Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day — and traffic is once again among this year’s top concerns. But going green for your commute isn’t easy. Sure, cars contribute to air pollution, gridlock, and road rage, but riding a bicycle for work? Who wants to show up all sweaty?
Enter the e-bike revolution. It’s gaining some serious speed thanks to new technology and new companies rolling out an upgraded fleet of semi-affordable electric bicycles.
I reviewed a range of ebikes recently including Espin, Elby, and the Copenhagen Wheel. Each falls into the category of pedal-assistance. That means you can ride each one without any help, like a regular bike, or turn on a battery powered electric motor to add a burst of energy and speed.
To be perfectly clear, these aren’t scooters. The electric motor amplifies the power of each pedal stroke, so you still ride like normal, but get the added boost up over hills, against headwinds, and without breaking a sweat. They are a blast to ride.
This kind of awesome is not cheap. You can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 depending on a range of specific features. They are expensive, but not compared to the cost of driving a car, buying gas, and finding parking in a crowded and expensive city. According to recent studies, the average e-bike owner saves more than $1,000 on commute costs per year.
Of the three models I’ve tested, I recommend the $1,888 Espin bikes on the lower end of the pricing spectrum. It comes in two models, the Espin Sport and the Espin Flow. Each one contains a removable 350-watt battery that recharges in about 4.5 hours, lasts anywhere from 25-50 miles on a single charge, and can top out at speeds of around 25 miles per hour.
There is a small control hub on the Espin bikes that displays speed, distance, and battery life. A rear-mounted luggage rack and fenders allow for riding to the store, even while raining. If it gets too dark, turn on the front LED headlights. Both models are also 5-speed, 8-gear Tier-3 pedal-assist, perfect for commuters, weekend warriors, or anyone who needs a little boost of pedal power. This is the best quality e-bike in this range that I’ve tested.*
In the higher price range, she recommends the $3,700 Elby electric bike. This one has a 500 watt battery built into the frame that can last up to 90-miles on a single charge. It takes about 5 hours to recharge and can go up to 20-miles per hour.
What’s special about the Elby, is the BionX branded motor. It has regenerative braking, just like a Prius or another hybrid car, so the battery recharges when you’re coasting. The company says that can extend the range by another 15% percent. Most other e-bikes deliver power when you pedal or when you press an accelerator button. But the Elby does both.
If you get tired of pedaling altogether, just press a thumb throttle on the right handlebar to give it a little juice. I love that when I’m heading up a steep hill and need to just catch my breath for a second or two. Or when I want to leave those spandex-clad pedal posers in the dust. Riding an e-bike doesn’t take any of the joy out of cycling. In fact, it’s allowed me to work through an injury while still getting outside and staying active. I love it.
One other option is using an electric wheel with your current bike. That’s the idea behind the $1,500 Copenhagen Wheel. Designed as part of a joint project between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s SENSEable City Lab and the famously bike-friendly city of Copenhagen, Denmark, the wheel features an onboard electric drive system powered by a 48-volt battery. Like most other e-bikes, this gives cyclists the ability to quickly and easily reach speeds of up 20 mph with a range of as much as 30 miles before requiring a recharge. It runs off of an app on your smartphone and also has regenerative braking to add some extra juice.
I’ll be doing regular features on new bike technology here and for many other outlets as well – so keep me posted on the hottest new cycling tech! And if this piques your interest at all – be sure to take an e-bike for a test drive wherever you live!
**Full disclosure: Techish is hosting a giveaway of an Espin bike for Earth Day – but we (Techish and/or me personally) are not getting paid a single cent for our work, nor compensated in any way. All of my opinions are my own.**