Articles & Interesting Information on Ebikes

A History of Motorized Bikes

The origins of the motorized bicycle can be traced back to 1897 with Felix Millet's motorcycle, showing the common ancestry of motorized bicycles and motorcycles. Note the rotary engine built into the back wheel.

Here is a friction drive to the front wheel, motor mounted over front fork crown. My Dad wanted one of these so badly when he was a kid in the 1940's, now, he can proudly say his childhood dream has come true! He was one of the first to sign up for the 48v city bike!

Here was an early Derny motor-pacing cycle (motor mounted in frame, drive via chain to rear wheel)

Experiments began their attempts by attaching steam engines to stock tricycles and quadracycles. This moved into attempts to fit the newly-invented internal combustion engine to the bicycle form.

In the case of motorized bicycles there were two parallel streams of development: motor assistance as an addition to existing machines, and purpose-built motor-assisted bicycles like the Derny and VeloSoleX, with stronger frames and sometimes with only token ability to be wholly human powered. In these cases some assert that the product is more formally a motorcycle or moped than a motorized bicycle, and some jurisdictions also take this view.

Modern motorized bicycles also follow both trends, with conversions being applied by hobbyists as well as commercial manufacturers. Hub motors in particular facilitate aftermarket conversion, being built into the wheel and not requiring modifications to the drivetrain or frame, as well as having a low centre of gravity. Converting bicycles or tricycles has proven useful for some people with physical disabilities such as arthritis. The strength of tricycles is that they will balance even while stationary, but some people find it harder to drive a tricycle and claim it lacks agility. Portability is also compromised compared to bicycles.

The modern electric bicycle is true to the concept of a pedal bicycle with assisting propulsion, being ridable without power. Batteries have finite capacity, which means that the hybrid human / electric power mix is much more likely to be emphasized than is the case with an internal combustion (IC) engine. Electric bicycles are gaining acceptance, especially in Europe and Asia, in response to increasing traffic congestion, an aging population and concern about the environment.

Bike with whizzer installed

Motorized bicycles' popularity has waxed and waned largely in response to local regulatory requirements. Autocycle manufacturers were well established in countries such as Britain and Australia before the second world war, but the hiatus of the war appears to have set the market back, although the American bolt-on Whizzer continued until 1962. The motorized bicycle saw a resurgence of popularity in Britain during the 1950s and such bolt-on motors as the Cyclaid and the Cyclemaster motor wheel saw brief periods of immense popularity. Elsewhere in Europe the motorized bicycle continued to be popular. The Italian, Vincenti Piatti had designed a 50 cc engine for driving portable lathes and this was also used to in the form of the Mini Motore to power bicycles. Piatti later licensed the design to Trojan for production in Britain as the Trojan Minimotor. Production of The French VeloSoleX began in 1946 and continued until 1988. After French production ceased, the VeloSoleX continued to be produced in Hungary.

A bike equipped with an aftermarket electric hub motor conversion kit, with the battery pack placed on the rear carrier rack.

Historically, internal combustion (IC) engines dominated the motorized bicycle market, but most current models use electric motors. A few still use small two stroke or four stroke IC engines, most notably the Derny still used for pacing of bicycle races.
Power can be applied in a number of ways:
-the front or rear wheel may be powered via a motor built into the hub
-a motor mounted in the frame or behind the rider may drive the rear wheel with a chain or rubber belt (e.g. Derny)
-power may be transferred to one or other wheel from a motor mounted directly above, by bringing a powered roller into contact with the tire
-the bicycle's chain may be driven by a sprocket

Internal Combustion
The 1900 Singer Motor Wheel was a wheel incorporating a small IC engine that could be substituted for the front wheel of a bicycle, while the 1914 Smith Motor Wheel was attached to the rear of a bicycle by means of an outrigger arm, a design later taken up by Briggs & Stratton.
The VeloSoleX, probably the last large-scale IC-powered motorized bicycle, used friction drive to the front wheel. The last volume manufactured in-wheel IC engine was used on the Honda P50 moped which ceased production around 1968.

