Power to the bicycle

Sanyo Eneloop electric bike

Power on: electric bikes are a great transport option. Image from Sanyo web site

Cycling is great fun, a cheap form of transport and good for your health, but it can be hard work, especially in hilly areas or into a headwind. Many people for various reasons consider cycling is not an option for them – for example – not fit enough, too lazy, not wanting to arrive at work sweaty, heart conditions, joint problems. Commuters, the elderly, people recovering from illness or parents simply wanting to keep up with their kids electric bikes can meet their needs.

Many opt for a powered bike simply because it’s more fun and a statement of being green in transport selection to reduce their carbon foot print. You can go further, faster for the same effort of that of a human pedal only. If you’re a commuter you may well arrive faster, taking shortcuts, bike paths, ease through standing traffic on an electric bicycle than you would by car and without the sweat!

What is a bicycle? The following is taken from the Vic Road website: a bicycle is a vehicle that has two or more wheels, built to be propelled by human power through a belt, chain or gears (whether or not it has an auxiliary motor, provided the motor’s maximum power output does not exceed 200 watts). Pedicabs, penny farthings and tricycles are considered to be bicycles. However, wheelchairs, wheeled toys and scooters are not.

It is not a bicycle if:

  • the motor is the primary source of power (this includes electric scooters with pedals that are not built to be propelled primarily by human power), or
  • the motor’s power output exceeds 200 watts (whether or not the motor is operating).

These are considered to be motor vehicles. The rider will be required to hold a motorcycle licence and have the vehicle registered before it can be used on the road network, including footpaths and bicycle paths.

To put the power output in perspective, elite cyclists like Lance Armstrong and Cadel Evans can manage 800 watts in short bursts. Internationally there is a market to be developing 250w and 500w motors. The ‘electronic flywheel’ has been a dream for generations of transport engineers. As Einstein and his predecessors elaborated, kinetic energy is a combination of velocity and mass, so the more mass the more kinetic energy to be captured.

But who wants a heavy bike? Sanyo has revealed that its regenerative technology gives a claimed 18 percent increase in battery life on its 250 watt machine, which weighs in at about 23 kilograms.

According to the Bicycle Association and the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association Inc., shipments of electric bicycles exceeded 310,000 in 2008, outnumbering shipments of small motorbikes. In 2009, shipments of the bicycles increased to 364,815, while small motorbikes stood at 255,561. Previously, the motors used to assist pedalling on electric bicycles were not allowed have power exceeding that of a human. But in December 2008, regulations were relaxed to allow electric bicycles to have motors with twice the power of a person.

Internationally the ban on three people riding on one bicycle was lifted in July last year, a three-seater electric bicycle–for one adult and two children–appeared on the market. A drivers’ license is not required to ride an electric bicycle, which has also helped to increase the number of users.

Sanyo Electric Co. started selling its Eneloop Bike SPL series in April. The bike features a charging function that enables the battery to be charged while pedalling on flat roads, in addition to the previous feature that generated a charge on downhill stretches or during deceleration. Since the motor is not used to assist pedalling in these situations, the electric motor on the front wheel switches to a dynamo to charge the battery.

In June, Yamaha Motor Co. released its PAS Lithium T 2010 model that employs durable lithium-ion batteries. These batteries can be charged 800 to 900 times before needing to be replaced, about twice the number of charges in the previous model.
In July last year, Yamaha and Bridgestone Cycle Co. released three-seater bikes that are able to carry an adult and two children when child seats are attached. The companies improved the safety of the bikes by strengthening the frame and racks, and making it possible to attach handles to help children to get on and off the bikes.

Keep a look out around Bendigo there are an increasing number of E-Bikes and Scooters that are assisting many shared road uses get out there commuting every day.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing


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