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electric powered bike

Give Up The Gas! Electric Bikes and Bicycle Trailers

by Electric bike guru on July 28, 2010

BionX folding bike towing a bike trailer

This bike trailer actually carries this electric folding bike!

Less than ten years ago, big cars were in style. Big trucks, four-wheel drive SUVs, and the comeback of the Hummer led people down a gas-guzzling highway that consisted of low mileage, high emissions, and a feeling of complete domination of the road in their macho ride.

These days, the attitude has changed entirely. Compact cars and hybrid vehicles are much more popular than ever. Even the Tesla electric car is a good investment, if you happen to win the lottery. Though the automobile industry is slow to act upon this shift in eco-friendly ideas, there are alternatives to driving a car that are just as practical, and much, much more eco-friendly. Take an electric-powered bike towing a bicycle cargo trailer, for example. No emissions whatsoever, since the electric bike runs off of a battery, and the cargo trailer allows for all of the trunk space of a car. Most daily trips average under 10 miles in a car. The average electric bike using new Lithium battery technology will run over twenty miles on a single battery charge!

Which Electric Bike Is Right For Me?

There are hundreds of electric bikes to choose from, and the prices range from $500 up to $10,000. There are great resources on the internet to help you choose the best electric bike based on your style and daily travel routine.

Of course, a long-distance road trip is not appropriate for an electric bike. However, consider the amount of trips that are over twenty miles in a single month. How many times will you drive this far? Keep a tally, and then decide if you still need to pump money into your car. For those trips around town when you need to get groceries, transport some furniture or musical equipment, or bring your camping gear, there are bicycle trailers that work perfectly.

Bicycle Trailers Take the Place of Your Trunk

Bicycle trailers hold anywhere from 30 to 200 lbs. Towing it with an electric bike is also considerably less work than trying to pedal a bike with all that extra weight. The Burley bicycle trailers are some of the best quality bike trailers on the market. They’re lightweight, durable, and can be easily detached from a bike when not in use. Some, like the Burley Travoy folding bicycle trailer, will fold down to the size of a suitcase for storage. It can also be wheeled around like a hand-truck. This low-profile bike trailer is perfect for city streets, because it stays relatively close to the bike and rides on two air-filled, maneuverable wheels.

Cargo trailers for bicycles solve many of the problems of giving up a car for good, although this solution will still not be accepted by everyone. The idea of the automobile is so ingrained in the American culture that it will be hard to wean the country into biking for transportation. Many European countries have very prolific bike cultures, with bike paths sometimes outnumbering roads in a few places. Following suit in America would result in much less emission, more exercise, and less money spent filling up the tank. It makes so much sense, that it’s hard to believe so many people haven’t caught on yet!


History of the Electric Bike

by Electric bike guru on July 3, 2010

An eZee Cadence Electric Bike

Believe it or not, electric bikes have been around for over 100 years. Attaching an electric motor to a bicycle has always been a fascination for engineers looking to improve upon the basic two-wheeled design. Until recent years, electric bikes were bulky, problematic, and inefficient. It wasn’t until the 1990′s when electric bikes could run for more than 10 miles on a single battery charge. Once this was possible, the market exploded. With rapid advancement in battery technology, there are some electric bikes that can power a rider for 40 or 50 miles on a single charge, and it’s improving every year. In countries like China, India, and the Netherlands, electric bikes are widely popular, selling one million models every year. In the U.S., people are just starting to catch on to electric bikes, and the number of bike sales have doubled each of the past few years. What is it about the development of electric bikes that caused this sudden surge in popularity?

Making the Electric Bike Practical

A big step in the popularity of the electric bike is the extended range of the battery. Before 2000, most electric bikes were using Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries. Although these batteries were powerful enough to drive a large bike with a rider, they didn’t last very long. People could ride for about five to ten miles before they had to plug the bike in to charge. Additionally, these batteries were very heavy. Electric bikes using SLA batteries often weighed over 75 lbs. They were impractical for long trips, and stairs were out of the question. There needed to be a lighter, more efficient alternative with better batteries.

The dawn of the Lithium battery age pumped life back into the electric bike industry. These lightweight batteries shaved 20 pounds off of an electric bike, bringing the average weight down to about 55 lbs. Although still not as light as a standard bicycle, it was now easier to manage than the ridiculous SLA bikes. The range was also improved immensely. Lithium batteries run for 15 to 20 miles on a single battery charge, which is over three times the capacity of the SLA batteries. With this kind of range, it was now easy to ride an electric bike to work, school, or run errands without running the battery down all the way. New electric bikes even have the option to charge the battery while pedaling or braking, which can extend the range by 10-20 miles. As technology advances, these batteries will keep improving. It’s not inconceivable that we’ll see a Lithium battery with a 70 mile range in the near future.

Powering an Electric Bike

BionX Electric Hub motor

Motors have been around since the dawn of electricity, and a simple chain between a motor and a bike wheel would be the most effective way to power a bike for the first 80 years of development. Of course, there were many problems with these motors. The internal brushes wore out quickly, and had to be replaced very often. It also used a chain, which could stretch, slip, or rust. A motor that is protected from the elements would prove to be the most effective for everyday riders, and the development of the hub motor would help the popularity of the electric bike.

Sealed inside of the wheel, the hub motor is not subject to rust, rain, or rough riding conditions. Since most hub motors are now brushless (using electronics rather than mechanical moving parts), they are virtually maintenance-free. This type of motor has become the standard for electric bikes, and are much more efficient than the older brushed motors. Recently, some electric bikes have been developed with a bottom bracket motor, which turns the pedals, rather than the wheel. In the future, we may see motors that are completely sealed inside the bike, invisible to any onlooker.

Controlling an Electric Bike

The easiest way to power an electric bike is with a throttle. With variable speed control, the rider can set their speed manually by simply twisting the grip. This type of speed control is easy to use, but tends to drain the battery quickly. More efficient systems have been recently developed which utilize torque-sensitive motors. This kind of technology actually measures the rider’s pedal power and gives a percentage of motor assistance. Pedal harder, the motor works more. Pedal less, and conserve the battery. It’s the most efficient way to use an electric bike, and because it requires pedaling, the electric hybrid bike still feels like a standard bike.

In the past ten years alone, these improvements have helped the electric bike to become a prominent commuter vehicle. In China, there are three times as many electric bikes as cars, and many other countries are following their lead. If America can let go of their big-car mentality, perhaps we’ll see a more bike-friendly future where electric bikes are the primary vehicles, rather than cars.

All of the new technologies mentioned above are available for purchase on these electric bikes


Man and Machine: The Pedelec Bike

June 26, 2010

Electric bikes are pretty common these days, with all of the different kinds of electric bike motor kits and battery options available. You’d be hard pressed to find a bike shop who didn’t carry an electric bike, especially since all of the big bike manufacturers like Trek and Giant have electric bikes of their own. [...]

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Electric Bike tips: Increase your range per charge

May 12, 2010

So you’ve finally made the leap and purchased an electric bike, but instead of seeing the world, you keep seeing the “Empty” indicator on the battery meter.  How come? Well, a number of factors can influence the range and energy consumption of your eBike.  Like any bike, an eBike encounters a frictional force known as [...]

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