Pedaling with Electric Bicycles

Solar, electric bicycles are more affordable and lighter weight.

| April/May 1999

The solar electric bike has sped merrily along since the fun, fast, and exorbitantly priced $1,100 experimental prototype we tested and wrote about a couple of years ago. Since then, we're happy to report, the design has been picked up and mass-manufactured: electric hikes are now available as either add-on power kits, for as low as $300 to $600, or as full-production electric models, which sell for anywhere between $325 and $1,500.

The design has remained essentially the same. The battery packs are mounted on the frame beneath the seat, and the bikes can be recharged from any 100-volt AC electric outlet or by solar photovoltaic panels.

Electric bikes can travel 15 to 20 miles—at speeds of 15 to 20 mph—without recharging. And not only can you now affordably get your hands on the handlebars, if you're really motivated, you can probably get an electric bike-commuter program started in your town, using a just-completed one-year project in Palm Springs as a model.

Zap Power Systems of Sebastopol, CA, offers a variety of E-powered options, including the popular EletriCruizer, the ZAP Patrol —an electric mountain bike used by police in Fresno, CA and elsewhere—and the Zappy, a 35-pound scooter that can travel up to 8 miles without recharging, at speeds of up to 13 mph.

Palm Springs' E-Bikes program used 30 electric bikes and 16 recharging stations set up at key city locations. Anyone interested could try out one of the E-bikes by leaving a $30 deposit. The program, funded by auto registration fees and state grant money, cost $70,000, which covered the bikes, the charging stations, and the cost of putting together a survey and report.

But Palm Springs Transportation Manager Robert Mohler says you don't have to spend that much to get a commuter program going. "You can start with as little as three or four bikes and one charging station," he suggests.

10/10/2008 6:38:53 AM

Thank you for this article. Ebikes and scooters are coming down in price the longer they are on the market.

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