Bicycles are one of the most efficient human powered machines.
Riding a bike can be a joy!
However, not everyone in our community is able-bodied enough to ride up our hills or go the long commuting distances from rural home to the urban market on our hilly roads or in our often dark, cold & wet climate.
The new bicycle technology that combines the efficiency of the human powered bicycle with the technology of a power-assisted electric motor & a rechargeable battery extends the population that can bicycle for errands or commuting.
We are researching to find a quality electric-assisted bicycle that would be useful to for long distance commutes & for running errands, while getting exercise but not exhausting ourselves with hills & distances. We want to choose something that is first a quality bicycle, and second has a state-of-the-art motor & battery that can allow us to go over 30 miles without a charge.
I know there are many models that can be useful for getting around town if you live & shop & work in the urban zone, but I have so far only found one brand that would be useful for longer distances, steep hills, and be able to put on the buses.
My favorite pedal-assist bicycle so far is called the Ohm brand.
I've test ridden the Sport 700 this spring and found it extremely responsive, especially going up hills!
The controller can 'sense' the amount of effort I put on the pedals in relation to the gear I'm in.
"Ohm uses BionX drive technology with Molicel Rechargeable Li-ions cells and are truly bicycles with multiple gear cogs. The bikes produce zero emissions during operation. Each Power pack consumes about one kilowatt-hour of energy while recharging" - http://ohmcycles.com/our-bikes/
These bicycles also use hydraulic disk brakes.
Electric assisted bicycles in Europe are often called "PedElecs"
One of our friends commutes on his Ohm bike from Whitbey Island to his office in Seattle.
He & his wife plan to market these bicycles on their website at www.seattleelectricbike.NET .
Here is their email- firstname.lastname@example.org
(Ask me if you need their phone number or want to be contacted to schedule a test ride next time they are in Whatcom County).
This spring I called many bicycle shops and was told they did not sell any power-assisted bicycles.
But now at least one local bike shops offers an electric bicycle. The model I saw there was a Torker brand, but I was unimpressed with its 3 gear hub or its battery.
REI has a brand they are selling, but when I last checked they did not have a model to see in B'ham.
Also, the online picture looks similar to some of the other asian made bicycles that do Not fit onto buses because of their extended wheel base (due to the battery being designed to be between the rear bike tube & rear wheel).
We will most likely go with obtaining an Ohm cycle brand unless we find something better, that is not more expensive.
(And our friends have the Sport 700 on sale through December 09, before the newer models come out).
It is also possible to add an Ohm motor with battery & controller to a bicycle you currently use....but that is not something I can recommend, as I prefer the safety & durability of the hydraulic disc brakes that come with the complete Ohm bicycle.
One of my previous concerns, even though I used to work as a bicycle mechanic, was finding a local bike shop that would do repairs on an electric bicycle. I have now found a bicycle mechanic that is willing to work on an electric assisted bicycle that has hydraulic disc brakes.
Bicycles can be built to last a lifetime with occasional part replacements. (My favorite bike is still my 1980's Univega touring bicycle). One of my concerns environmentally with the electric assisted bicycles is asking what the true environmental & social cost to build them is, how long do the batteries last, and how can they be safely recycled for another use when they no longer function.
That is also 'the question' I like to ask with anything I'm thinking of bringing home.