Interbike 2010: The Electric Revolution!

As we reported back in August, E-bikes were supposed to be a huge presence at Interbike this year. Since this was my first year attending the massive tradeshow, I have no way of gauging whether or not electric/e-assist bikes were so visible in previous editions, but I can say with confidence that they were EVERYWHERE in 2010. It seems like every major manufacturer had one or two e-bikes on display, with a number of large booths displaying a number of different models. And I saw every setup under the sun: batteries hidden in the racks or built-in to the frames, hub motors, friction-drive setups or motors built into oversized bottom brackets. I took a ton of photos of various e-bike flavors, but don’t have a lot of information to accompany them. In many of the photos, the manufacturer will be visible. Take a look at some of the stuff we spotted:

Here’s one from Achiever Bike that incorporates an electric-assist motor in the oversized bottom bracket shell. The battery pack is under the rack and the drivetrain is mated to the new NuVinci N360:

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Here’s a sharp-looking cruiser by Pedego, with large rear hub motor. Pedego had a big display with a lot of varieties to choose from:

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Here’s another by Pedego, this one a trike with some smart cargo boxes instead of a typical wire basket:

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Here’s a friction-drive electric assist kit by Pedalix — their “Hidden Power” system . It won a gold award at this year’s Eurobike, and appears to be mountable to most bicycles. In this photo it is mounted to a Specialized Langster NYC:

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IZip had a large floor display with a number of e-bike setups. I liked this one in particular due to its stout rear rack, “angry bee” paint scheme and color-matched basket on the front. The battery pack on IZip bikes is hidden within the frame’s downtube.

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This is an e-bike by Kilowatt. One of the things I noticed about some of the more “complete” e-bike offerings was that the smart companies were choosing the tried-and-true BionX system. More on this in a bit…in the meantime, check out this Kilowatt:

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We’ve already seen the Torker Interurban-E drop-bar touring bike in a previous post, but here it is again…so nice! Alfine rear hub, disc brakes on both ends, sweet pedal assist…a great setup:

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Here’s a sneak peek at the Urbana electric-assist bike. We’re hoping that we can get an example of this beauty to test for you:

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Urbana (a Bikecommuters.com “Editors’ Choice” winner for 2010) also chose the BionX system for this model. As I was talking to a respected industry representative, I asked “what do you think is holding the U.S. back from embracing electric and electric-assist bikes the way Europe and the Far East have?” This rep had an interesting take: three or four years ago, electric bike kits flooded the market in the U.S. Many of them were comprised of sub-standard or immature technology and were prone to early failure. This sort of turned off many potential e-bike purchasers and the current crop of bikes using the (relatively expensive) BionX system is an answer to those earlier problems. The BionX has a great track record and is worth the extra investment, or so our industry rep indicated…she might be onto something, because as I mentioned earlier, BionX appeared on all the top-shelf models.

Here’s an interesting one…spotted in the Stromer booth. I can’t find my notes, but this one appears to be a folder with the battery hidden in the center of the pivoting portion of the frame:

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The above is just a sampling of the myriad e-bikes on display at the Sands this year. Some rough general observations — most of these bikes have a range of about 20 miles with heavy e-assist use/40 miles or so when the user pedals more. Top speed of the e-assist motors hovers around 20 mph (the top speed might be regulated in different states; check your municipal and state laws for specifics). Battery voltages range from 24V to 36V, and charge times vary but with most in the 4-5 hour range. And most importantly: e-bikes are coming! This segment of the market is maturing rapidly, and as battery technology improves, this segment is just going to get bigger and bigger.

Of course, there is some evidence that not all U.S. consumers…or even sellers…are “getting it”. One Clearwater, Florida-based retailer is selling moped-style e-bikes as “DUI Scooters“. Looks like we have a way to go before things get more serious in the electric/electric-assist bicycle field….


7 Comments

  1. Wayne Myer October 11, 2010 10:54 am 

    Whatever gets people riding bicycles more is okay in my book. However, I can’t help but bristle a little when someone who otherwise blatantly can’t propel their bike at a decent clip rips past on a climb and gives that smug, over-the-shoulder, “I just blew past you” look. Yeah, buddy, how fast can you push that thing without the motor?

  2. Ghost Rider October 11, 2010 11:54 am 

    Wayne, I’m right there with you — I was reluctant to embrace the whole e-bike “thing”, but now that I’ve gotten to try a few models first-hand, I see the potential. It may get folks who otherwise wouldn’t try a bike out of their cars and onto a (mostly) self-propelled machine.

    While your scenario hasn’t happened to me yet, I think I’d be a little bristly too!

  3. peteathome October 12, 2010 6:36 am 

    The Bionx is a decent system – I’ve had a kit on my bike now for going on three years and it has performed flawlessly. And it is so light that my bike still feels exactly like a bike.

    But I was hoping to see more use of the “fast charge” battery technology. I think Schwinn is the only major manufacturer using it – they have Toshiba’s SCiB battery. These batteries are not as dense as the regular lithium ion most manufacturers are using but have many more charge cycles. They might last the life of the bicycle.

    But more interesting to me is that they can be safely charged almost as fast as you can pump current into them. With the right charger you could completely charge a battery of Bionx’s capacity in 15 minutes from an ordinary wall outlet. Just right to recharge while having a coffee. This would make the bikes very practical for things like touring and other long-distance assisted riding.

  4. Ghost Rider October 12, 2010 7:04 am 

    Pete — very interesting observation about the SCiB battery; a technology I’m not familiar with. As I mentioned, e-bike technologies are maturing and perhaps more companies will try these new battery systems.

  5. Mike Myers October 12, 2010 10:19 am 

    I like the Torker drop bar bike a lot. I couldn’t see TOURING on it, but it surely would be nice on commute days when I don’t have the gas in my own tank.

  6. Raiyn October 13, 2010 11:16 pm 

    Those “DUI Scooters” are only “bicycles” by technicality. Nobody actually expects to be able to pedal those things.

    Personally I’m not a fan of e-bikes except as a boost for cargo haulers like the Pedego trike. I really like the idea behind the Stokemonkey: “The motor drives the pedals, just like the stoker of a tandem bicycle helps the captain. You cannot use the motor without pedaling, but you can pedal normally without any motor resistance, and coast whenever you let go of the throttle. As you shift gears to maintain normal pedal speeds, you keep the motor operating between its most powerful and efficient speeds, for several times the torque, higher top speeds, and much better range than typical electric bike products lacking variable motor gearing.” (from Clever Cycles)

    Ding Dong the DISQUS is dead! W00T!

  7. ToxicHaste October 14, 2010 12:49 pm 

    Again, gang, I’m been pretty happy with mine:

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=72657&id=1385010309&l=978fb580e7

    I don’t get to ride it exclusively (it lacks the dexterity of my lighter bike), but it comes in *really* handy with errands and such. As a regular bike commuter, I think I can tolerate smug looks if it means one less car on the road. :o)

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