a supplement by
Electric Bike Report FIREBRANds Discover the country’s hottest e-bike brands.
L.A. shop is part of a new breed of electric-only retailers.
Amp up your vocabulary with our e-bike glossary.
Actress Lisa Rinna test-rode Currie’s new eFlow E3 Nitro at the Interbike Electric Bike Media Event.
March 15, 2013
Electric Bike Report
About this special report on e-bikes … RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA—Electric bicycles are here, and they’re not going away. But the category needs a little help to achieve the growth that its supporters believe is inevitable.
That’s why Interbike last month brought together writers from mainstream publications, including O, the Oprah Magazine, Men’s Journal and Us Weekly to meet leaders from several e-bike companies and ride their products. The Interbike Electric Bike Media Event took place under sunny skies at the swanky Terranea Resort, perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. “We’ve shown that Interbike is not just a trade show company,” spokesman Justin Gottlieb said. “We’re trying to help the industry and put more people on bikes. This is a category that quite frankly has not received the recognition and has not taken off here in the States. We wanted to help do something about that.” While some publications didn’t attend because of late-breaking commitments, Interbike set up other opportunities for ebike brands to connect with writers. The company planned a small event in New York City in early March for a handful of brands to meet writers from East Coast publications. This special supplement profiles the e-bike companies that exhibited at the Terranea event and looks at their plans to tackle the U.S. e-bike market. It also considers the strategies that some retailers use to sell e-bikes, and considers some of the legal and safety issues involved with a product that, one speaker said, represents a “conundrum” for local governments. “It’s an emerging category,” said Pat Hus, managing director of Interbike. “We would like to be in the front end of the curve of the wave rather than on the end of the wave.” Stories by Doug McClellan, unless otherwise indicated. Photography by McClellan and Gary Newkirk.
E-bike market on brink of a boom? On the other end of the population spectrum are the 77 million baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. They are enjoying longer retirements, increasingly focusing on fitness and embracing a lifestyle of downsizing. Moore said other catalysts for what author Richard Florida calls the “great reset”— away from cars, houses and suburbs—are rising energy costs, traffic and parking congestion, and other environmental pressures. Some car companies, like Smart, are anticipating the trend away from cars and launching their own lines of electric bikes that are deEVWorld.com editor Bill Moore signed to fit in a car. A Smart owner could drive to the outpaying to bicycles is an example of hisskirts of a city, park the car and cycle the tory coming full circle. rest of the way in. “Bicycles were the predecessors of The attention that car companies are all automobiles,” Moore said, noting that Henry Ford’s original “quadricycle” was made from repurposed bicycle parts. Many of the original e-bike entrepreneurs were “car guys” like Lee Iacocca, Malcolm Bricklin and Malcolm Currie. “In the 1880s and ’90s, we went from bicycles to automobiles. In the 1990s, we had guys from the automobile industry going into bicycles,” Moore said. Bikes Belong, the industry’s advocacy organization, also embraces e-bikes as part of its goal to get more people on bikes more often. E-bikes make it easy for potential cyclists who are leery of getting on a bike because they are overweight, or live in a place with hills, or don’t want to arrive sweaty at the office, said Bruno Maier, senior vice president of Bikes Belong. “With the e-bike, you’ve removed basically any other obstacle,” he said. “The e-bike can help us grow.” Bikes Belong’s Bruno Maier sees e-bikes as an avenue to grow cycling.
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA—“One hundred and fifty million people rode an e-bike to work today,” Ed Benjamin of eCycleElectic says. That’s the good news for the electric bicycle industry. The bad news, at least for the American e-bike industry, is that almost all of them live in China. Only a small fraction of 1 percent of those 150 million live in the United States. But advocates say the American ebike market is poised for growth. Bill Moore, editor of EVWorld.com, said changing demographics, a growing concern for fitness, worries about climate change, and the “reurbanization” of America should spark sales of e-bikes and help cycling grow in general. Moore and Benjamin addressed a group of journalists and industry leaders at last month’s Interbike Electric Bike Media Event. Moore noted that more than 78 million “millennials”—Americans born between 1980 and 2000—are taking out fewer driver’s licenses and buying fewer cars than their elders.
Tangle of regulations surrounds e-bike use
n the eyes of the law, an electric bicycle is the same as a regular bicycle. Except when it isn’t. Federal law treats e-bikes that meet a few simple standards the same as regular bicycles. The law exempts these e-bikes from motor vehicle safety standards and puts them under the purview of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, just like bicycles. To qualify under the federal law, an
e-bike has to have a motor under 750 watts (1 horsepower), have a motor-assisted top speed of less than 20 mph, and have functional pedals. The problem is that some states and local governments treat e-bikes differently—or do not acknowledge them at all. And that can be confusing to retailers and consumers, said Bill Moore, publisher of EVWorld.com and epedaler.com. “States aren’t necessarily uniform in
their application of this,” Moore said in a presentation at the Interbike Electric Bike Media Event. “Electric bicycles represent a conundrum for people, especially for local governments.” Consider taking your e-bike to a trailhead and seeing the common sign “No Motorized Vehicles.” Does that apply to your e-bike? Continued on page e14
Electric Bike Report
Market leader Currie remains a believer in IBDs SIMI VALLEY, CA—A lot of companies and even famous entrepreneurs have tried to sell electric bicycles to Americans—and flopped. Remember Lee Iacocca and his EV Global e-bikes? But one of the first companies on the scene has held on to become the biggest e-bike company in the United States. Founded in 1997 by former Hughes Aircraft CEO Malcolm Currie, Currie Technologies is the parent company of the iZip and eFlow brands for IBDs, and the eZip brand for the mass market. “We are singularly focused. We don’t do regular bikes. We are the e-bike experts,” Currie president Larry Pizzi said. Pizzi is an industry veteran who has been at Currie since 2002 and its president since 2005. He’s also one of the industry’s biggest evangelists for electric bikes—and believes U.S. IBDs, despite their hostility toward the segment, will eventually come to accept e-bikes like their European counterparts have. “I really believe IBDs are going to be the dominant dealers in this space, once they get over it. Once they figure out that consumers aren’t going to go away, they’re going to get into it,” Pizzi said. He added, “It’s just a matter of time. The product is better. It’s getting more reliable. Everything is coming together.
