By Jody McCutcheon
We are slowly weaning ourselves off petrol products, but perhaps too slowly. A key means of hastening this endeavor is to reduce our reliance on gas-powered automobiles, especially in urban environments, where they’re most concentrated yet least needed, as short trips rule. Think of it this way: The more emission-belching vehicles we get off the road, the healthier for the environment, and also for us. According to a UK study, every minute a commute is extended, commuter happiness and general wellbeing worsen.
Enter the e-bike, a clean, pollution-free method of city transport, especially for the warmer weather. Not to be confused with e-scooters, e-bikes resemble bicycles but possess some extra zip courtesy of an electric motor that kicks in when you feel you simply cannot pedal another minute. Automobile companies are even getting in on the action. Ford recently unveiled two e-bikes at Mobile World Congress 2015, one for commuters and one for couriers. These offerings are part of the auto company’s smart mobility plan, a study of bicycle integration with cars and public transport.
E-bikes range in cost from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, so there’s something for every wallet size. While the majority of e-bikes are affordable to the majority of riders, some boast outrageous car-like prices that make them potentially prohibitive—and definitely luxe. Here are five examples whose beauty–and price tags–might drop your jaw.
The award-winning Stromer ST2 is fully customizable, from frame to components to accessories. The 500-watt brushless SYNO Drive motor offers 35 Newton-metres of torque and an incredible range of up to 150km. Behind the curtain, so to speak—or rather, tucked into the down tube—is a 48-volt lithium ion battery providing up to 814wH of power. With pedaling and motor assistance, the 27kg ST2 achieves a top speed of 45km/h. Connect via smartphone or the “Stromer Portal” to the e-bike’s cloud-based OMNI interface for remote access to helpful information like current speed, distance travelled, time on road and battery charge level. The interface also engages regenerative braking abilities and anti-theft measures, including remote motor locking. Add to that 20-speed Shimano gears, Schwalbe Big Ben puncture-resistant tires and integrated daytime running lights, and you can see why the ST2 starts at $7,000.
Dan Hanebrink is a six-time Mountain Bike national class champ and former US National Cycling Team member who has taken to designing e-bikes. The Hanebrink X3 E-Bike is a bespoke, extreme terrain performance vehicle through-and-through. Rugged and durable, this 38kg, fat-tired e-bike comes with 14-speed gears and a 750-watt sealed brushless electric motor powered by a 36-volt, 9.6 amp-hour battery (an optional 48-volt battery is available). Top speed is about 32km/h, with a range of about 32km. Earning points for style and practicality, the Hanebrink boasts 20-inch tires (the industry’s fattest) that permit ease of travel over just about any surface, including snow, sand and hills. A dual crown triple clamp fork facilitates shock absorption, while superior torque allows for easy ascension of steep gradients. The X3 comes at a base cost of $9,250.
Images: Greg Zook
This high performance, well balanced electric mountain bike has its centre of gravity kept low, thanks to the motor and battery being placed centrally, and close to the ground. Bonus: this also makes any potential servicing of the bike a lot easier. Available in 4 frame sizes to ensure a perfect fit, its 27.5” wheels guarantee perfect traction, momentum and precise angles of attack, but also allow for longer travel. The well designed frame integrates all wires and cables, but there is one thing missing: a water bottle cage. Not that you’ll be panting and puffing much, given the powerful motor, which, if you so desire, can kick in before you even break a sweat.
Another car company getting in on the action is Audi, with their Wörthersee e-bike concept. The coolest thing about the 9-speed Wörthersee isn’t its ultra-light weight of 21kg, or the on-board touchscreen display showing ride details, or its integrated LED light strips, or its smartphone-controlled cycle mode selector and anti-theft immobilization function, or even the swinging arm that supports the back wheel. No, the coolest thing about Audi’s e-bike is that among its cycle modes, it offers two purely for wheelies! It also has a retractable seat for extreme trick riding. Supported by a 48-volt, 530wH lithium ion battery built into the frame, the Wörthersee’s electric motor provides 2.3kW of power for a pedal-assisted top speed of 80kph, with the motor alone reaching 50kph, and a range of about 70km. The uncoolest thing about the Wörthersee? It isn’t yet production-ready. Even so, it already has a price tag in the range of $20,000.
Described by Top Gear Britain as the world’s most powerful e-bike, the M55 Terminus is definitely rare, with only 275 made in the world (five editions of 55 each). Weighing just under 30kg, the standard model is a 14-speed powered by a mid-drive brushless electric motor run on a 43.2-volt battery. Three motor sizes are available: 250W, 2000W and 3000W. Top speed with the 3000W motor is 80kph, with a range of up to 60km. An RPM sensor monitors rider pedal rate and an on-board computer adds extra motor power to boost the top speed. Safety features include full suspension and integrated Supernova LED lights. It is definitely a cool looking bike, reminiscent of the Terminator (or is it just the name that makes us think so?) but the base price of—yikes!—$38,000 is just as scary, and it climbs (as quickly and effortlessly as this baby climbs mountains) to $50,000, depending on the edition.