Monday, February 17

Removing Barriers: The Electric Bike Theory

Saw this last week at Pedal the Planet:

I actually rode it around the store at the behest of the bike shop guy.  He's a good salesman, but I can't justify a $4,200 pricetag.  It was a cool ride.  I gotta say it was pretty fun to feel the bike surge forward with only minimal force applied to the pedals.

I believe the brand is Stromer.  Supposedly it can maintain 30 mph for 25 miles.  It weighs more than a baby elephant, but isn't as unwieldy as it looks.

Electric bikes and electric assist bikes have never appealed to me.  When I was cargo bike crazy back in 2011 I typically shied from EA cargo bikes, but I did look into them a little bit.  My concern is that any EA contraption has a limited range, and once you exceed that range you're shackled with a bike that is much heavier than the heaviest 1980s era BSO.  Case in point: the above image.

For city living they may be the answer.  A bike than can cavort through urban landscapes at 30 mph is pretty significant.  That bike would have made my 20 mile round trip commute in Colorado a piece of cake.  When we lived there I could have justified the pricetag too.  But the thing is, I would also want a decent non-electric bike.  That thing just doesn't do it all.  It's a niche vehicle.  It's good for commuting, hauling groceries (with rack and panniers obviously), and saving human energy.

Ha!  Fascists.

But, and this is a big but, from the standpoint of sustainability this seems to fail to me.  It requires a large input of electricity.  And unless you're charging it from direct sun or wind power it seems like it would have a big carbon footprint for a bike.  It does have regenerative braking, but we all know perpetual motion machines are a myth.

In my mind if you're riding a bike to save the planet then you should just pedal the derned thing.  A bike is a bike.  If you can't ride a bike and do the things you want and need to do on a bike then get a moped.  Or a car.  If you're really committed to living a green lifestyle then you're not going to need this stepping stone to get you there.

Maybe this would help a very few people get into cycling who otherwise would not.  But the pricetag becomes prohibitive for the populations that might be on the fence.  Personally, this bike doesn't do it for me.  That doesn't mean it doesn't solve all the right problems for someone else.  I still think the longtail cargo bike is the stepping stone a lot of people need.

I think what would better enable those who are on the cusp of trying lifestyle cycling are fenders, lights, functional and reliable bikes, and an encouraging local bike culture.  That's what we need to focus on.

I was impressed at the array of commuter accessories that PtP has in stock.  They have the best fender selection I've ever seen.  They've got lots of stuff to outfit an army of bike commuters in Lexington.  They just need more recruits.

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