My gut tells me that three, four, five years from now it’s going to be a very important category in the U.S.” Currie last year received a big vote of confidence from the Accell Group, one of Europe’s leading bicycle companies. Accell, which pioneered Europe’s first popular high-end e-bike, the Sparta Ion, acquired Currie in January 2012—giving Currie access to deeper pockets and resources from sourcing and distribution to sister brands. For example, Currie has begun distributing the Haibike e-bike in the U.S. Haibike, a German brand owned by Accell, helped establish the sport e-bike category. For 2014, Currie will distribute a Haibike line tweaked for the U.S. market. “I think this could be one of the trigger products to get IBDs more excited about the category,” Pizzi said. In November, Currie moved its headquarters to Simi Valley, California, northwest of Los Angeles, where it could better allocate space between office and warehouse needs. Because many of Currie’s retailers are not traditional IBDs, Currie takes care to ship bikes that are as close to ready to ride as possible. “Every bike that we ship to a dealer gets QC’d, test-ridden, tuned
and adjusted,” Pizzi said. He added, “Thirty percent of our dealers are not IBDs. They are e-bike retailers. Some are not as savvy about truing wheels or tuning brakes. They don’t know how to do the bike stuff. We need to make sure that the stuff works beautifully when they arrive.” Currie’s eZip bike line (and a large selection of electric scooters) is sold to mass-market merchants. The iZip and new eFlow lines are sold only to specialty retailers who operate brick-and-mortar stores. The eZip bikes use Currie’s original drive system, first patented in 1997. “We’ve sold hundreds of thousands of these systems, and most people love them,” Pizzi said. The iZip line starts at a price point of $999, and includes paveCurrie Technologies president Larry Pizzi ment bikes, beach cruisers and even a police bike. Currie partnered with Dahon, the folding bike pio- five regional sales managers who take iZip vans to events around the country. neer, to make an electric folder. Now, Currie is most excited about its The “iZip Road Shows” give consumers sleek new eFlow bikes, which were de- a chance to try out a Currie e-bike. “The product has to be test-ridden,” signed by Swiss designer Vincenz Droux. With a retail price of $3,999, it’s the most Pizzi said. “When it’s test-ridden, the customer can justify spending $4,000 on expensive bike Currie has ever sold. To support sales, Currie sponsors a bike.”
iZip Store: A model for e-bike retailing? SANTA MONICA, CA—For Currie Technologies, an airy, sunny store a block from the beach is an ideal place to show off its iZip and eFlow bikes. Although its iZip Store is an active retail outlet, Currie designed it as primarily a concept store where other electric bike retailers can get ideas for showcasing and selling their products, said Ethan Grunstein, general manager of retail for Currie. “The last thing we would ever want as a company is to compete with our IBDs,” Grunstein said. “We don’t want them to think we are infringing on their territory.” The iZip store is well positioned to capture foot traffic on Santa Monica’s eclectic, well-trafficked Main Street. But it’s clear that Grunstein and his staff have some explaining to do when customers walk in the door expecting another typical bike shop. “Wow, everything’s electric?” one customer asks as he eyes the rows of bikes on the wall. One of the biggest challenges retailers face when selling e-bikes is overcoming customers’ unfamiliarity with the
product. That includes explaining why e-bikes cost so much more than regular bikes. “Our goal is to always get somebody on a bike,” Grunstein said. The iZip store encourages customers to rent an e-bike, and will deduct the rental price from a sale. But the fastest and easiest way to introduce customers to e-bikes is to put them on an indoor trainer. The iZip Store keeps its “virtual test ride” set up next to the main entrance. “This gives them the ride feeling” without the hassle of signing a rental agreement or choosing a helmet, Grunstein said. This summer, the iZip Store will be offering self-guided Santa Monica tours with its e-bike rentals. Grunstein said he’s programming GPS units with several local points of interest, along with restaurants that will offer deals to bike renters. Grunstein, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, formerly worked in Spain for a company that offered guided motorcycle tours of the Iberian Peninsula. “When you’re guiding a tour of highnet-worth individuals, you learn to be
Ethan Grunstein, general manager of the iZip Store in Santa Monica, California
on call 24/7,” he said. “You learn to resolve issues without people seeing that it was an issue.” Retailers who sell e-bikes should make sure the batteries are always fully charged, Grunstein advises. “If somebody wants to buy a bike, you don’t want them to leave with a halfcharged battery,” he said.
