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Transportation Earth Technology

The Year of the E-Bicycle 494

Posted by kdawson
from the daisy-daisy dept.
theodp writes "Electric bicycles have been around for more than a century, but they have never quite captured the imagination of auto-obsessed Americans. That may be about to change. At CES this month, Sanyo showed off its sleek, lightweight Eneloop Hybrid Bicycle. Priced at $2,300, the e-bike sports a black lithium-ion battery strapped to the frame beneath the seat. Press a button on the left handlebar, and a 250-watt motor kicks in, providing about twice as much power as your own pedaling. Some basic e-bike models, like the Ezip Trailz can be had for as low as $500. Both Trek and Schwinn began selling e-bikes last year, and Best Buy is offering e-bikes in three test markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland, OR."
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The Year of the E-Bicycle

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  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:42AM (#30816860) Homepage Journal

    I love the idea of using one of these bikes for my daily commute to work and back, however they don't come anywhere close to solving the beer bottles from pickups aimed at cyclist problem, or the Houston has no safe way to ride a bike much of anywhere problem.

    I love to ride my bike, but Houston is a city built by politicians with pockets lined from oil companies. The oil companies decided people in Houston should drive individual cars to get around and dammit, the politicians not only saw that it happened, they made sure the public transit system sucked as well. Sure there's a great bus to get downtown and back, but you still have to drive locally to the bus stop, even if it's only a mile or two away unless you want to become road pizza. Then it's only to downtown, not across town. You can go around your area, you can go downtown, but getting from one area of Houston to another isn't easy, and unlike Phoenix and certain other cities putting a bike on a bus is hit and miss. Some drivers forbid it if they don't have a bike rack and bike racks are rare.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:50AM (#30816908) Journal
      Do you really have problems with people throwing beer bottles at you?
      • by pecosdave (536896) * on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:08AM (#30816996) Homepage Journal

        Yes, and people sticking their hands out the window trying to smack you on a high speed drive by, and attempting to side swipe you. This is worse in the FM 1960 area where I used to live as opposed to the Clear Lake area where I now live. The Clear Lake area has a bit higher class of people around.

        Neither is bike friendly as both areas are built by the same Houston. I saw a guy in an electric wheelchair get stranded off of FM 270 about a year and half ago do to lack of good ways to get around, I was in the process of making my way over to help him out when someone beat me to it. There are NO sidewalks in most areas. Bike lanes are a rarity and qualify more as a vehicle sprawl lane for our many commercial vehicles, a good percentage of which are driven by unlicensed illegal immigrants.

        Just try to use one of these to get around random parts of Houston - not isolated to JUST the Montrose, downtown, or historical/old areas. I hear people argue they have no problem getting around a few areas of Houston, especially the older areas, but not everyone lives in these areas nor are they the destinations for everyone.

        Show me someone willing to commit to using one of these to commute Houston without limiting their travel horizons for a year and I'll show you someone who wont be alive in a year to claim their prize.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by cduffy (652)

          Thanks -- you've reminded me of why I don't leave Austin unless the destination is out-of-state.

        • by Animaether (411575) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:42AM (#30817160) Journal

          Having been to Houston as a tourist, I find parents' notes to be absolutely true.

          Not only do motorists freak out if there's somebody on a bicycle on their streets (and unless it's a highway/etc., that should be perfectly legal - share the road, dammit) and use any existing bicycle lanes as just more room for them to zigzag all over the place... ...there's almost no sidewalks! Okay, that's not true, there's plenty. But a lot of them just suddenly end with nowhere in particular to go next.
          I couldn't legally walk from my hotel to The Galleria (just 1.6 miles) because the sidewalk just -ends- after the last commercial store (a garden center)'s plot it straddles. The -only- way to walk there via the 1.6 mile route was by crossing freeways, walking through an interstate (I-10) underpass, crossing a road on a bend (speeding car surprise special *every time*) then walking through a bunch of muddy (sprinkler over-use) grass (by a rug store), before finally there were businesses again and - surprise, surprise - sidewalks.
          If I were to maximize actual sidewalk usage instead - ignoring the spots where there's no sidewalk - it's a 4.3 mile route. wtf.
          ( virtual cookies for whoever can identify the spot on google maps )

