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The Future of E-bikes is exciting. The technology and options are getting really great. Today’s e-bikes are both fast and light. They can have enough range to travel for tens of miles or the capacity to seat an entire preschool, and there are even those that you can fit in a backpack (or more likely, a suitcase).
E-bikes have seen proliferated interest in recent years, and the number of people making the switch from their gas guzzler to an e-bike every year may surprise you. In the period between 2020 and 2023, e-bike manufacturers expect to move over 130 million units. If those expectations are met, e-bikes will eclipse the standard bicycle market and grow to the extent that they could compete with the automobile industry.
Today, we’re going to look at some of the e-bikes and some of the technologies that have emerged recently within the e-bike industry and discuss what they mean for the future.
What is an e-bike?
Before we get into futuristic e-bikes and the technologies that drive them, it’s important first to define what an e-bike is. For those of you who might not have known, an e-bike is essentially an electrically-assisted bicycle that supplements the motion generated by a pedaling motion through an electric motor. This means that riding an electric bike either takes less effort than a regular bike or allows you to travel at faster speeds.
Portable E-bikes | The JIVR
There are many reasons for wanting an e-bike that’s easy to lug around. You might live up a flight of stairs, or your daily commute might involve hopping a train or riding a bus. In these situations, a large frame can become difficult to maneuver, or a general pain to carry with you on the go.
Intuitively speaking, there are two ways you can make an e-bike more portable – you either make it lighter, or you make it take up less space, or both. The JIVR electric bike, which comes from a manufacturer in the UK of the same name, is designed with luggage in mind. As the world’s first chainless, foldable e-bike, the JIVR can be folded up in a matter of 10 seconds, after which you can roll it forward the way you would a wheeled bag. Despite a lightweight aluminum frame, the JIVR weighs roughly 40 lbs., meaning it isn’t really feasible as a “backpack bike”. The JIVR also isn’t the fastest e-bike around. The JIVR has a 250 W motor with three pedal assist modes at 7, 11, and 15.5 mph. The JIVR is rated for 31 miles of travel, or roughly 50 kilometers on a full charge.
The JIVR is a great option for people looking to store their e-bike indoors. You can easily fit the e-bike into a small storage room or even a closet, fully folded. It’s also a great option for people who’d like the option to effortlessly walk around with their e-bike in tow because of the way it folds up. If you’re mostly dealing with the sort of terrain where you’ll have to carry it around, though, you’re better off getting something lighter like the Flykly Smart Bike 20. The JIVR also isn’t the most maneuverable or agile e-bike, and you can tell that it’s intended for an urban or suburban commute. Regardless, as far as e-bikes go, it is on the lighter side of the scales, and it also looks like something out of a sci-fi movie about the future. You’ll definitely be turning a few heads, for better or for worse, when you’re riding around on your bike.
E-Mountain Bikes | The Specialized Turbo Levo
If you’re traveling dirt or gravel roads and looking to maximize agility and responsiveness, you should look no further than the Specialized Turbo Levo. Unlike the JIVR, the Turbo is designed for the e-bike power user; if you’re a fan of things that go fast, you’ll come to love the Turbo. The S-Works Turbo is extremely quick through downhill stretches, but it’s also surprisingly grippy, and it doesn’t slip as much as you’d expect it to. Again, it’s probably not the best idea to go full throttle when you’re approaching a downhill slope on a bike like this one, you’re better off just negotiating the descent while trying to remain as stable as possible, but the bike makes this fairly easy for you, and even if you turn the motor up to the max, it’s not like it’ll have you flying off the handle.
The Turbo Levo is designed for trail use, so if you’re a fan of trailheads and bicycle parks, you’ll get plenty of service out of your Turbo. And with 5 hours of battery life and a speed of 20 mph, you’re looking at a good 80 – 100 miles on a full charge, more than twice the range of the JIVR.
It’s fun, very good-looking, and built with function in mind, but what it isn’t is cheap. A carbon-fiber frame might help the Turbo make weight in a world where every pound counts, but it certainly doesn’t help its affordability. With a price tag over $10,000, the Levo Pro and Levo Expert Carbon aren’t exactly entry-level options, but for the frequent rider, they’ll offer an experience that few dirt-friendly e-bikes can match.
For those of you who are put off by the idea of spending five figures on an e-bike, don’t worry. Specialized has more economical options on offer as well. The Turbo Tero 3.0 and 5.0 are both commendable EMBs that just launched this year, and you can get them for a third or half of the price of a Levo Expert, respectively. They offer a similar range and speed at a more affordable price point.
Next-level Regenerative Braking | Flykly and the Smart Bike
Flykly is an Italian e-bike company that got its start off Kickstarter in 2014. The original pledge was for a Smart Wheel, which was a standard bike attachment that could make any regular bike into an e-bike. The Smart Wheel had a direct drive motor built into the hub of a bike wheel; the whole ensemble could replace the rear wheel on your bike and provide you with an electrical kick and could be customized for the maximum assisted speed, assisted percentage, and more. Of course, the fact that everything, including the battery, was mounted into the wheel meant that you’d have to take your bike to your electrical socket to charge it or remove the entire wheel.
The Smart Wheel also featured the advanced regenerative braking technology that Flykly would later use in the Smart Ped, and now, the Smart Bike. Regenerative Braking is a technology that helps bikes, trains, and cars recover some of the Kinetic energy they lose while braking in the form of electrical energy. Basically, when you start to brake, the motor controller on your e-bike reverses the function of your motor; it goes from using up your battery to provide additional torque and power to using the motion you undergo while braking to charge your battery instead.