There are many possible types of electric motorized bicycles with several technologies available for electric motors, varying in cost and complexity; direct-drive and geared motor units are both used. An electric power-assist system may be added to almost any pedal cycle. Chain drive and hub motors are both common, friction drive less so.
Electric bicycles are generally powered by rechargeable batteries. These are normally charged from the utility supply (mains), with perhaps the option of using the motor to effect regenerative braking or charging while being pedalled or rolling downhill. There are also experiments with recharging via solar panels and, to a lesser extent, other alternative energy sources such as fuel cells. Most modern electric bikes use technologies such as rare earth magnets, pulse width modulated power electronic control and regenerative braking to improve efficiency. Batteries are usually either lead-acid, NiCd, NiMH or Li-ion. Lithium ion polymer batteries are now beginning to be used as well, offering the advantage of lighter weight for the same energy storage capability but at a higher cost.
Electric motorized bicycles are either power-on-demand, where the motor is activated by a handlebar mounted throttle, or pedelec (from pedal electric), where the electric motor is regulated by pedalling. These may have a mechanism such as a crank sensor to detect when the user is pedalling, or a more sophisticated torque sensor. The degree of assistance can usually be controlled to optimise battery life.
Range is a key consideration with electric bikes, and is affected by factors such as motor efficiency, battery capacity, efficiency of the driving electronics, aerodynamics, hills and weight of the bike and rider combined. The range of an electric bike is usually stated as somewhere between 7km (uphill on electric power only) to 70km (minimum assistance).

While most electric bicycles can be classified as zero-emissions vehicles, as they emit no combustion byproducts, the environmental effects of electricity generation and power distribution and of manufacturing and disposing of (limited life) high storage density batteries must be taken into account. Even with these issues considered, electric bicycles will have significantly lower environmental impact than conventional automobiles, and are generally seen as environmentally desirable in an urban evironment.

The environmental credentials of electric bikes, and electric / human powered hybrids generally, have led some municipal authorities to use them, such as Little Rock, Arkansas with their Wavecrest electric power-assisted bicycles or Cloverdale Police with Zap electric bicycles.

LIBERTY 098... a true story.

Looking at a long line of bikes, my attention was immediately drawn to this one. There was more to it than just the fact that it had a powerhouse 48 volt battery, and was a tasteful light blue color. I noticed the careful attention to the little things. The kickstand was unlike any I had ever seen. When you rolled the bike backwards pushing the stand down, it rode upon the stand and a slight push back engaged the stand. The stand locked into position. This bike wasn't going to fall on a flimsy stand; it was a heavy metal stand with a locking mechanism. Just pushing the bike forward was not going to make the stand go back, one had to deliberately place his foot on the release lever, and then gently push the bike forward. Now the bike was ready to go.
Next thing I noticed was the seat. It was much more than a bicycle seat. Thank God! I was ready to sit on this baby and take it for a ride. When I first sat on this bike, I was impressed! Immediately I knew that I was sitting on a quality bike.
Many electric bikes have one problem. . . when you sit on them you feel like you are sitting on a bike! This felt more like I was sitting on my Honda Shadow! I knew that I could go the distance with this seat. When I turned the throttle, immediately I could feel the substance and power of the 48v battery powering the efficient brushless hub motor. I took off and immediately began looking for the nearest hill.
I drove around town till I found the nearest hill, and with no pedalling I cycled right up the incline, not just once, but several times! After being satisfied with the hill performance, I took off down the street and back to the shop. I was looking to really challenge this heavy duty bike. My friend was anxious to hop on so she sat on the rear seat and we took off! We rode about 4 miles to our next destination. I dropped her off (she had some work to do), and I took off looking for more hills and just having a ball with the new pollution free, quiet running bike. I guess this was about 3 miles. No noisy gas engine. No expensive gas, just 5 cents to charge the battery!
After touring for about an hour, I picked up my friend and we drove back home about 4 miles and had to go inside. Since it was in the city, I wondered where should we leave this bike that everyone was gawking at? No problem, it had a built in front fork lock. There was no way that someone could wheel this bike away, so we just locked it up and went inside. Later we took another ride... about 7 miles, that's right, with BOTH of us on the bike. Me at 180 pounds and her at about 110 pounds, and all 290 pounds travelled to the part. We took a walk and did another 7 miles back. When we rode back it was dark! No problem this bike has a built-in headlight that is more than enough. Later my friend took the bike back to work, another 4 miles.
The next day, another friend who weighs about 200 pound, decided to take this powerhouse for a ride. He said that he rode another 15 miles. So I stopped to count this up: 4 + 3 +4 + 7 + 7 + 15 = 40 miles. My friend saw that his battery was running low, but now he was 15 miles from home! Think 55 miles! He got home, but had to do some pedaling. All in all, this bike went for many miles -- get this -- on LESS than a full charge with minimal pedalling!
Now we don't advertise this kind of mileage, I am only telling my experience. With the neat dashboard battery gauge, you are never stranded. If someone forgets to charge up your bike for a few days and are running on low, you won't get stranded, you only will need to get some good old-fashioned exercize.