Currie’s new eFlow bike, a sleek, Swiss-designed model that retails for $3,999, has been a big draw for the store. It sold three eFlows within days of receiving the first shipment. “We haven’t really had a bike that has pulled people in like that before,” Grunstein said. “It’s a whole other story.”
TOWNIE® AND FLAT FOOT TECHNOLOGY® ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF ELECTRA BICYCLE COMpANY®, LLC. ©2013
Fast charging lithium-ion battery locks securely in place under rear rack carrier. Charge while on or off the bike.
Easy on/off button.
Bright, multi-stage battery charge level indicator.
The Electra Townie® Go! is an easy to use, battery powered, pedal assist bike with surprising power that’ll make you want to go forever. The system automatically kicks in once you start pedaling for an added boost to help conquer hills with a smile and ride long distances without breaking a sweat.
Motor, controller, torque sensor, and gear box completely enclosed in rear hub with single wire connection.
We could get into a long description about how the Townie Go!’s SRAM E-matic system works with lots of big words like planetary gear systems and thrust application, but it’s really quite simple. The motor monitors the rider input torque and speed and automatically delivers extra power when needed and energy efficiency over longer distances. The pedal assist system has been perfectly blended into Electra’s Townie Balloon bicycle. It’s like the jetpack you’ve always wanted, and the comfort and control you’ve always enjoyed with Electra’s patented Flat Foot Technology®. Yes, the future is here. Now Go! have some fun!
Electric Bike Report
Celebrity customers give Pedego publicity boost IRVINE, CA—With Capt. James T. Kirk in the saddle, Pedego is aiming for the stars. Kirk—or, at least, the actor who portrayed the Star Trek character, William Shatner—recently took delivery of two Pedego electric bikes with his wife, Elizabeth. Expect to see photos of the two in future Pedego marketing. “I think it’s good for the electric bike industry, getting more publicity like this,” said Don DiCostanzo, co-founder and CEO of Pedego. DiCostanzo and his business partner, Terry Sherry, are shaking up the electric bike market with their unorthodox, marketing-heavy approach. “We’re charting uncharted ground here with electric bikes,” DiCostanzo said. “There have been many people who have tried and many, many more who’ve failed.” Although Pedego has only been around since 2008, it has grown quickly with its range of colorful, easy-riding electrified beach cruisers. DiCostanzo said part of the company’s success comes from the fact that its leaders are industry outsiders. “The electric bike industry is still a very small niche industry. It really takes an entrepreneur without any preconceived notions,” he said. “I’m one of those. I didn’t come from the bike industry. I came from the automotive world. I owned 40 car washes. I didn’t know anything about the bicycling industry.” What he does know is marketing.
And as an aging baby boomer in his 50s, he also understands Pedego’s market— men and women like him, many of who are rediscovering cycling after a lifetime away. “The average age of our customers is 59. They remember how much fun they had on a bike as a kid,” DiCostanzo said. Pedego is best known for its cruiserstyle bikes, with plush seats and high handlebars for upright riding. The company’s trademark is its wide range of frame and tire colors. Some models offer 12 frame colors from sky blue, bright orange and lemon yellow to, yes, pink. “Pink is a hugely popular color for us,” DiCostanzo said. “It’s a color that you will not talk anybody into and you won’t talk anybody out of.” Sherry and DiCostanzo have been friends since they met in college, the night they pledged the same fraternity. They went separate ways in business. DiCostanzo spent 20 years as president of Wynn Oil Co., which makes oil and other chemicals for cars. Sherry, who serves as Pedego’s chief financial officer, had a career in the mortgage industry. DiCostanzo got interested in electric bikes because he wanted to ride from his Southern California home to the beach. But returning uphill was a hassle. He bought an e-bike but found it was unreliable and problematic, so decided to investigate making his own line. Pedego now sells through about 100 IBDs that it considers active. Like other e-bike brands, Pedego has found that
Pedego co-founders Don DiCostanzo (left) and Terry Sherry
some IBDs don’t succeed because their staffs are hostile to e-bikes. Sherry said Pedego had a mystery shopper visit one IBD that carried the brand but wasn’t selling any. When the mystery shopper asked about buying an electric bike, the sales clerk replied, “You don’t want one of those. You want one of these”—pointing to a traditional bike. Pedego now tells IBDs that selling e-bikes requires someone on staff to be a champion. “It can’t just be the owner,” DiCostanzo said. “You have to identify the champion on the sales floor.” Pedego is also growing its line of exclusive dealerships (see related story below). And starting with Metropolis in North Hollywood, Pedego is experimenting with a store-within-a-store concept,
Don DiCostanzo shows Pedego’s new Trail Tracker fat-tire bike to an editor at Interbike’s Electric Bike Media Event.
which DiCostanzo said is for “IBDs who want to get in the business, but they don’t want to open a separate store.” As it grows, Pedego is diversifying from its beach cruiser heritage. At the Interbike Electric Bike Media Event last month, Pedego unveiled its newest bike, an off-road, fat-tire bike called the Trail Tracker, fitted with a 48volt, 600-watt motor. Sherry said Pedego is also developing a three-wheeled e-bike that will be a made-in-the-USA product. “We’re doing a bike that’s not grandma’s trike,” Sherry said. “There’s a market for trikes that are not wheelchairs but are not two-wheeled bikes.” The trike will retail for about $3,500 and should be available later this year.
