever they get tired they can click on the power of their motorized bike and let the electric bicycle do the work for them.

People who own the power-on-demand electric bikes comment frequently on how surprised they were by how efficient and powerful these motorized bikes are and how they can commute to work, or to school for pennies compared to what they pay for mass-transit or driving to and from work or the train station.

Power-on-demand electric bikes are also great for people who want to be able to keep up with their children or grandchildren but may not be physically fit enough to do it on their own, they can simply activate the motor of the electric bike when they start to tire.

The other primary type of electric bicycles are the power-assist bikes, also referred to as pedal activated bikes.  These ingenious motorized bicycles can actually alleviate about 50% of the workload of riding your bicycle – you can go twice the distance for the same effort!

The power-assist electric bikes are quite popular for people who travel around large and small cities, or around any town for that matter and want some extra assistance so they can travel quicker with less energy.

Power-assist electric bikes make great alternatives to a second car, or over-crowded buses and subways.  Imagine not having to take mass-transportation anymore because you can get where you need to go faster and cheaper with a motorized bike.

These types of electric bikes are also great for people that are trying to improve their physical fitness but need some reassurance as they begin a cycling program.  The power-assist feature lets them lighten the workload and build up more stamina and strength.

Most companies refer to electric bikes in these two main categories:  power-on-demand or throttle activated and power-assist or pedal activated.Need help selecting the right electric bike for you? One of the first questions people always ask is "What is the best electric bike?" When selecting an electric bike you'll also want to consider where you live, as your local environment will influence your set of needs and what works best for you. For example, if you live in California you'd want an electric bike that would be through and through a 'California electric bike.'

"What if I'm looking for something very light weight, something that I can carry with one hand. I want to take it on the train. I'd only need it to travel very short distances. I guess it doesn't even have to be electric." Then you're not looking for an electric bike, you're looking for a kick scooter! If you're not convinced that kick scooters can offer serious changes in your life, we beg you to read the following story: "What if I owned a kick scooter?"

"Out of the electric bikes, what is the lightest folding bike?" You can compare and contrast the eZee Quando, the Birdy Bionx, and the Xootr Bionx here: Electric folding bikes.