          People thought I was nuts for even attempting to walk there... suggesting that I should go rent a car. "For 1.7 miles? really? holy crap.", I thought. Then I started looking more closely as I was driven around by friends and it became clear to me as well that Houston was practically built around the idea that everybody and-I-do-mean-EVERYBODY has a car. It's evident from the clear lack of respect for cyclists and pedestrians - both by the majority of the people and by the city itself, courtesy of its lack of proper infrastructure for these groups. I mentioned that there are plenty of sidewalks... well, of sorts anyway; they were all concrete abominations that were crooked, cracked, and grown through by weeds.. so those who do like to walk are probably discouraged from that as well as you're likely to eventually trip and faceplant.

          For me, within a city, it is absolutely insane that it would be an easier and shorter trip for a motorist than for a pedestrian.

          Now, Seattle on the other hand.. completely different story - and with the odd hill here and there, and longer treks to get around the sound/bay, I suspect the e-bike could come in quite handy and not be a death-magnet.

        • by initialE (758110) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @05:39AM (#30817416)

          Here's a suggestion - be a redneck. Carry a gun and use it often. If people are trying to get you killed, you can do the same to them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by spagetti_code (773137)
          I worked in Houston for a few years - over off Nasa Road One.
          I used to walk to work - wasn't that far. A mile or so...

          Two things stand out:
          a) every few days, someone would stop and ask if I was ok and whether I needed a lift.
          On one hand, it was great to see so many caring people. But it just shows that they never
          saw people walk before.

          b) the path actually went up to people's front doors, so I had to either walk on the road, or follow the path into people's
          property. Weird. Again - not built for pede
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @07:13AM (#30817770)

          As an avid cycle commuter I spent 3 years in the 90's in Houston: after experiencing that cycling was impractcal, inconvenient and not entirely safe in the 290/1960 area and then around the Galleria, I did commute to downtown from the Montrose area; and, as posted above, if one stay inside the loop, biking is not so bad, but outside is totally a nightmare.

          Note: After Houston I lived in Portland Oregon and now Munich Germany, both of which are a totally different world where cycling is a normal, expected, desirable, supported and respected form of transportation.

          As noted by others, the problems in Houston are multifold: designed only for cars, citizens do not expect to see bicycles (= lack of safety), cycling is not respected or desired, etc.) --- the most difficult aspect to comprehend is how socially undesireable it is to be a cyclist in Houston (or most of Texas for that matter): everyone assumes that anyone on a bicycle is either too poor to own a car or pay for gas or has had his driver's license revoked for DWI. When I used to commute the 4 miles to downtown my colleagues would continuously offer me a ride home, ask compassionately what finincial problems i had and if they could help (i couldn't possibly be choosing to cycle so it must be because i had no money!), offer to loan me money, etc. Even after I explained that my car was all good and well but sitting at home in the garage, they simply didn't believe me! THAT is an anti-cycling environment!

          P.S. although I love the percetant of bicycle usage in the Netherlands, I do not believe its bike system should be taken as the model, as its system is based on "separate but equal" facilities for bikes, autos and pedestrians (i.e. lots of bike lanes but bikes are generally forbidden to ride on the roads if bike paths are available). Germany follows a similar system in theory where cyclists are often grouped with pedestrians (leads to higher rate of minor accidents), but in practice is somewhat less restrictive as fewer bike paths are available. (It has been shown numerous times in studies that the safest system in urban areas involes biking not on completely separate facilities (i.e. bike paths) nor along with pedestrians (i.e. sidewalks), but along side cars on the roads (either with or without bike lanes), with large numbers of cyclists on the road such that car drivers both expect and respect cyclists on the road).