My advice?
If you are looking for a bike with the following features:
Lots of volts -- this has 48v
Long distance - we went a long way, with 18 miles being at 290 pounds!
Comfortable seat - even with a place for a second rider!
You want to carry stuff - you can with a big front basket, a toolbox in the rear,
and I have seen others with all kinds of stuff on the flat between their feet.
This 48v Heavy Duty City Bike Can't Be Beat!

Electric Bicycles: Environmental Benefits

Gas-powered cars are the primary source of air pollution in the United States. In addition to their effect on our health, exhaust gases and particles from cars do extensive damage to crops, vegetation, and wildlife. In particular, motor vehicles are a significant source of water pollution. Oil, antifreeze, and small tire particles accumulate on roads and highways; during the rainy season, they are washed into our streams and waterways, causing damage to aquatic life. In the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the leading sources of metallic pollution in the bay is copper from auto brake pads. Finally, noise pollution from automotive traffic additionally stresses our lives.

Even after counting emissions from power plants, electric bicycles are factor 10 less polluting than gas vehicles. For every 500 miles an electric bike is used in place of a car, an average of 25 gallons of fuel is saved - and this much pollution is prevented:
3.42 pounds of hydrocarbons
25.28 pounds of carbon monoxide
1.77 pounds of nitrogen oxides
[Calculating emissions is an inherently tricky business. There are so many variables that there are no exact numbers in this game. The numbers here were calculated by David Swain, an engineer at the US EPA's Ann Arbor Mobile Emissions Laboratory. An alternative emission factor, listed as the "EPA Mobile 4.1 Model," that cites Carbon Monoxide levels emitted by the average car as 65.3 grams per mile. Using this number the CO savings after 500 miles would be approximately 70 pounds!]

Or you could go pollution free by fueling your Light Electric Vehicle (LEV) with electricity purchased from a "green" power company. Some electric companies supply most or all of their power from wind, sun, or falling water ("green" power). Starting April 1, 1998, Californians can choose their electric utility. You and I can "vote with our dollars" for green power. Here are two websites that review green power companies: and

Your investment in an electric bike can pay dividends beyond U. S. borders. Your purchase supports the growth of an industry that could make a big difference in developing countries. For example, as its economy prospers, China is in the unique position to skip the polluting gas moped and scooter phase altogether and leapfrog directly from human-powered bikes to clean electric vehicles. The pollution savings are staggering, far beyond what the U.S. could alone.

Scientific opinion is clear and close to unanimous that global warming is already happening. CO2 is the main culprit. For every mile a car travels, approximately one pound of CO2 enters the atmosphere. For background info on global warming and the process scientists used to conclude its truth, check

The Federal government's EPA site focuses on the science and impacts of global warming or climate change, and on actions by governments, corporations, and individuals that help address global warming issues. The site also features climate change related news, events, publications, reports, presentations, and links to other sites.
Other climate-related sites: Economist Statement on Climate Change
**** Building one car uses as much material as it takes to make 100 bicycles. (CA Bicycle Coalition)****
Short trips account for most of the cars on the road and most of our air pollution. So, for the health of the planet, leave your car at home and ride your electric bike. "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

A New Way of Transport

We invite you to dream of a new clean, green, pollution free city.

Introducing a radically new way of transport

Ask someone about electric vehicles, and he says "it's a good idea, but, you know, the battery technology is still a problem !"
Well, the good news is that now the affordable electric vehicle is here today, as an electric bicycle.
There is a story that Thomas Edison promised Henry Ford a battery and a motor that would be practical for an auto, back in the 1930s. "70 years later," said Lee Iacocca, "we still don't have it." Iacocca is right. Electric cars are temptingly near, but still in the future.

