Ride Green with Electric Bikes and Scooters

Hop on an electric bike or scooter and never buy gas again.

| April/May 2007

When Carla Graeff runs errands in her suburban Maryland community just outside of Washington, D.C., she doesn’t fire up the family Volvo. Instead, she hops on her eGO electric scooter. What it lacks in creature comforts compared to the family car, it makes up for in much lower operating costs. And it does have air conditioning — the 20 mph in-your-face kind.

Graeff’s eGO doesn’t have pedals. Instead, her feet rest on the battery box that propels the machine at speeds up to 24 mph. Its 24-volt lead-acid batteries give it a working range of 10 to 15 miles. She typically drives it five or six miles on quiet, shady side streets while running errands, carrying what she buys in the wire basket mounted on the rear of the scooter.

In Iceland, gas costs the equivalent of about $6.50 a gallon. So tour guide Fridrik Brekkan commutes around his hometown, Hafnarfjördur, west of Reykjavik, on a Chinese-made electric scooter. He calculates he pays the equivalent of 25 cents to go 60 kilometers (37.8 miles), compared to $16 for the same distance in his Land Rover.

Meanwhile, here on the Great Plains of Nebraska, I regularly ride my TidalForce M-750 electric-assist bike to the bank and post office, and even to shop for small items at the grocery store.

Carla, Fridrik and I have discovered the (literally) quiet joys of e-riding about town, and we’re not alone. Increasingly, people looking for affordable alternatives to increasing gas prices are considering bicycles and motor scooters. Most bikes sold today are the conventional, pedal-yourself kind, and most scooter sales are of the gas-fueled variety. But a handful of electric bikes and scooters are available, with more coming soon, so you now have options for fast, fun, gas-free transportation. The market for electric two- and three-wheelers is promising, but it’s also still young and volatile — buyers should focus on quality, experts say.

Of Pedelecs and E-Bikes

There are two types of electric-assist bicycles: pedelecs and e-bikes. On a pedelec, you have to pedal to activate the electric assist; on an e-bike, you don’t. Pedelecs are essentially a Japanese and European invention. There, governments require that the rider must operate the pedals before electric-assist becomes available, and they limit the electric motor’s power to 250 watts. This is a common-sense safety precaution where riders mix with both automotive traffic and other cyclists in congested urban centers. The United States has no such regulation regarding pedals, and our limit on electric-assist power is 750 watts; 500 watts in Canada.
9/5/2008 11:14:27 AM

Electric bikes have been a terrific innovation. This is a wonderful transportation medium that will get you out side in the fresh air and sunshine. And unlike a car, you can interact with the environment and neighbors in a way that isn't possible with a car. And who knows, you might save some gas money in the process, or even start feeling better about yourself and your health. Visit my web page at and see what the e-bike hype is about!

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