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by deroby (568773)

            Not sure about The Netherlands, but here in Belgium you're quite welcome to use your bicycle on the main road when there is no separate bike path available.
            When there is one, yes you HAVE to use it, but when there isn't you shouldn't be using the pedestrians' side-walks but simply drive on the right side of the road.
            I'm pretty sure it's like that in the Netherlands too...

            Everyone here is used to it, that much that I'm having a hard time to imagine roads without cyclists. In fact the law even grants quite a

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by zippthorne (748122)

              When there is one, yes you HAVE to use it, but when there isn't you shouldn't be using the pedestrians' side-walks but simply drive on the right side of the road

              It's attitudes like that that prevent people from commuting via bicycle. Let me translate that for you into what people who live in an auto-dominant urban area hear:

              When there is one, yes you HAVE to use it, but when there isn't you should trade a small chance of not-likely-to-be fatal physical harm to yourself and other pedestrians to a much, much greater chance of quite-likely-to-be-fatal harm to yourself only.

              Or to sum up: biking is a recreational activity, not a transportation option, and it will continue to be for as long as people half-ass the bike lanes and think that the roads are a good fall-back option.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Muad'Dave (255648)

          For those of you that wonder what 'FM 1960' means, Texas has the concept of Farm to Market roads [wikipedia.org], not strange radio station names.

      • by aussersterne (212916) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @09:33AM (#30818400) Homepage

        mountain biking mecca. And I had much the same experience cycling in the city. There are few bike lanes, but the roads are pretty wide. You wouldn't think there would be a problem. But the motorists often got angry at bicycles simply because they were there. I OFTEN got honked at by passing cars (they'd wait until they were right on your tail or next to you, then HOOOOONK while they yelled out the window) and I got a decent number of things thrown at me.

        Worst was a 7-11 double gulp cup that was full. It hit me on the side of the head, the lid came off, I got drenched in Coke and then the edge of the cup got stuck between my crank and my chain causing me to wipe out. I was sticky, covered in soda, and had to walk my bike home and use tools to get the thing out and the bike cranking again.

        This was in the '90s before the "national concsiousness of greenness and cycling" hit. Hopefully things are different now.

        These days I live in NYC and would cycle everywhere (there are a lot of cyclists and motorists are aware of them) only my wife forbids it, being absolutely terrified that I will succumb to NYC traffic. :-P

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by stokessd (89903)

        Do you really have problems with people throwing beer bottles at you?

        I have in upstate NY.

        Frankly, most serious bicyclists have a bunch of stories like that. I've put many miles in the north-east, the mid-atlantic states, the west coast, the southwest, and now the midwest. I now ride in the country in Indiana (boring corn viewing experience), and it's a lot better from a politeness of drivers standpoint.

        But in the USA, the car vs. driver issues are way worse than the UK and Ireland in my experience. Just another issue where we think we are #1 and really we suck.

        Sheldon

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        When I was 10-12 I liked riding my bike to and from two local towns. (No clue how I talked my parents into it.) One was 5 miles away and the other was 8. I went to a day camp in one and 4th grade in the other. Now I didn't ride every day, but maybe once a week and only when it was warm.

        Riding home from day camp one day I passed a pickup full of redneck jackasses. 2 up front and 2 in the back. I caught an apple square across the thy, left a bruise that took a few weeks to go away.

        Never told my parents, but t

    • Europe seems to be leading the way in bike paths. There's no less than a dozen cities that have dedicated bike paths going all around them. I don't know any of their names, but Europe keeps coming up in documentaries and articles about green city designs.

      A quick trip to google for some proof... http://www.wired.com/autopia/2007/11/where-are-the-m/ [wired.com]

      Documentary example: http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/The_Nature_of_Things/ID=1233750794 [www.cbc.ca] (may only work in Canada)

      • by pecosdave (536896) *

        For that Wired Article, I nominate Houston for the counter point of that article. Probably not #1, but it should be on that list.