Guided tours help retailers sell the e-bike concept HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA—Only in Southern California, perhaps, could a retailer run a store where all of the merchandise is on display outdoors. At the Pedego Store in sunny downtown Huntington Beach, an assortment of electric bikes in bright colors fills what used to be a parking lot. Storeowner Tom Bock can often be found doing business under a red pop-up tent, next to a small red building that is the stores’ physical building. Like all Pedego retail stores, the Huntington Beach location does a thriving rental business and offers guided ebike tours, along with selling bikes. That helps attract customers who don’t typically visit bike shops. “There are a lot of people who come in here who haven’t ridden a bike for 15 or 20 years,” Bock said. Retail stores are an important part of Pedego’s business model. Last month, the 11th Pedego store opened in greater Long Beach, California. Pedego cofounder Don DiCostanzo expects 50
stores to be in operation by the end of the year. Like the Huntington Beach location, Pedego stores are owned by independent retailers. “They’re not a franchise, they’re a dealership,” Pedego co-founder Don DiCostanzo said. He said all Pedego retailers have to agree to offer sales, rentals and tours. “In exchange for them agreeing to carry us exclusively, they pay all the same prices, but we give them an enhanced marketing package to include recognized business cards and brochures,” DiCostanzo said. “And we spend quite a bit of money on Google Adwords promoting them. Because we’re confident that when somebody finds them and goes into the store, they’re going to end up buying a Pedego.” Store employees take customers out on test rides instead of just sending them out on their own, Bock said. One reason is security—“I don’t want to let people go out on a $2,000 bike on their own,” he
said—but it’s also to help them get used to the quirks of electric power compared to pedal power. Bock said the store surpassed his expectations for the first year with about $400,000 in sales. While the typical customer is between the ages of 45 to 65, “we’re starting to sell to 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds,” he said. One of the store’s guided e-bike tours takes riders to three famous Southern California piers at Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Balboa. In April, Bock is planning to launch a tour in collaboration with the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. Riders will visit the nearby Bolsa Chica State Beach and participate in a beach cleanup. And while Pedego prides itself on the number of color options it offers for its bikes, Bock said his store does a lot of additional custom work on the Pedego bikes it sells, adding a beefy Maverick front shock to one bike, for example, or selling handcrafted wooden racks and
Pedego Store owner Tom Bock
frame inserts for other models. “Pedego is growing really fast,” Bock said. “The market is growing really fast.”
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Electric Bike Report
Happy customers build SRAM plugs into market buzz for L.A. e-bike seller with E-matic drive system EL SEGUNDO, CA—One recent afternoon, Andrea Busch, owner of Electric Bikes LA, was finishing up a sale. Seated before her was a woman in her 70s. With her husband, in his 80s, the woman had just bought two new Stromer ST1 ebikes—dropping $6,200 in the process. So it goes in one of the best-known specialty electric bike shops in Los Angeles. From a cramped storefront in El Segundo a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, Busch sells a surprising number of high-priced electric bikes. Electric Bikes LA was a big career change for Busch, who had worked in accounting and budgeting for one of the big aerospace firms in the region. “I was a number. I didn’t like what I did,” she said. She and her husband, Eric Busch, a former El Segundo mayor who works for nearby Sony Pictures, started exploring options for a new business in 2008, during the depths of the recession. “My first thought was to open a boutique, because I’m a real girly-girl,” Busch said. But her husband thought a boutique might not be the best choice in the economic climate. Instead, they researched the promising business of electric bikes. Now, Electric Bikes LA carries midlevel to high-end models from Easy Motion, Pedego, Ultra Motor A2B, E-Moto, eZee and Hebb, as well as folding bikes from Brompton and Montague and ebike conversion kits from BionX. The biggest source of sales is wordof-mouth from past and current customers, Busch said. But she has also concentrated on online marketing from the beginning. The store’s name ensures it always ranks at or near the top of the
Andrea Busch of Electric Bikes LA
list when someone does a web search on Google, Bing or Yelp. With too many bikes crammed into about 800 square feet, Busch is hoping to move to a larger space before summer. That will allow her to add cargo bikes to her eclectic assortment. Because of the concentration of aerospace and tech companies, Busch said customers tend to be educated and technologically savvy. They’ve often done their homework on e-bikes before coming to the store. Sales have grown every year the store has been in business, with 2012 up about 30 percent from the year before. “I’m not getting wealthy doing this,” Busch said. But, she added, it beats her old job— and she likes making customers happy.
CHICAGO, IL—SRAM may be a giant in bike components, but it is tiptoeing into electric bikes with the release of its E-matic system on the Electra Townie Go. Rob Cappucci, category manager for electric bike products, said E-matic is just the beginning of SRAM’s involvement with e-bikes. But what SRAM’s next e-bike system will be, or when it will come to market, is still undecided. “We haven’t actually defined it. We know we will add to the product line. We know it will be different than what we have now,” he said. “Most likely, we’re going to have something that seems more traditional than [the E-matic].” E-matic is certainly a nontraditional e-bike system. “The best thing we’ve found to explain it to consumer is: It’s an automatic transmission,” Cappucci said. SRAM E-matic hub S R A M strove to keep any complexity out of sight of consumers, as well as bike brands and retailers. Cappucci said he and Skip Hess, Electra’s CEO, talked about the ideal ebike system before Hess joined Electra. “We both felt it should fit on a standard frame. It should be something that everybody can use in the same way that we sell derailleurs today,” Cappucci said. “We don’t tell you how to design your bike. We don’t tell you how to design your dropout. We know what a dropout looks like and what size it is. Our derailleur fits it.”
