Why do I find myself underwhelmed with the offerings on the electric bicycle market? I want to feel like I’m riding a piece of modern engineering and not yesteryear’s moped. I have come to the conclusion that the factors that make one want to purchase an electric bike are much different than the reasons I would want to purchase a new road bike or a mountain bike. What the industry needs now is the next new Rubik’s Cube, New Beetle, or iPhone.
Do you remember the last time you saw a new product that made your heart race with excitement? I remember seeing the 1986 Honda Interceptor and the first Kawasaki Ninja and having this feeling. Those of you who are part of the e-generation probably felt this way about the first Apple device you remember.
It is at least partially for this reason that the eBikeTec Exhibition & Conference was held in Paris, France April 16th through 18th. The focus of this event was increasing the selection of electric bicycles that are currently in production in that country, which will likely trickle down to the US and American markets. The consumer always appreciates choices. If you arrive at your decision of what product to buy then you’ll also want it in your favorite color and the latest year’s model.So for myself, I’ve narrowly defined the criteria that would make me want to go purchase an electric bike. For starters, it would look a lot more like a sportbike than a bicycle. I’m thinking something like the Brammo Empulse put out by those clever Oregonians.
Or perhaps the Brammo Enertia :
The Zero DS made by Zero Motorcycles would also be a strong contender and would be a blast to take that end of cul de sac shortcut on.
So, for myself I’ve come away with a narrow list of criteria that might actually put me in the showroom for one of these cutting edge machines:
1. The Tax incentive for an electric vehicle would have to be more than the current 10%. I think 20% would get my attention.
2. It would have to be a piece of art, something that leads you to appreciate the clean flowing lines.
3. It would have to be well engineered and put together thoughtfully.
4. It would have to be made in the USA.
5. Finally, it would absolutely have to be less cost than my car (which is a 2001 Ford Escape with 196,000 miles on it by the way).
6. Last but not least, it would have to be fun to drive!… Even with the cost of fuel savings, why drive a bike if it’s not fun to be out there in the breeze?
I wondered what a lifelong competitive road and mountain biker would think about today’s electric bikes, so I posed the question to Mark Scheetz, one of our Engineering Managers at GoEngineer. Mark is a man that I greatly respect and has more miles in the saddle than I can fathom in a lifetime.
Me: “Mark, what would it take to make you rush out today to purchase an electric bike in today’s market?”
Mark: “Well, I think when done right they are a viable transportation alternative and green transportation. If they cause more people to get out of their cars and into bike commuting and/or general transportation, then that’s a good thing. They can also be helpful to those who are limited physically and can’t peddle well. It’s a nice way for them to enjoy some of the benefits of cycling. I know of some elderly people who use them as well as some with MS and other ailments.”
“The best out there are really electric assist bikes, where you still do much of the peddling work on level ground and descents, and reserve the electric assist for hills and headwinds. That way it’s still a like cycling and utilizing human power, with only a little help when needed.”
“What I don’t like are the ones that are really just electric motorbikes with pedals. Nothing more than an electric moped. Many of these machines use the cheapest materials, inefficient motors, heavy batteries and are not even green. Their real value lies not in exercise, a greener world nor a good alternative for commuting, but rather as a toy. That’s perfectly fine if you’re looking for something to have a little fun and kick around town. Fun is good thing. But let’s not pretend they offer any other more noble benefits.”
“I personally have absolutely no use for them, today. That’s not to say when I get really old and need the assist I wouldn’t consider the option.”
I do think that we are headed towards a revolution for electric bikes in the near future and I think the market will look much different in 2018 than 2013.
Tim Roberts currently manages the Technical Support Team at GoEngineer. Tim earned his BSME from the University of Tennessee with an emphasis in machine design in 1993. He as worked as a manufacturing engineer as well as done technical support for several other CAD/CAM and analysis products. Tim lives with his family in Salt Lake City, UT and loves to climb and golf when not spending family time or assisting the best customers in the world. View all posts by Tim Roberts
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