This technology has been further developed with the Smart Bike. The Smart Bike’s rear wheel doesn’t rely on disc braking the way most other bikes do. Instead, when you use your brake, this just stops the front wheel, while the rear wheel’s motor and the gears within it resist the motion, acting as a sort of brake. This motion is then sent back to the battery as regenerated power. So by pedaling backward while you use your front brake, you can actually regenerate more power for your bicycle than you would’ve been able to otherwise.
The Dual Motor E-bike | Ariel Rider’s D-Class Scrambler
The D-class scrambler is Ariel Rider’s top-of-the-line e-bike, it’s got the smoothest ride, the best range, and the most motors.
Yes, you read that right; the D-class comes equipped with two motors, one tuned to the rear wheel and one to the front. You can decide which motor to use or even use both at the same time, and the bike can reach an assisted speed of up to 33 mph. It comes with fat tires, so you’re good for different terrain and conditions, though you don’t get the sort of road responsiveness with slimmer tires.
Another trade-off is agility. You won’t find yourself zipping through corners or pulling sudden turns on the Scrambler – that just isn’t what it’s built for. Instead, you have a respectable 50-mile range and a ride that’s as comfortable as they come. Those of you who’re familiar with other fat-tire bikes like the Rad Rover will enjoy the Scrambler just as much, if not more. The dual-motor setup seems a little excessive at first, but it has its practical uses; a front motor only setup is better than a rear motor only setup when you’re going through muddy or murky terrain, and if you enjoy the familiar feel of a rear motor you can always switch out.
But it’s when you switch to the all-wheel-drive dual-motor mode that you get to experience what the D-class is all about. At maximum pedal assistance, the D-class essentially comes as close to becoming an electric motorbike as an e-bike can. But your ride is as stable as you’d expect from those thick tires and as silent as you’d expect from an e-bike.
The Family E-bike | Bunch Bikes
Bunch Bikes is an American start-up that grew out of one entrepreneur’s fascination with the Scandinavian cargo bike. These bikes feature large cart-like attachments in front of them, much akin to a shopping cart, and they’re a common sight in some parts of Europe.
Bunch Bike’s offering is four different models based on the cargo bike concept, except with an additional electric twist. The Coupe, the K9, The Original, and The Preschool are all designed for different purposes with different cargo needs in mind.
The K9 is the second-smallest, and it’s for people who’d like to travel with a couple of mid-sized dogs or other similarly sized pets. The Original can seat 3 – 4 children, so it’s meant for families or people with larger dogs. The Preschool is the most spacious variant, and it has enough room for up to six small children or a small preschool class, hence the name. The sleekest variant is the Coupe, which is a luxury variant that’s also the smallest of the bunch. The Coupe sports the best comfort, both in terms of ride comfort and cart comfort, and it also sports a few options that the others don’t, such as a ceiling attachment that turns your cart into a closed space.
Naturally, you can’t judge bunch bikes by the same standards as other e-bikes since they cater to a very specific demographic. You won’t get up to astonishing speeds in these, and at 35 miles per charge, the range isn’t anything to write home about either. For what they are, though, the bunch of bikes is great. If you’re a parent dropping your kids off to school or just taking a ride around the cul-de-sac, these are the only e-bikes that are built with you in mind. Safety is paramount in the design, the bikes use premium components, and all of the kid-focused models come with no-slip straps to minimize the risk of injury. Given the weight and intent of the design, they also sport impressive stopping power, meaning you won’t ever have to second-guess your brakes.
While they’re an interesting concept that’s been executed well, it goes without saying that a bunch bike is not an e-bike meant for actual biking. It’s a great second or third bike if you’d like to go for a ride with your kids, but when you’re traveling solo, you’re just pulling along a lot of dead weight and going slowly because of it.
The Long Distance E-bike | The Yamee Bikes
The Yamee e-bikes are the final entry on this list and one of the most interesting from a thermodynamics perspective (we’ll get into why later). It’s also the second entry on this list to get its start on a crowdfunding platform, with the original Yamee X being one of the most popular e-bike funding campaigns of 2019.
The Yamee XL is a fast bike; it’s a class three with an assisted speed of up to 27 mph. It comes with a 750 W motor that helps you get up to speed quickly. It’s fitted with all-terrain tires that can take a beating, a Shimano 8 speed transmission, and its foldable design makes it so you can easily turn your bike into cargo and vice-versa. It’s also got Cruise Control, so if you ever feel like letting the motor do all the work, all you have to do is flip a switch. All of those features are impressive, especially given the price of a Yamee bike. But being affordable isn’t what gets it a spot on this list.
What’s most impressive about the Yamee XL and Fatbear is that the e-bikes purported range, a whopping 100 miles. According to the makers at Yamee, this is achieved through revolutionary I-PAS technology, which is reported to be six times more efficient than regular regenerative braking.
How exactly Yamee’s e-bikes do this is a patented secret, but if the results are what they say they are, you’re looking at a 100-mile e-bike that costs five times less than the Turbo Levo we discussed earlier.
And that’s it for our take on innovation within the domain of e-bikes. If you’d like to know more about the best e-bikes for specific considerations, why don’t you take a look at our pieces on the best e-bikes out there?