Retailers will also appreciate the nofrills design. “Every bicycle mechanic who looks at 15 wires on a bike goes, ‘I’m a mechanic. I’m not an electrician,’ ” Cappucci said. Instead, the E-matic system has only one wire and one connection between the hub and battery. The motor, controller, torque sensor and planetary gearbox all are contained in the rear hub. If there are any problems with any E-matic components, SRAM promises retailers a swift replacement. Electra is SRAM’s main launch partner in the United States and Europe, although smaller U.S. and European brands will also roll out E-matic bikes this year. SRAM views E-matic as primarily a city bike product, especially in Europe. “There’s a much bigger commuting market in Europe than there is in the U.S. Those people may be a 50-year-old woman, or a 40-year-old guy in a suit or a 30-year-old mother getting groceries,” Cappucci said. “It’s a much broader audience.” The secret sauce in E-matic is software, he added. “It should feel like a bike. It should respond the way a bike does: When you push harder on the pedals, you go faster,” he said.
It’s a ‘Go’ at last: Electra delivers long-awaited e-bike VISTA, CA—Skip Hess has heard the jokes about Electra waiting all these years to launch its first electric bike. But the brand’s CEO says Electra has gone to great lengths to make the bike— the Electra Townie Go—look as little like an e-bike as possible. There are no flashy LED display screens, no throttles to twist or levers to pull, no decisions to make about how much electric assist a rider desires, no extra cables running higgledy-piggledy across the bike. “We’ve left off the cables. It looks like a regular bike,” Hess said. Instead, there is SRAM’s new E-matic rear hub motor. A single cable from the hub connects to the battery under the rear rack, which is easily concealed with panniers.
Hess said the lack of “stuff ” is a deliberate strategy to appeal to Electra’s typical customer—a woman 40 or older who has no desire to fiddle with geeky gear. “My client objects to that kind of intrusion,” he said. Instead, riders simply press a button to turn on the Townie Go motor. Electra says riders should average between 31 and 59 miles on a full charge. The Townie Go has a maximum electric assist speed of more than 15 mph, and a charge takes less than four hours. It’s powered by a 250-watt motor with a two-speed transmission. The motor automatically switches between a “low gear” that offers higher torque for hill climbing and acceleration, and a “higher gear” for cruising.
Apart from its unusual aesthetics, the Townie Go represents a gamble for Electra in another way. Its $2,200 suggested retail price is far above Electra’s usual price point. “It’s a price level we’re unfamiliar with,” Hess said. Electra is a global brand, and the Townie Go is expected to see more demand in Europe. But Hess said several U.S. retailers have submitted solid preorders. “I’ve got strong demand from the retailers who want it,” Electra CEO Skip Hess with the Townie Go he said. “The IBD guys who get it, get it.” The Townie Go will be in stores by men’s version in black or matte gold, and mid-April. Elayne Fowler, Electra’s mar- a women’s/low-step-through model in keting director, said it will come in a black or sky blue.
Electric Bike Report
Easy Motion touts ‘regular’ look Pete’s Electric: Giving people what they want
FOOTHILL RANCH, CA—BH, the Spanish company that has been making bikes for more than 90 years, is making a big push in the U.S. e-bike market with its Easy Motion line. “Ours look like regular bicycles. We’ve done a pretty good job of hiding the battery,” said Steve Lindenau, president of Easy Motion USA. The Easy Motion line for 2013 looks a lot like a standard bike line, ranging from city and pavement bikes to mountain bikes. Easy Motion even offers an electrified 29er and a full-suspension model in its mountain bike range. “You’ve got people who want to go out and ride a full-suspension bike or a 29er,” Lindenau said. “Let’s say they’re not quite as fit as they need to be, or it may be an age thing, or it might be due to an injury or a physical ailment. This product gives that person the ability to go out and have fun.” BH began shipping the Easy Motion line in August. Although Lindenau is an industry veteran—he headed Trek’s German office for 13 years—he acknowledged that IBDs are slow to take to e-bikes. Lindenau said the number of e-bike specialty retailers, which now numbers about 150, would probably triple in the next five years. “I just think it’s going to grow and grow and grow.” IBDs have been a tougher sell, because many of them were burned by early e-bikes that had heavy leadacid batteries and lousy reliability. He said attitudes may change, especially if a couple of “big platform” IBDs decide to get into e-bikes. “IBDs definitely have the potential to be bigger than electric-bike-only dealers, but I think in the beginning,
BOULDER, CO—Instead of building what it thinks its customers should buy, Pete’s Electric Bikes lets its customers tell it what they want. “Pete’s is a very customer-centric company,” cofounder Dean Keyek-Franssen said. “Over the year, we’ve asked the customers who come into our retail outlets about what they want.” Pete’s (neither of whose founders is named Pete) has had a store in Boulder since 2006, and has operated other stores, including pop-ups, in such cities as Calgary, Alberta, Aspen, Colorado, and San Francisco, California. By the end of this year, Pete’s expects to open two other permanent retail stores. Pete’s is unusual because it’s also a manufacturer and distributor, not just a retailer. It sources many Easy Motion USA president Steve Lindenau
growth of electric-bike-only dealers is going to exceed the number of IBDs that we’re going to sign up,” Lindenau said. He is especially looking forward to the 2014 and 2015 model years for Easy Motion, which will focus on making e-bikes even more like regular bikes. “It basically means shaving a lot of weight out of the bike, going with battery concepts that are going to be lighter weight but just as effective,” Lindenau said. “It’s kind of our design philosophy to hide the fact that it’s an electric bike.”