The most popular vehicle in the world today is the bicycle. There are almost 145 crore bicycles in use today, and only about 33 crore cars. Far more people use a bicycle than a car. (one Crore= 10 Million)
Electric bicycles can go farther than conventional bicycles. It is easier to pedal

They can be quickly recharged almost anywhere, or batteries can be exchanged instantly with charged batteries. Any bicycle repair shop can attend them to.

In western countries, the bicycle is mainly for customers who want to exercise. While in developing countries, this is a real mode of transport and business. Look at paper wallahs, couriers and hawkers, meter readers, park rangers, postman, industrial users, indoor plant messengers and countless other categories of workers. Delivery in traffic congested areas is already a major use of the bicycle. Electric Bike will make these workers more productive.
They will all like this idea of sweating less and working longer hours.
The market for Electric Bike could be many times more than that for engine driven two wheelers. Remember that every time the bicycle has become easier to pedal, its sales has gone up. Just think of the balloon tire in the 30's, the racer bikes in the 50's, the 10-speed in the 70's, and the mountain bike in the 80's.

The Electric Bike will be preferred by many millions of people. It is silent, does not stink or vibrate, is affordable and reliable.
Seniors want to go outdoors, but are not always able to pedal easily. They will like this very much. Especially the three wheeled version.

Commuters, thwarted with traffic conditions, and spiralling cost of car ownership, will find Electric Bike a very sensible choice.
One of the most important markets can be police and other law enforcement agencies. A police officer on an Electric Bike can be the first on the scene, beating both jeeps and normal bicycles.

When is this acceptance going to happen?
Yesterday! Look around. Not just here -look at the world.

In 1997, Japanese companies built more than twice as many Electric Bikes as mountain bikes. And, the value of the Electric Bike brought to them a big 18% of the sales of bicycles. That was up 240% over 1996.

China's production numbers are unknown, but it is believed that 15% of Chinese bicycles will be electric by 2002, a number which could mean that 5 million Electric Bikes would be on the streets of China!

If 1996 to 1997 can run a 240% increase in Japan ... If Iacocca is predicting a 50,000 unit first year (that would represent a 500% plus increase for sales in the USA.) ... If Bob Steeple (former chairman of GM), Malcolm Currie (former CEO of Hughes) and other noted authorities on transportation technology are talking big about the Electric Bike ...........

Who will gain?
Everyone will benefit due to efficient and clean transportation. Immense social, economic and environmental benefits can be gained by reducing petroleum dependency, air pollution, and greenhouse effects.
Transport planners and metro designers will have a great tool that will decrease air pollution, increase the capacity of roadways by reducing auto trips, and reduce congestion and parking demands.

Electric Bike: Economic Benefits
Electric bicycles offer an alternative to the high costs of driving. Maintenance & fuelling costs are minimal. So every time you ride an Electric Bike you save money.
The electricity for charging is the fuel and costs about $5 per year (The charger works on 110v and charges in a few hours.

In addition to personal benefits, society at large also realises economic benefits from increased Electric Bike use. Cleaner air reduces the incidence of respiratory diseases and their associated health care costs. Widespread use could also reduce pressure for more roads and road maintenance.

Do you want to do more for our environment?
Riding an Electric Bike reduces fossil fuels use and global warming, perhaps the biggest issue facing us today. It also reduces air and noise pollution.

Do you want a simpler lifestyle?
An Electric Bike is simple to use, fix, and pay for. It's the kind of clean, quiet, and people-friendly transportation we really need.

Is saving money important to you?
Electricity to power an Electric Bike costs 4% of fuel costs for a car. Maintenance and repair costs are also much less. So every kilometer you ride saves money. When combined with public transport, you can go almost anywhere.


by Jamais Cascio
Leapfrog Nations - Emerging Technology in the New Developing World