        Most of the cities I have in mind for being worse than Houston are affected more by bullets that civil design.

      • by Calinous (985536)

        Leiden in Netherlands is a great example - even truck drivers on "right of way" roads will sometime yield to bicycles. As a side note, most of the kids come to school on bycicles (in a neighbouring village, 1 mile away though - I don't know about the city center).

              This is the level of "friendliness to bycicles" that is necessary for everyone to start thinking about using a bike - when you let your kid go to school on a bike.

        • by Malc (1751) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:54AM (#30817686)

          Woe betide a pedestrian who gets in the way of a cyclist though! For some reason respect stops at two wheels.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Quantumstate (1295210)

        I am in Cambridge at the moment and it is great for bikes. I think it may have the largest bike density in Britain. A combination of a University in the town centre and it being pretty flat are probably the main factors. There are lots of good cycle lanes, many one way roads have a cycle lane in the opposite direction so the one way system hardly affects cyclists. Around the town centre bike is the fastest way to get around, you get more possible routes, and at traffic lights you can just cycle straight

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by petaflop (682818)
          York is good too. York actually has a higher proportion of resident cycle commuters than Cambridge, but Cambridge wins out during term time due to the student population. The fact that both are old citied and the narrow streets would gridlock immediately if everyone tried to drive, is also a factor. Once when cycling across York I beat an ambulance with it's sirens going (and I obey traffic lights, unlike some).
    • by JanneM (7445)

      "Great, still doesn't fix the Houston problem."

      So, you vote in people that will make Houston friendly for bicycles. Or you relocate to somewhere that is friendly for bicycles. Or you stay resigned to using a car for every trip, eating up more and more of your salary as gasoline and other expenses increase over time.

    • by JanneM (7445)

      [agh, accidental click on the post button, and no edit]

      BTW, one-two miles to the bus station. About 2 kilometers or so? That you can walk in 20 minutes? No need for a bike, just use your legs. I walk longer than that to the local train stop every morning and night.

      • by pecosdave (536896) *

        Walking does not fix the beer bottles aimed at pedestrians problem, nor the no sidewalks problem with fences that go right up to the curb on incredibly busy streets problem.

        I'm not saying there's no way to walk from point A to point B, but if you're talking in Kilometers you're probably thinking European, which is a lot different than thinking urban sprawl in a city designed by drunk monkeys.

        In the Houston area if your starting point is 1 mile from your ending point by car there's a good chance to get there

        • by pecosdave (536896) *

          wow, I should have double checked my spell checkers suggestion: that was prosperousness not obstreperousness. I had to look up obstreperousness to figure out what that even meant.

  • by Rix (54095) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:43AM (#30816864)

    The price point for these seems way off.

    • by jandrese (485)
      Or more to the point: why not just get a moped?
    • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:00AM (#30816958)

      For one thing -- exercise!

      I own a 2009 Optibike 850 -- an expensive toy, sure, but my pride and joy. It gets me to work and back in less time than driving followed by a gym session would require (and much less time than taking an unassisted bike both ways, which I've started doing on occasion as well), while being great exercise -- the way the Opti is geared encourages the rider to pedal along with a cadence in the 85-90 area, and my cholesterol and waistline are both way down since I dropped the car from commute duty.