Prodeco pursues young customer POMPANO BEACH, FL—Let the other e-bike brands chase the baby boomers. Prodeco has deliberately gone after customers in their 20s and 30s—the ones who aren’t supposed to like electric bikes. “That’s why the bikes have that certain look to them. They’re a little more aggressive, a little more flashy. We pushed hard in that market,” said Robert Provost, co-founder and CEO of Prodeco. It’s been a successful strategy for the young e-bike company, which has built its brand by zigging when other companies were zagging. Prodeco expects to sell at least 15,000 bikes this year, and operates what Provost said is the biggest e-bike assembly plant in the United States. All bikes are assembled in the United States, and this year Provost said a few will use frames made by U.S. subcontractors. When it was developing its bikes, Prodeco deliberately avoided the bike industry. Company officials instead took prototypes to shows where they could find younger consumers. “We did some big auto shows,
home shows, boat shows. We went outside the bike industry,” Provost said. “We asked, ‘What would it take for you to buy the bike?’ ” One big response was a $1,000 price point. Another was styling. “It was about the image. When they thought about electric bikes, they’d go, ‘Oh, I’m going to look like an old man or an old lady driving an old-fashioned electric bike.’ ” Provost added, “We knew that if they are ‘cheating’ by riding an electric bike, at least they were going to look cool doing it.” Now, Prodeco sells through a variety of channels. Amazon.com is one of its biggest customers. IBDs and e-bike specialty shops account for no more than 30 percent of sales, while West Marine, Sam’s and Costco are also important channels. Prodeco’s most popular bike is the Phantom X2, a full-sized folder powered by a 500-watt motor. “We increased the battery to 12 amp-hours” over the original Phantom’s 9 amp-hour battery. “By doing that, it was such a huge in-
Prodeco co-founder Robert Provost
crease in the sale of the bike,” Provost said. Prodeco signed an agreement with SRAM to feature the company’s family of components, including RockShox, Truvativ and Avid, across its range.
Dean Keyek-Franssen of Pete’s explains a bike’s features to EVWorld.com editor Bill Moore.
of its bikes from European manufacturers and uses high-end components, including Panasonic and Bosch drives. Its eclectic line ranges from city and pavement bikes to road and off-road bikes. Pete’s has also developed a three-wheeled cargo bike and an electric bike for bike share programs. The common denominator, Keyek-Franssen said, is that “these things have to look and act like normal bicycles.” Pete’s bikes typically feature mid-mount drives instead of hub motors, which Keyek-Franssen says perform better over a wider variety of terrain. That quality comes at a price, especially compared with competing brands such as iZip and Pedego. “We know we’re priced higher than other vendors—their high point is our starting point—but we believe that is completely critical to building this industry,” Keyek-Franssen said. Many of Pete’s bikes are built by BH, the big Spanish manufacturer. The company recently entered an agreement with Matra, a French e-bike manufacturer, to bring the brand to North America and build a new line for Pete’s. Keyek-Franssen said Pete’s partners with European manufacturers because the European e-bike market is further advanced than the U.S. market. “The advantage is that alot of the learning curve with products, with repair rates, has all been worked out,” he said. Keyek-Franssen says it may take another fiveplus years before Americans adopt e-bikes in significant numbers. “It’s very methodical and engineered in terms of how Pete’s is moving forward,” he said.
Electric Bike Report
Kranked Kustoms electrifies mountain biking
f they think of them at all, Americans usually think of electric bikes as comfy rides for aging baby boomers. Or maybe as no-hassle transportation for commuters who won’t have to shower off the sweat when they get to the office. And then there are the bikes from Kranked Kustoms, which are to electric beach cruisers as Sriracha is to ketchup. The company’s Bjorn Enga and Chris Rothe decided to marry the best mountain bikes they could find with the best electric motor. For the bikes, they went with the Santa Cruz V10 Carbon and its sibling the Santa Cruz Nomad. For the motor, they chose the Austrian-made Ego-Kit, a mid-drive system that packs a 1,200-watt motor. The result, said Rothe, is “the lightest and best performance bike you can ride today.” The bikes are also some of the most expensive. The conversions start at $5,425 for an aluminum-frame Nomad
Kranked Kustoms’ Bjorn Enga (left) and Chris Rothe
and top out at more than $14,400 for the Nomad Carbon. While enthusiasts could buy the bike and the motor separately and do the conversion themselves, Kranked Kus-
Rothe wheelies Kranked Kustoms’ converted Santa Cruz V10 Carbon.
toms has developed a custom interface to match the motor to the bike. Kranked designed a custom mount that is machined from a billet of aluminum. The interface optimizes the wiring,
tuning, heat dissipation and the flex and stress of the motor on the frame. “Is it a niche market? It allows you to get out and ride on way past your prime,” Enga said. Rothe said the bike gets him back on his favorite trails despite a succession of serious injuries he has suffered over the years, including a broken back, broken arms and blown knees. The throttle-activated motor provides an instant kick. To avoid the problem of fitting the battery in a fullsuspension frame, the rider carries it in a backpack. That also solves another problem, Enga said, because “it helps neutralize the weight of the battery.” He said Kranked has sold about 50 of the converted bikes in North America. Kranked also plans to launch adventure mountain bike tours featuring the bikes this year, starting near Enga’s home base in Whistler, British Columbia.