Although the presence of officials such as Pan Yue in the Chinese bureaucracy is a small sign of hope, China remains an ever-worsening environmental disaster. Air and water pollution still choke the country, brought on by barely-regulated industries. Cities are being rebuilt to better-accomodate automobiles, and China is now the number two importer of oil in the world, beating out Japan, behind only the United States.
But there are signs that some citizens of China are starting to take environmental matters into their own hands. Two recent stories illustrate the breadth of what that can mean: urban dwellers buying and using electric bikes made by small start-ups in defiance of city leaders and the national auto industry; and a peasant uprising over industrial pollution. Read on for details.
IEEE Spectrum is a technologist journal, but it very often has articles of great interest to worldchangers; "China's Cyclists Take Charge," posted today on their website, is an excellent example.
With all of the attention paid to the growing number of automobiles in China, it's worth noting that over ten million three electric bikes and scooters will be sold there this year alone -- that's nearly three times more electric bikes sold than autos. It's not surprising; electric bikes are inexpensive (as low as 1500 yuan, or about $180), easy to operate, and well-suited to the crowded urban Chinese streets. Most are made by a variety of small manufacturers, lifting designs and ideas from each other (and from overseas companies), competing aggressively for the Chinese market. They're used for intra-city transit and, increasingly, for deliveries.
But city and regional officials, mindful of the auto industry's status as a "pillar industry," have been trying to crack down on the use of electric bikes. They claim that the lead-acid batteries are an environmental risk, and that the use of electric bikes undercuts the use of public transit. Both arguments apply far more to automobiles, but there are no attempts to restrict cars in the same way.
Electric bike owners are ignoring the restrictions, however, and manufacturers are starting to build up some political weight of their own:
Although the odds against them are daunting, electric-bike manufacturers are pushing back, with surprising success. The mastermind of one of the most high-profile battles is Ni Jie, president of Luyuan Electric Vehicle Co., a privately owned manufacturer that has a pragmatic approach to the market, a sizable R&D effort, and an ambitious vision for Chinese EV technology. [...]
Ni took people power to surprising limits in 2003 when officials in Fuzhou, the capital of neighboring Fujian province, decided to ban electric bicycles?shutting off what until then had been one of Luyuan's best markets. The city not only ceased issuing licenses for electric bicycles but also seized 20 electric bikes from a bicycle shop in the summer of 2003. Ni gathered a coalition of 126 electric-bike manufacturers and filed suit against the city in its own municipal court. The coalition scored a partial win against the city government, forcing it to return the seized bikes.
Far more valuable, says Ni, was the sympathetic coverage they received from national media and the warning that attention sent to other municipalities. "What we told other governments is that if they do the same as Fuzhou, there will be some trouble," he says.

The Chinese government will be happy to have this energetic electric vehicle industry in the years to come, as the growing reliance on internal combustion autos becomes less and less tenable. The electric bikes could have some real value outside of dense urban areas, too. As we reported last month, the single-cylinder diesel "mules" in rural China, which make up a quarter of the vehicles in the country, are responsible for over half the pollution. As rural electrification in China progresses, electric scooters and delivery vehicles could take over that niche, reducing a major source of air pollution (and CO2) while building up a homegrown industry.
But rural China has more to worry about than diesel mules. Industrial parks are increasingly being located in rural areas because of the cheap land, with sometimes dire effects on the local populace. As the Washington Post reported on Monday, In the Dongyang region, the pollution from local factories (including one making pesticides) was so bad that it withered crops and sickened the residents of surrounding village, Huaxi.
But no one, the villagers lamented, would listen to their pleas to have the factories closed.
It was not for lack of trying. Huaxi officials, including Party Secretary Wang Wei, visited other factories in the region and warned in a confidential report that pollution was a danger to residents and agriculture. A copy of the report was leaked and posted for all to see. Partly as a result, villagers wrote an open letter to the Dongyang municipal government demanding the industrial park be closed.
"The Dongyang government turned a deaf ear to it all," said one of those involved.

In March, after four years of official complaints and petitions, the villagers took action, blockading the industrial park.
Initial attempts by police to remove protesters were blocked by villagers. A subsequent police raid, in April, resulted in beatings of a number of elderly protesters; as a result, 20,000 villagers came to their defense, destroying police vehicles and attacking the police with stones, forcing them to flee. Finally, in late May, local officials relented, agreeing to shut down the factories, and the protesters returned home. The Post reports that Dongyang has now sent plainclothes police into Huaxi to attempt to uncover who led the uprising.
As this indicates, a bottom-up environmental revolution will be neither bloodless nor smooth. Those in power dislike having their power challenged. Demands for a cleaner environment -- whether by protest or by purchase -- can result in restrictions and reprisals, only to see those demands made again, even more strongly.
It's increasingly clear that a growing number of Chinese citizens have decided that it's worth defying the authorities to reduce pollution. It's a risky decision. But if this trend continues, it could also be transformative -- and completely worldchanging.