First two interesting numbers. 20 million electric bicycles are sold in China every year. 20 thousand are sold in the US every year. That should give you a clue about where the bikes are being built. The Chinese customer has a lot less money than the potential American customer so by necessity, the Chinese electric bikes are cheap. Unfortunately, this translates into quality problems that have damaged the reputation of electric bicycles in the fledgling American marketplace.
In America, there are a few boutique electric bicycle companies that are building expensive and high quality products. Unfortunately, the market for these 5K + rigs is limited. On the other hand, the under 1K electric bikes suffer from quality issues and don’t offer the kind of riding experience that really shows off the advantages of electric bicycles.
So, now I’m going to talk about the rigs that The Green Riders are putting together. Somewhere along our planning road, we agreed that recumbents are the most comfortable and potentially the most efficient way to go. We also decided to go with the “mid-drive” system which has the motor mounted on the frame. In this system, the motor power runs with the chain and gearing system of the bicycle. The theory is that by keeping the motor in its ‘happy’ rpm range, the motor will run much more efficiently and consequently deliver better performance. In practice, this seems to be partially true but we haven’t noticed a huge difference in miles per amps (essentially, how many miles travelled on a battery charge) between the mid drive system and the hub motors.
The 4th bike is a ready to go rig that anyone with about $2,500 to spend can buy. Not only does this bike work really well, but it is a total head turner! We are completely thrilled that the bike is being loaned to us by the manufacturer!! If you are in a situation where a bicycle could replace your need for a car, the Pi Cycle would be something to look at.
No registration, no insurance, no gas and very little electricity.
As the quality improves and as fossil fuel transportation becomes increasingly expensive, electric bicycles will, in my opinion, become commonplace within a few short years.