Solex e-bike a nod to Safety first: Check where French brand’s heritage battery packs come from
ou may not have heard of Solex, but you won’t forget the bike once you see it. It’s a venerable French brand that began making motorized bicycles after World War II, providing inexpensive transportation as the nation rebuilt itself. “They sold more than 8 million mopeds,” said Robert Guimond, business development manager for Solex. In 2004, a French group bought the brand and began marketing an e-bike designed by Italian car design firm Pininfarina. Solex launched its newest bike, called the Solexity x350, in the U.S. last month at the Interbike Electric Bike Media Event. Its distinguishing feature is a cylindrical compartment that sits on the headtube between the handlebars and front wheel. It’s an homage to the original Solex design, which featured an 38-cubic-centimeter engine with a roller transmission, carburetor and tank over the front wheel. Today, the cylinder houses a headlight but is mostly for aesthetics; the electric motor is housed in the rear hub. Solex uses a 350-watt BionX H-Torque G2 motor. BionX, in Aurora, Canada, is best known for its popular e-bike conversion kits. Solex is coming to market with one frame size in two colors: dark gray and pearl white. A SRAM X4 drivetrain offers eight speeds, and front and rear wheels are equipped with disc brakes. A 37-volt, 9.6-amp lithium-manganese battery is tucked under the rear rack.
Robert Guimond (right) of Solex with Tim Kruszka of BionX at the Interbike Electric Bike Media Event
Solex has been selling its e-bikes in Europe and Japan since 2010 and is now targeting North America. “It’s not a huge market, but it’s a good market to enter,” said Guimond, who is based in Montréal. “The boom will come. I don’t know when, but it will come.” He said Solex hopes to be in about 25 to 30 retailers this year.
orried about the safety of ebike batteries in the wake of the well-publicized fires involving lithium-ion batteries on the Boeing Dreamliner 787? You should be, says the head of America’s biggest e-bike company. “Within two days [of the Boeing news] we got 15 calls from dealers,” said Larry Pizzi, president of Currie Technologies. Retailers told the company, “ ‘I’ve got a time bomb sitting here on my sales floor. Make me feel better about it.’ ” Currie responded with a lengthy memo to its retailers on lithium-ion battery safety. After the Dreamliner news reports, the memo read, “you are probably questioning the safety of lithium-ion battery packs. If you are selling electric bikes or planning to sell electric bikes, you most definitely should be.” The Currie memo advised retailers to know what is inside the battery packs of the e-bike brands they carry. Currie said its iZip and eFlow bikes use batteries from two sources: Samsung, the big Korean electronics manufacturer, and K2 Energy, a company based in Henderson, Nevada. Because a battery is typically the most expensive component on an ebike, manufacturers often turn there first when they try to cut costs, Currie said. “Lithium battery packs for electric bikes are available from literally hundreds of Chinese companies, many of
which do not have any standards testing or meet critical quality and safety standards,” the Currie memo said. The memo said 90 percent of reliable lithium-ion battery cells come from Japan and Korea, with four large companies leading the market: Sanyo/Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and LG. “The first question that you ask of any e-bike supplier is, ‘What brand and type of cells do you use in your battery packs and who assembles the pack?’ ” the memo stated. Retailers’ fears are not unfounded. One retailer recounted how his store burned down, with the loss of 60 to 80 bikes on the floor and as much as $200,000 in inventory, when an e-bike battery burst into flames while it was being charged overnight. The retailer, who asked not to be identified, said the battery was an aftermarket product that had been sold directly to a consumer. The retailer said he found out only after the fire that the battery had been recalled, but the company never notified his store of the recall. The company that sold the battery declared bankruptcy soon after the recall. The retailer says his store is now careful about the brands it carries and requires common-sense assurances. “I require my suppliers to carry product liability insurance and name me as an additional insured,” the retailer said. “If you can’t provide insurance for your product, I’m not going to carry it.”
Electric Bike Report
Watt’s what: A glossary of e-bike terms Charger. The electrical circuit that adjusts and controls current from the electrical mains to recharge the battery. It is very important to only use the correct charger for a given battery.
By Edward Benjamin
ant to know watt’s what? Have trouble telling your lithium ion from your lead acid? While electric bikes are very similar to regular bicycles, the electrical components require a very different vocabulary. Here’s a guide to the most common e-bike terms: Advanced battery. A battery using NiMH or lithium cells that usually requires a battery management system. It offers higher performance at a higher cost. Amp. Short for “ampere,” a measure of the amount of electrical current passing a given point in a given amount of time. If voltage is likened to the amount of water pressure in a garden hose, amps are like the volume of water that flows through the hose. Amp-hour (AH). A measure of the amount of energy passing a given point in an hour. Usually used to describe battery capacity. Battery. A combination of cells that creates a specific voltage and current capability to power an electric motor. Bottom bracket motor. A motor located in or adjacent to the bottom bracket or pedal axle. Sometimes called a central motor or mid-motor. Battery management system (BMS). An electronic circuit found on advanced batteries that prevents damage or overheating of the battery, and monitors the state of charge.
