The International Guide to Alternatives in Cycling

Compiled and written by Hannes Neupert of Extra Energy, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting muscle-electrically powered vehicles.

Extra Energy, Koskauer Strabe 98 / D - 07922 Tanna, Germany

More Power To You

Gone are the days when the pleasure of cycling was inextricably linked with the not-so-pleasurable strain of hill-climbing or the tiresome grind in the teeth of a headwind. Today we can choose how hard we work, thanks to a new genre of vehicle, the pedelec. This ExtraEnergy section of this year’s Encycleopedia gives just a brief glimpse into what may become a new renaissance for pedal-power in urban transport. The new technology offers the opportunity for whole new sectors of society to rediscover human-powered mobility, thanks to pedelecs which bring the comfort level of cycling up to the level expected by today’s consumers. That this is a reality, rather than some optimistic fiction, is proved by a look at the sales figures for 1999.

Worldwide, 500,000 pedelecs and e-bikes were sold: 200,000 pedelecs in Japan, 200,000 e-bikes in China, 40,000 pedelecs and e-bikes in Europe, 40,000 pedelecs and e-bikes in the USA and 20,000 pedelecs and e-bikes in the rest of the World. In this Encycleopedia we show a few examples, which fall more or less into the various categories proposed by ExtraEnergy. SRAM are the first to launch into the easy-pedelec category with their Sparc. The Lafree fulfills many of the comfort-pedelec criteria admirably. The flyer exemplifies the potential of a sports pedelec. The Heinzmann Estelle embodies the properties of an e-bike - but is also available as a pedelec. The Heinzman drive is also very suitable for the practical creation of load-carrying pedelecs. The Rabbit Tool folding e-bike is an excellent example of a vehicle to be used in conjunction with other modes of transport. The Rabbit Tool hub motor is also particularly suitable for use in multi-track load-carriers and special bikes. The Lynch motor system also opens up interesting ExtraEnergy, the German-based international organization which promotes human/electric vehicles, divide electric bikes into two categories:

Pedelec: The power comes on when you pedal. It’s like cycling with a tailwind. The power of the motor assist is coupled to the effort of the rider using a force or motion sensor. Because the motor is only active when you’re pedaling, the human power element is always dominant. Pedelecs, which Yamaha first brought to market in 1994, have the potential to create a new generation of personal transport, which rides like a bicycle, yet is as comfortable as a motorbike.

E-Bike: Hand-control of the throttle. On an e-bike the motor power is regulated using a twistgrip or knob, as on a moped. Muscle and electric power are completely independent. E-Bikes can be ridden both in purely electric or muscle/electric modes. E-Bikes tend to be more like electric mopeds than bicycles. The trend is to ever-increasing motor power, and this tends to dominate the human power element.

Pedelecs for all
Car buyers can choose from a wide range of types: Limousine, van, sports car, cabriolet, pick-up. In the future you will be able to choose a pedelec to suit your exact needs in just the same way. Here we show five examples of how pedelecs might develop in the future.

Easy Pedelec
If you find walking hard going, and cycling is too strenuous, then easy pedelecs offer a new chance at mobility and recreation. Speed and range are suited to shopping trips or convivial day-trips of 20 to 30Km. Weight should not exceed 18 to 20Kg. The easy pedelec rides like a normal bike, but much easier - It’s like a built-in tailwind!

Comfort Pedelec
The comfort pedelec is the vehicle for business users, everyday commuters or occasional riders, and also for day rides. Comfort and riding fun, and not traffic jams or parking problems, are guaranteed with a comfortable saddle, full suspension, lockable luggage box and other features. An infrared security system protects from theft. The extra weight of this comfort equipment, which would otherwise make hill-climbing hard, is compensated for by the electric motor. A partial or full pairing could also be added. You can start your working day fresh, not sweaty. After work you’ll pedal away happily instead of going to the gym.

Sport Pedelec
Sport-oriented and trend-conscious young people will embrace the sport pedelec as a new fashion, which is also most suitable for everyday use. Speeds of 35Km/H and more in combination with individual, dynamic design and corresponding branding bring image, fun and fitness.

Load-Carrying Pedelec
The load carrying pedelec is equipped to carry loads of all sorts. The vehicle is highly powered, so that steep sections can be overcome even with a full load.

Race Pedelec
The race pedelec is designed for high speeds, with an aerodynamic shape for low wind resistance, low weight and exclusive design. Its attractive racing image makes this an important showcase for pedelec technology.

At just 16kg, the Rabbit Tool EX-Bike from the USA sets new standards for an e-bike. Using an aluminum frame from Dahon and their very compact alternating-current motor/generator, Rabbit Tool has developed this bike as a showcase for their motor technology. It’s a commuter vehicle for short distances, to be used in conjunction with other modes of transport - hence the focus on a minimum-weight design. A backpack bag from Dahon makes trips by bus, air or train hassle-free.

The motor is a gear-reduced brushless AC design with a continuous rating of 300W. The range goes from the standard front and rear wheel versions to an ultra-compact design which, including the tyre, gives an 8” wheel, suitable for, for example, wheel chairs, lawn mowers, hand carts or industrial applications. The variant with one-sided wheel support and integrated disk brake is unique world-wide, and is ideal for multi-track recumbents, transport bikes or trailers. The motors are up to 95% efficient in a wide range of conditions - Rabbit Tool is delighted to provide technical details. Different windings are available to suit the torque required.

The motor also offers the possibility of electric braking, and regenerative braking at very high efficiencies - feeding current back to the batteries when going downhill or reducing speed. This patented technology opens up exciting new possibilities for the manufacturers of e-bikes and pedelecs: regenerative braking is powerful enough to make normal braking a rarity, only needed in emergencies, and it has the potential to greatly extend the range of electric vehicles. It also confers independence: prop the rear wheel off the ground, and pedaling will re-charge the batteries. It could also be used to generate stationary power - ideal for camping.

The 7 or 13 Ah nickel metal hydride batteries are contained in close-fitting aluminum tubes, for optimal dispersal of the heat generated during the charging process. The standard charger takes two hours, and is designed to sense the state of the batteries, using smart charging to greatly extend battery life. It is contained in a metal casing the size and shape of a drinks bottle, so it can be easily transported. A one-hour charger is under development. The batteries can also, of course, be solar-recharged.

"The Rabbit Tool folding e-bike is an excellent example of a vehicle to be used in conjunction with other modes of transport. The Rabbit Tool hub motor is also particularly suitable for use in multi-track load-carriers and special bikes."

    -Hannes Neupert of Extra Energy

Rabbit Tool

O.J. Birkestrand heads a mechanical engineering firm making small machine tools in Illinois, USA, and has been developing the electric wheel's hub motor assembly for several years. Motor, throttle, controller and battery pack are designed to be fitted to existing vehicles with minimum modification. Birkestrand is keen to emphasize that Rabbit Tool are not developers: the Dahon machine is a technology demonstrator, designed to show manufacturers of existing light-weight vehicles the potential of their new motor and battery technologies. Rabbit is in the process of tooling up for high-volume production of the system, allowing for wider distribution.

In the USA, complete systems (motor, battery, throttle, controller) cost from $500.