      I also like being able to take my ride inside the office with me rather than needing to fight for parking. (Motorcycle parking is close to the building too, so not a big deal when I ride my scooter... but getting a chance to work out on my way to and from work makes all the difference in the world in terms of stress, and having the workout be part of my commute means I stay with it).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      a) They're relatively new and not a mass market product yet. Prices will come down. They're basically normal bicycles with a hub motor and a battery. You can DIY if you want: Kits are available on eBay.
      b) Electric bicycles are almost silent.
      c) No license requirement (don't know if this is the case in the USA, but in Germany they're in the same group as bicycles if they only apply engine power when the cyclist pedals.)
      d) Motorcycles need gas, e-bicycles need electricity. You can make your own electricity, bu

  • best quote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:48AM (#30816888) Journal
    I'm pretty skeptical about the ebike thing, I'm sure some people will find a use for it, but this quote from the article was eye-opening about cultural differences:

    In China, riding an electric bike conveys professional achievement, even a certain degree of wealth. People in the United States, said Ed Benjamin, an independent consultant in the bike business, don't quite know whether these bikes are fashionable. The e-bike is "an ambiguous statement," Mr. Benjamin said.

    I'm not entirely sure what the cultural significance of that is, but it must mean something.

    • by Techman83 (949264)
      Is it just me, but the only bikes I could see on that site all appeared to be "Girl/Female" bikes with a step through design.

      Personally the whole concept of the "Male" and "Female" designs boggle my mind, why is it that one with the balls gets the one with the bar? (I understand the whole dress thing on the female bike design, which is where I'm lead to believe it came from..)
      • Re:best quote (Score:4, Interesting)

        by JanneM (7445) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:21AM (#30817064) Homepage

        Personally the whole concept of the "Male" and "Female" designs boggle my mind, why is it that one with the balls gets the one with the bar?

        It's a local cultural thing. We had that distinction in Sweden too, while here in Japan everyone uses step-through or halfway-bar type bikes (like mountain bikes) for normal everyday use. High-bar bicycles are only for racing bikes used by people dressed in bright nylon tights and oddly-colored sunglasses.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        There is a direct correlation between the number of bicycle injuries and whether the bicycle is a "male" bike (with a top bar) or "female" (step-through). Of course the relationship is not perfectly linear, because there are other kinds of injuries too, such as head injuries from falling off. But the fact is that the "ladies" design, while not structurally as stiff, is safer all around.
        • by Techman83 (949264)
          I can attest to that, Racing Bike + Too Short for it + Bad Shoes + Pot Hole = crying 12 year old!
      • by Calinous (985536)

        The "male" models (the diamond frame) is stronger and more rigid for the same mass. On the other side, many MTB frames (even dedicated "male" frames) have a lower horizontal bar (or an oblique top bar)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kinnell (607819)

        Is it just me, but the only bikes I could see on that site all appeared to be "Girl/Female" bikes with a step through design. Personally the whole concept of the "Male" and "Female" designs boggle my mind, why is it that one with the balls gets the one with the bar? (I understand the whole dress thing on the female bike design, which is where I'm lead to believe it came from..)

        I'm pretty sure it's from the days when women wore long skirts. It would be impossible to mount a "male" bicycle without showing some inappropriate leg and getting the petticoat all tangled in the back wheel. The "male" design makes a lot more sense from a structural perspective, so would have been the norm for trouser wearing men.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Calinous (985536)

      The ebike thing is perfect when you have some steep hills on the way - instead of chugging along at a walking pace and getting to the top all sweaty, you let the electric motor work, go faster and aren't tired and sweaty at the end.
            Also, the assist from the electric motor allows you to go faster and farther, so you're able to use it in more cases than usual. You can also carry more weight (shopping trip) without effort.

  • Old (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZirconCode (1477363) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:48AM (#30816890)

    We had those here (Japan) for 5 years now, they're quite popular in rural areas or for shopping but otherwise everyone takes the train.

    • by pecosdave (536896) *

      Train.

      A train would be nice. Coast to coast bullet trains would be awesome in the US. A Northern Route, a Southern Route, and some North and South bound routes. Heck, the Northern and Southern route could be the same trains making a big circle and the North and South bound routes could be smaller circles bridging the line. Amtrak is a joke, and we as Americans should take issue with the French having awesome train when we don't have one - we don't let them show us up on anything else, why do we allow th

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      We had those here (Japan) for 5 years now, they're quite popular in rural areas or for shopping but otherwise everyone takes the train.

