One genre of bike that fits the electric bike utility nicely is the cargo bike. Because of the nature of a cargo bike there is a lot of space to hide batteries, controllers and wiring and still have plenty of left over space for a baby or two.

For an electric biker, the extra few pounds that a cargo bike frame weighs is of no serious significance or consequence , especially given the extra capacity for battery stowage. Basically, with a cargo bike you will be able to toss into the bags as much lithium battery as you’re able to shake your credit card at, with storage space and weight capacity finally being a non-issue! Once a cargo bike is rolling they are designed to handle well even when weighted down. Your only issue with the heavy cargo bike will be when it comes to parking.

Notice the 1000w rear hub motor. Imagine all the battery you can carry in that battery box under the solar cell which serves as a charger. www.civicsolar.com


A cargo bike is one of the best frame choices for an electric bike because of its capability to hold many pounds of battery. Not only that, but your imagination can run wild on everything else that they can carry.  How about 300 bananas for mommas frozen daiquiri corner stand?  What about styrofoam bricks for your brothers foam house? Owning a cargo electric bike can be like owning a truck…but be careful…pretty soon everyone will want a favor or a pick up. It’s like owning a truck.

 

   
Check out Splendid Cycles beautiful electric big rig they use for delivering bicycles to their store in Oregon. Splendid Cycles builds some of the most beautiful long-john electric cargo bikes I have ever seen.

Cargo Electric Bikes, the Pros

  1. Unlike a pedal cargo bike, an electric cargo bike is not slow, and can go as fast as you set it up to go.
  2. Tons of Battery storage. Need high volts for hill climbing (72V+), and also lots of Ah for long range? with a cargo bike, you can easily have both.
  3. Tons of cargo capacity, You can actually use it to get stuff from the store.
  4. Ability to take passengers.
  5. Kids love riding on Cargo Bikes.
  6. Easy to go stealth and hide the electrics behind cargo bags.
  7. Since you are a cargo bike you have a good excuse to be electric…acceptance among other bikers.
  8. Not a hot ticket for bike thieves.
  9. Long wheelbase and fat tire capability are good for high speed, even if you don’t care about cargo.
  10. Sturdy non-suspension front forks, and the even weight distribution make them ideal candidates for simple front wheel drive hubs.

Cargo Electric Bike Cons

  1. Hard to store, you need a space big enough to roll your big and heavy cargo bike into (biggest drawback).
  2. Because they are not in mass production, they tend to be expensive.
  3. Not practical for riding off road.
  4. Front suspension forks do not work well on cargo electric bikes because of its front heavy weight balance.
  5. Can be unwieldy and not as fun to ride as shorter wheel base ride.
  6. You have no excuse not to help your friend move:

mid drive motor. Photo credit: Jeremy Harris

 

If you live in suburbia, are blessed with  a big garage,  use your bike mostly on the street, plan to carry loads with your E-bike, have kids…a cargo ebike might be the perfect solution for you. Cargo electric bikes are a fun and healthy way to tote your children around. Imagine the joy your child will feel riding in the open air compared to riding home in a car…these are days your child will always remember and maybe he/she will grow up and be part of the healthy biking culture:

This rider is using a Stoke Monkey mid drive, and making lifelong memories for his 3 kids

There are many kinds of cargo E-bikes, and to make it simple, lets break it down into 3 styles.

3 Styles of cargo electric bikes

There are 3 basic styles of cargo bike that can be converted to electric.

1. Trailers

2. Long Tails

3. Long-johns

Its worth weighing the pros and cons of all 3 of these styles.

1. Trailers

A  trailer can instantly transform your rig  into a cargo electric bike.  Trailers have been used by E-bikers who want to transport extra battery, kids, camping gear, and even dogs. People have biked across the country on regular mountain bikes towing trailers with all their food, camping gear, and especially lots of battery.

 Trailer Pros

  • Affordable
  • Can carry up to 100lbs
  • Once you easily and quickly detach, you have a regular ebike once again
Trailer Cons
  • Trailers make your electric bike not handle like a bike anymore.
  • Trailers are very unwieldy and hard to park
  • Trailers can be hard to navigate narrow passageways or single tracks
  • Can only carry up to 100lbs safely
Here are some electric bike trailer oddities. A friend of mine a few years back designed a cargo trailer that will convert your  regular bike into an electric bike. It is called the “Motobob” and was actually an E-trailer conversion with controller, battery pack and motor all built into the trailer. When you are done riding you can transform your electric  bike back into a regular bike by detaching the trailer. Now that’s what we call really neat. Unfortunately this device is no longer in production, so its now part of electric bike history.
And here is the modern carnation of a motor trailer (The Ridekick) for instant conversion of an ordinary bike into an electric bike:
And there is a fat electric bike with trailer.
Fatbike with Trailer for snow camping from this builder.
2. Longtails

The most popular form of cargo electric bike, there are many versions of this available.

Longtail pros

  • Can carry up to 400 pounds.
  • handling is still like a regular Ebike…feels solid.
  • Many options available for conversion.
  • Is the best vale for the money.
  • Can maneuver in narrow passageways and even single track.
  • When at a stop, you can see whats coming on the cross-street, compared to having the cargo in the front
Longtail cons

  • Can not carry the massive weight and volume a long John can.
  • Big and bulky to park.
A high-quality highly-recommended cargo longtail for electric conversion is the Surly Big Dummy. The one below has an extra set of handlebars so an adult passenger can ride on the back.  This is what we recommend for a long tail if you can afford it.  The other 2 options we recommend  is the very affordable Yuba Mundo and the Kona Ute pictured later in the story.

