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BionX

Electricity and Bikes?

by John on March 14, 2013

My coleague Eric on the electric brompton

My colleague Eric on an electric folding bike

As a complete neophyte to electric bikes, it came as a complete shock that you could combine the two elements. Electric?…. Bike? I always figured that you would always want to pedal the bike that you happen to be on. Chalk this up to a lifetime of easy, relatively flat urban riding. To end my ignorance, this week my friend Eric introduced me to the concept of electrified rides in the form of various dedicated E-bikes, as they are coined, such as the pony packing Stromer, powerful eFlow, and the highly adaptable BionX Conversion Kits that can turn near any bike under the sun into an E-bike. You can even make an electric folding bike – Now that’s innovation.

My E-bike education

My education began with the sleek Stromer electric bike, this sporty steed of a bike is a full blown E-bike designed for maximum efficiency with a lithium 500W battery built into the down tube. Fast, powerful, and comfortable, with a frame modeled after a traditional mountain bike that has some nice front suspension and disc brakes. Amazing.

Stromer electric bike

Stromer electric bike

Another impressive e-bike, which just arrived at the shop, is the eFlow nitro. Like the Stromer, the eFlow Nitro also does not shy away from clever design. Where Stromer hides the battery inside the down tube, the eFlow Nitro is designed with the battery cleanly hidden away in the seat tube, cleverly distributing the weight underneath the rider.

Both the Stromer and the eFlow Nitro offer the most bleeding edge technology and innovation to take up any nasty hill or incline. Some may worry about the duration of the charge and range, but if you pedal along with the assistance provided by the motor, commutes of 30-40 miles should be a breeze.

For a detailed review of the eFlow check out TurboBob’s eFlow Nitro Article.

Electric conversion kits

Crosstown BionX Bike

Crosstown BionX Bike

If a fully designed E-bike may be out of your wallet’s range, don’t worry, there is a solution in the form of the BionX Motor Kits. This enables you to convert any standard bike into a speedy commuter so you may also take part in this very green solution to commuting. The kit uses a lithium ion battery, nicely mounted to the bike’s frame, or in some cases to a rear rack.

There are three different types of BionX kits which differ in power. The least powerful kit, the BionX Pl250 uses a 250 watt motor and a 24 volt battery, capable of powering you for up to 20 miles, at around 20 mph. As the least powerful kit, it’s battery is going to be smaller and therefore lighter, which is a major plus if you live up a walk up!

The next kit up is the Pl350 BionX— fit with a more powerful 350 watt motor and 36 volt battery, you’ll have a better range and more power at any given time, but it will be a few pounds heavier than the PL250.

Finally, there is the premium 48 volt bionX kit. With a higher wattage battery coupled with a 350watt motor, you’ll have increased power and range, and it’ll be 20% than the standard as well. Pretty sweet.

After taking test rides on these different models of Electric Bikes I was definitely riding high. If you get a chance, come by the shop take a few free test rides on some great electric bikes and you’ll see what I’m talking about!

John

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The Scandinavian Affair – Velomobiles

by Electric bike guru on May 22, 2010

Original Mochet Velomobile

Original Mochet Velomobile

Imagine your favorite electric bike transformed into an automobile.  How could such a thing happen?  It makes no sense!  Okay, let’s slow down a bit.  Let’s start with a recumbent bike – you know, one of those machines where you sit close to the ground and recline, or lean back, to pedal.  Now, instead of a two-wheeled recumbent bike, let’s picture one with three wheels – like a tricycle.  Now let’s enclose this tricycle in a body, one which looks more like an ultra-light airplane fuselage rather than your typical automobile.  If you have stayed with me through this visualization exercise, what you now have in your mind’s eye is a vehicle called a velomobile.

According to Wikipedia, the origin of the velomobile was a small 4-wheeled pedal car build by Charles Mochet for his son a few years prior to World War I.  Other people starting building these little pedal cars too, and they were popular for a while, but their popularity declined in the 1930’s as people preferred the inexpensive gasoline-powered cars which were becoming more available and affordable.

Leap ahead a few decades to the oil crisis of 1978, which inspired Carl Georg Rasmussen, a Danish engineer and pilot, to design and build the first practical velomobile. It was called Leitra (Leight individual transport in German means Leicht Transport), a “tadpole” recumbent trike with a full fiberglass fairing. It was road-tested in the 1980’s in several rallies such as Trondheim-Oslo and Paris-Brest-Paris.

Leitra Velomobile electric assisted

Leitra Velomobile electric assisted

Leitra is a danish company and also the name of the velomobile it makes.
Ever since then, velomobiles have remained popular in Denmark and other countries throughout Scandinavia.  The shell of the velomobile provides protection from the cold, wet Scandinavian winters, and the streamlined fairing, or shell, reduces wind resistance compared to an unenclosed bike or trike, and allows the velomobile to scoot along smartly over the flat Scandinavian landscape
Now velomobiles are being imported into the US in increasing numbers, largely due to the popularity of the Leitra and other early imports.  The streamlined fairing, or shell, adds weight to the vehicle at the same time that it allows higher speeds.  For that reason, most velomobiles come with hydraulic brakes, either standard or as an option, to handle the additional braking load compared with conventional bikes.
While the enclosed design does effectively counter wind resistance, it does not provide the rider with any advantage while pedaling uphill.  Just the opposite is true, as the rider must carry his weight, the weight of the trike, and the weight of the fairing, all at the same time.  This has inspired some velomobile owners to add an electric drive system,such as the BionX kit, to their machines in order to extend the speed and climbing ability beyond what they can provide with leg power alone.  These electric velomobiles are in effect, small automobiles, self-powered and self-enclosed, and often capable of cruising nearly at expressway speeds.

Go One BionX powered Velomobile

Go One BionX powered Velomobile

The cost of a velomobile is not cheap.  The reason is that the basic platform is a high-quality recumbent tricycle which alone would cost over $2,000.  Add to this the cost of fabricating the fiberglass shell and of the attaching hardware, and the considerable cost of labor, as each machine is basically hand-made, and it is easy to understand that a complete machine will cost you between $6,000 – $8,000, with electrically powered models correspondingly higher.
Right now the market for velomobiles is tiny compared with that for autos or conventional electric bikes.  For now, they are not regulated and owners have the freedom to decide how to equip their velomobiles, and, within the limits of existing local traffic laws, to ride their machines wherever and however  they choose.

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