      In Germany, I'm sure many people would love to have something that they could take on and off the train, to make the medium-distance trips from station to destination. Traditional bikes are already a hassle and few carriages allow something like that.

      Folding bikes are often crap, scooters are too big, an electric folding bike might be popular here. Of course, getting every

  • Surely humans can produce well in excess of 250W. The problem with these things is poor handling due to battery weight and their inability to go uphill again down to weight. Once the hill is steep enough it's harder than without battery assistance! Wouldn't want to ride one of these in San Francisco!

    • by pitterpatter (1397479) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:03AM (#30816964) Journal
      Probably Lance Armstrong can produce over 250W for much of a day. I on the other hand, break a sweat just thinking about it. A hardworking horse can keep up about 750W (definition of a horsepower). Imagine yourself and two buddies playing tug-of-war with a Clydesdale.
      • by Calinous (985536)

        Assuming that you weigh 100 kg (220 pounds) and climb stairs on 10-feet tall stories, you use 250W to climb a story every 12 seconds.
        With a bike, climbing a steep hill (12%) with some 3% rolling resistance, assuming you and your bike are 100 kg total (220 pounds), you can go on electric motor alone at 1.5 m/s (5.4 km/h, 3.3 mph, a fast walk)

        by the way, those ~750W were for a mine poney (the first steam power plants were used to supplement coal mine poneys), not fo

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by EJB (9167)

        The average in-shape 70kg person can produce 200W for a more than an hour on a bicycle (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_performance [wikipedia.org])
        Ever sat on a bicycle in a gym with a wattage meter? It is actually very hard to only produce 125W on a bicycle. On the road you'd go very slow and risk falling over, and in the gym the pedals almost spin faster than your legs.

        And of course Lance Armstrong can do that. I am a "recreational" amateur cyclist who does no more than 2500 km/year and can maintain more th

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GAB_cyclist (1274556)
      That, in fact is not the problem. The e-bikes perform quite well on steep climbs and recharge a bit on the way down. The test has been done on the Mont Ventoux without problems. I do have concerns on how long it takes for the battery to lose it's full power capability. Six months? A year, maybe? And what will be the price of a new battery?
      • by cduffy (652)

        The BMS programming makes a big difference in terms of how long the batteries last.

        My bike has a 3-year / 30,000 mile prorated warranty on its batteries -- but they do that largely because the battery is overprovisioned; it only charges to 80% of what the cells are rated for, and the battery management system also has a hard cutoff before allowing the voltage to drop too low. (Excessive battery temperature? A limit is placed on drain. Excessively low battery temperature? Needs to warm up before being able t

      • An electric bike with only a 250-watt motor (the Eneloop) will not go up any mountain, much less Ventoux.
    • Peak? Absolutely.

      Over hours? Not so much.

      Anyhow, 250W is the kind of pansy-ass bike they make for the European market where the laws are ridiculously restrictive. US- and Canadian-made e-bikes are closer to 1kW output; my own ride is, an Optibike 850x, weighs 55lb including the internal battery, sufficient for 40-50 miles. The external battery brings the range up to over 100 miles and adds 15 pounds more. Newer Optibikes (and mine, when it gets back from its current round of upgrades) are using the Rohloff

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by julesh (229690)

      Surely humans can produce well in excess of 250W.

      Yes. 250W is only "twice as much power as you provide" if you're taking it very easy. Based on measurements provided by the exercise bikes at my gym, I know I'm able to produce around a kilowatt for 5 minutes or so at a time, and can sustain 500W practically indefinitely.

      OTOH, there are regulatory reasons for the motor being 250W: at least here in the UK, you'd need a full drivers licence, annual vehicle inspection and all-around crash helmet to ride it if

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheLink (130905)

        > I know I'm able to produce around a kilowatt for 5 minutes or so at a time, and can sustain 500W practically indefinitely.