Front wheel drive Big Surly

Thrust Electric BIkes makes a delivery vehicle complete with LED lit banner space!


3. Long-Johns

The massive version of a cargo bike. These bikes have a long nose and hold the cargo in front of the rider. This is good for parents who want to keep an eye on their children, and for carrying large volume or a heavy weight. If you have a place to park this machine, and you have the extra cash, this could make a magnificent ride. Also you could base a business on it:

 

 

Long-john pros

  • Can carry over 600lbs easily.
  • Real attention getter…sharpest looking of all cargo bikes
  • Awesome visibility of load or children riding right in front of your eyes.
  • Romantic date machine for taking out the ladies…a magic carpet ride.
  • So unusual looking that car traffic notices you more than on a regular E-bike.
  • Good weight balance so ideal for front drive motor.
Long-john Cons

  • Expensive…just the bike is going to cost you over $2K.
  • Heavy…these are the heaviest of the cargo E-bike styles.
  • Does not ride like a bike…these things are unweidly
  • They take a heck of a lot of room to park.

 

Johnny Loco makes several really cool hub motor candidates

 

Joe Bike is one of the more renowned Long John E-bike makers.

This is an Ecospeed-powered electric bike, doing what cargo bikes are famous for…toting children.

 

 

There are 3 ways to transform these into electric cargo E-bikes:

Conversion Bikes

Making a electric cargo bike the cheap and easy way. If you are on a budget this is the way to go.

 

Simply a hub motor (front or rear), a controller strapped somewhere on the frame, and  the battery in the panniers. Conversion bikes are not too difficult and can be done as cheaply or as expensively as you want them. The pictured frame above is an Xtra Cycle, a kit that converts a regular mountain bike into a cargo bike. Another option is to start with a cargo bike to begin with, and then just add the motor and panniers. This is easy and can be a bit more expensive but does not require a “donor bike”. This is an easy bike for anyone to build, and the benefit of building yourself, is you can install your own flair…or your own whatever you have laying around the house.

The following 2 electric bikes  started as a regular mountain bikes  and were converted using welders:

 

Dogman’s “Bouncing Betty”

 

 

 

Amberwolf’s “crazybike 2” with a comfortable DIY recumbent seat

 

The above bike was built on a budget and is a regular steel-framed mountain bike that has been welded into a cargo bike and is lovingly crafted to fit the creators tastes and whims. The bike is painted in fantastic colors and has lights and turn signals so that the rider is sure to be noticed by passing traffic. This bike becomes an expression of the builders passion of building something that is affordable, built from recycled components from around the house, and is inherently safe.

Here is a beautiful example of a custom conversion by an electric bike in Australia as a delivery vehicle by GlowWorm bicycles. I like the cargo electric bikes when they have 20-inch wheels because they lower the center of gravity keeping all that weight down low, making the bike even easier to handle and maneuver:

 

The next bike is a highly custom conversion by Clever Cycles in Orgeon and is also a 20″ wheel with a low step through, but this bike is built around the Stoke Monkey mid drive system. Nice kickstand. This electric bike can be ridden with or without the kids seat in the back. This bike looks like so much fun. The sturdy front kickstand is similar to what the pedal bikes used for years by the Dutch postal service:

 

Another take on the cargo bike is simply a front rack with a big ass box in the front to haul your cargo. Pereira Cycles built a beautiful cargo bike with just that:

Cargobike8

The next example comes from an experienced cargo bike builder in Ithaca New York who has found that carrying passengers requires an extended frame if the passengers are not intimate (girlfriend, wife, or child). Also since the bike is designed to carry two passengers, and he lives in a hilly region, Larry Clarkberg built the bike with a hub motor in the front and in the back (AWD). Another unique quality, notices it has a large hub and a large tire up front, and a small tire and a small hub in the back. You can read more about his unique creation here:

 

Semi Purpose Built

Many manufacturers of cargo electric bikes are converting their electric bikes by building into the frame a way to mount the battery pack so that the rider has his panniers all clear for maximum cargo. All the below bikes come turn key ready to roll, and all contain the battery built into the rear rack. Extra battery can be piled into the panniers for extra long rides.

 

Trek Gary Fisher Transport

 

Yuba Mundo Electric. They took their stock model and mounted a battery between the seat and rear wheel, and a quality geared hub motor (the Ezee) up front

 

Kona Ute Electric. Can you see the motor? It is a front wheel drive small geared motor 250-watts, a controller behind the seat stay and batteries in the panniers.

My favorite turn key cargo e-bike, the Juiced Rider electric bike is designed by an Olympic High Jumper, a brilliant 20 inch bike with a low step through and huge ah battery and 500 watt geared hub motor and disc brakes.

 

Purpose Built

“Purpose built” means the cargo electric bike was built from the ground up with the plan of it being electric. Even with regular electric bikes this is a feat that very few companies have bothered with (see our list of 10 here). In the category of Electric cargo bikes I know of only one purpose-built bike, the beautiful, practical, and uber expensive: Urban Arrow. This is not a simple hub motor but a purpose-built mid drive.

 

The Urban Arrow is a ultra refined baby wagon.

 

 

 

To explore different ways of electrifying a cargo bike, check out our article on mid drive Cargo bikes here.

To find out how a cargo electric bike can actually save you money read here.