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Regulations The answer is no. If a regular bicycle is allowed, so is an e-bike. Except if, for example, you are in California. California law classifies e-bikes as mopeds. And many parks and pedestrian/bike paths also have signs that say “no motorized bicycles,” which because they are intended to ban mopeds also apply to e-bikes, said Rob Means. Means lobbies California legislators on behalf of the Light Electric Vehicle Association. “We’re trying to take the electric bikes out of that [moped] section so they cannot be denied access to these bike/
Cells. Individual electrochemical devices that create an electric current. A battery consists of a number of cells that are combined together to provide an appropriate voltage and current.
Direct-drive motor. Typically, a hub motor that has no gear reduction. Such motors are simpler and quieter, but often larger and more expensive than gear-type motors. E-bike. A generic term for an electricpowered bike. Can refer to a pedelec as well as to a bike controlled by a throttle. Gear-type motor. Usually, a hub motor that uses a gear reduction inside the hub shell. Such motors are usually less expensive and perform well, but are noisy and have more wear points. Hub motor. An electric motor located in the front or rear hub. Lead acid battery. An old-technology battery of modest cost, used in most of the world’s light electric vehicles. They are heavy but reliable, have excellent discharge and charge capabilities, and are nearly 100 percent recyclable.
ped paths,” Means said. Means said LEVA is seeking a legislative sponsor for a proposed measure in the California Assembly that would clarify that an electric bicycle should be treated the same as regular bicycles. It would allow motors of up to 1,000 watts but would limit speeds to 20 mph. “If we can get California to move, then it should be easier to move everybody else,” Means said. Perhaps the biggest discrepancy between legality and reality is New York, where e-bikes are officially illegal. New York City police typically haven’t enforced the ban. In fact, one of the country’s oldest and most successful e-bike retailers, NYCeWheels, operates in Manhattan.
Lithium battery. An advanced battery with excellent performance, light weight and longer life. Comes in several variants including lithium manganese and lithium iron phosphate. All lithium batteries are flammable and require a battery management system. Motor controller. An electronic circuit that controls the speed of the electric motor and other functions, depending on the model and features of the e-bike. Pb or Pb A battery. See lead acid battery. NiCad. Short for “nickel cadmium,” a type of battery found on some older e-bike models. Toxic, with lower performance than NiMH and lithium batteries. NiMH. Short for “nickel metal hydride,” a nontoxic type of battery with performance between lead acid and lithium batteries. Occasionally found on e-bikes. Pedelec. An e-bike in which the motor operates only while the rider is pedaling. Common in Europe and Japan. Speed sensor. A device that detects rate of pedaling and is used to activate power in a pedelec. Not as nice a “feel” as a torque sensor system. Thermal runaway. What happens when a battery overheats and, in some cases, catches fire. Caused by poorly made or abused advanced batteries. Can be prevented in most cases with well-designed cells and a battery management system. Throttle. A user-operated device that controls the speed of the e-bike independent of pedaling. Often a twist grip or thumb-operated.
But e-bikes have recently been caught up in what Moore calls the “Chinese takeout food controversy.” Following a spate of accidents caused by restaurant delivery cyclists—including a 2009 incident when a cyclist hit a pedestrian, who died of his injuries—the New York City Council last fall voted to require commercial delivery cyclists to take a safety course. Their employers can be fined up to $300 if they don’t provide helmets, bells and headlights to their riders. “Unfortunately, those guys are really a menace. They do the same things [on e-bikes] that they did before on regular bikes,” said Bert Cebular, founder of NYCeWheels. “They ride on sidewalks, they run through red lights. They just
Torque sensor. A device that measures the energy applied by pedaling. This is preferred for pedelecs. Vehicle controller. An electronic circuit that monitors and regulates the motor controller, user interface, battery management system and other features. Volt. The unit of electric potential difference, or the size of the force behind a given level of electrical flow. Voltage is often likened to the amount of pressure in a water hose; use a larger hose, and the pressure remains the same but the flow, or amps, increases. Watt. A unit of measurement of the amount of work being done. For e-bikes, watts refer to the amount of work that can be accomplished by a system. For example, a 500-watt motor is capable of twice the work of a 250watt motor, all else being equal. One horsepower equals about 750 watts. A person in very good physical condition can create about 75 watts of work over an extended period. Watt-hour. A measurement of energy usually used to describe battery capacity for e-bikes. Volts multiplied by amphours equals watt-hours. A typical pedelec offers 360 watt-hours if it has a 36-volt, 10 amp-hour battery. Wiring harness. The wires, connectors and switches that carry electrical current and signals about the vehicle. Edward Benjamin is managing director of eCycleElectric Consultants and founder and chairman of the Light Electric Vehicle Association. A fuller version of this glossary is available at eCycleElectric.com.
don’t care that they run people over. Now they’re doing it on electric bikes, which gives electric bikes a bad name.” Cebular said attempts to legalize ebikes in New York state have come close to succeeding in the past, but he isn’t aware of current efforts in the state legislature. Cebular said his e-bike customers typically don’t run into problems because they don’t stand out, and ride with common sense. “The typical electric bike blends in nicely. Most won’t even know it’s electric,” he said. “The bottom line is, even with the crackdown, they’re not going to be hassled because cops are looking for delivery guys doing the wrong thing.”
Turn frusTraTion inTo freedoM.
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