        Maybe you can beat Lance Armstrong and the others:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/weekinreview/24kola.html [nytimes.com]

      • by bertok (226922) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:54AM (#30817210)

        Surely humans can produce well in excess of 250W.

        Yes. 250W is only "twice as much power as you provide" if you're taking it very easy. Based on measurements provided by the exercise bikes at my gym, I know I'm able to produce around a kilowatt for 5 minutes or so at a time, and can sustain 500W practically indefinitely.

        OTOH, there are regulatory reasons for the motor being 250W: at least here in the UK, you'd need a full drivers licence, annual vehicle inspection and all-around crash helmet to ride it if it were more powerful. It should also be designed so that the motor cannot make the bike go faster than 15mph.

        Errr... according to this:

        Lance Armstrong can ride up the mountains in France generating about 500 watts of power for 20 minutes, something a typical 25-year-old could do for only 30 seconds. A professional hockey player might last three minutes and then throw up. (source [active.com])

        ...it sounds like you're either an olympic-level athlete... who reads slashdot... or your gym equipment is severely miscalibrated. I've tried those bikes at the gym, and 250W is
        my limit for a 10-15 minute stretch, and I'm by no means unhealthy. Are you sure those weren't imperial units? I know the UK has switched to metric, in theory, but I know some of you poms still get confused. 8)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kurthr (30155)

        I call BS.
        Perhaps you're an elite cyclist, or someone is editing Wikipedia to make you look silly, but averaging anything like 500W for an hour (much less indefinitely) would make you the worlds best distance cyclist.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_performance [wikipedia.org]

        Lance Armstrong near his peak was reputed to be capable of ~520W for 20min.
        http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/weekinreview/24kola.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print [nytimes.com]

        Ok... so your gym exercise bike is a flattering, but I agree that 250W is within the ran

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by prefect42 (141309)

        Energy cost, perhaps, but I don't know about kinetic energy output. If you're saying you can use 500W for long periods (let's say a couple of hours), then match that to calorie intake. That's 860 kcal to replace the energy cost for that additional work. That's believeable right?

        Muscle efficiency http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle#Efficiency [wikipedia.org]

        "The efficiency of human muscle has been measured (in the context of rowing and cycling) at 18% to 26%"

        So if you were right, you'd actually need 3400 kcal to replace

  • What's the point? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tafkadasoh (1634863)
    I do bike a lot, but I don't get the point of those e-bikes (except for old people maybe). I'd like to have additional power on long tours but for those these batteries are just additional weight for most of the trip, which you'll feel when going uphill. City trips (less than 20 km) shouldn't wear out a healthy person, so no good point having them there. My bike is 10 kg now and I still think it's too heavy. I don't see a very big market for them. Also, more parts means more things can break.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by benjamindees (441808)

      The point is that the batteries don't really weigh that much, and are used for regenerative braking so that all the effort used to climb a hill isn't lost on the way down.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tafkadasoh (1634863)
        Agreed, it's more efficient than older designs, but their basic flaw is still there: After a certain trip length it requires more energy to move the batteries+cables+motor than the batteries are able to hold. So no batteries at all will always be more efficient. So unless you have trouble making a short trip on a bike I see no reason for anyone to by one. ergo, not year of the e-bike.
  • by societyofrobots (1396043) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:03AM (#30816966)

    An brand-name electric scooter is ~$300, and much more portable.

    A Honda motor scooter is under $2000, can seat two people, and go 30mph.

    $2300 for an electric bike is just silly.

    • by cduffy (652)

      You're making it sound like an e-bike is (or should be) a poor man's scooter; that's missing the point.

      A good e-bike makes cycling practical for people whose commutes otherwise are too long. I pedal just as hard when I'm on my e-bike as on my conventional one -- but on the e-bike my average speeds are almost double what they are unassisted (and remember, wind resistance makes much more than twice the power necessary to hit double the speed). I don't always have the 2.5 hours necessary to commute round-trip

  • I have been watching the e-bike market for years now, and almost all of the reasonably priced products suffer from the same problem: when the battery power runs out, they are lousy bicycles. They are single-speed only, or they are outrageously heavy, or both, or have some other drawback that makes them unsuitable for pedaling any distance. A few even have pedals so far apart that you couldn't pedal them for a block comfortably.

    I want something I can use as a regular bicycle, with electric power I can kic
    • Illegal in Europe (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:38AM (#30817148)
      The biggest problem with electric bikes in Europe is not technology but politicians. (in the UK, the Government still has not legalised the Segway, despite its obvious utility for post and packet delivery and beat policing.) Under EU regulations soon as an electric bike exceeds 250W, it is classed as a moped (i.e. max. 2200W). This is a huge gap, especially given that you can ride a horse (approx. 1kw and 750kg) on the roads with no legal controls. 250W is too little to be really useful.

      A bicycle is unusable for most people where I live because our town is on the sides of a steep sided valley, and the combination of traffic going up the hills at 30mph, and cyclists at 3mph, on narrow English roads, is lethal. To be really useful, an electric bike needs to be able to go up those hills at 20mph.

      If there was a political will for this, there would be a Europe-wide specification for an electric bicycle of, say, about 1200W maximum output and a continuous rating of 800, with a test and licence requirement but zero tax and a State-sponsored insurance scheme to overcome the objections of insurance companies, who detest anything new in the way of risk.

      Of course there would be a need for new regulations - such as limiting them to 12mph on cycle tracks - but this is nothing that technology couldn't handle (e.g. a "cycle track mode" which flashes a green light, to assist law enforcement.) But an electric bicycle that was fast enough to be safe in European urban traffic would be vastly better than the current situation, where only the very fit can ride a heavy, limited electric bicycle on anything other than the level.

  • Twice whose power? Twice the average slow poke pedaling at 12mph? Or twice the average cyclist doing 16+ mph? 250W doesn't sound like much to me. I can peak over that power output myself as I'm sure any avid cyclist can. Seriously, how about some real numbers and not this "twice the power" BS.
    • by cduffy (652)

      By American and Canadian standards, 250W is a lousy excuse for an ebike -- but for the European market it's the standard, as that's the limit there to be street-legal.

      This article was ridiculously ill-researched -- there are (and have been for years) much, much better bikes out on the US market, the higher end ones having upward of 650W sustained output where the rubber meets the road, and peaking up around 2hp when combined with a strong rider. See the power meter readings at http://groups.google.com/group [google.com]

  • They demoed E-bikes on my college campus, and with good reason- college yuppies are actually stupid and wealthy enough to buy E-bikes. I test-rode one, and it's fun, but not $2000 fun. I'll stick with my regular bike.

    To make matters worse, these dumbasses ride around stupidly and create more hate for cyclists from pedestrians and motorists alike. Also, they're stimulating the bike theft market by locking up poorly. Last week I saw one locked with a U-lock around a single spoke of the front wheel and a cable

  • a black lithium-ion battery strapped to the frame beneath the seat

    whatcouldpossiblygowrong?

  • Still cost too much (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bkr1_2k (237627) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:56AM (#30819992)

    The interest in these has never been lacking. They simply cost too much for a reasonably well designed model to make any real headway though. If they could get the low end down to below $300 and the high end closer to $800-$1000 they might actually make some progress, but until then, there will be no significant change in the way people use bicycles.

    Especially when you consider the fact that most people (in the USA at least) use bicycles because they either can't afford something more practical/versatile or are using it as a way to exercise.

A method of solution is perfect if we can forsee from the start, and even prove, that following that method we shall attain our aim. -- Leibnitz

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