This is hardly a top-1o list since there are barely ten manufacturers out there building a purpose-built electric bike. As hard as it is to believe, with the hundreds of electric bikes on the market, only a handful of companies have bothered to design an electric bike with the batteries built into the frame. To design batteries into the frame takes a company that will design the bike from the wheels up to be an electric bike, something most companies are unwilling to do as long as consumers do not demand it. These days with millions of bikes being built in China, bike frames and bike components are cheap. To simply convert a bike, or hastily add a battery pack to an existing pedal bicycle frame is cheap and easy for any company (especially a small garage-based start-up). And most large bicycle companies seem to have realized how easy it is to make a conversion-bike.
Riding a bike with the battery built into the frame offers many advantages:
The good news is just this year we are seeing many purpose-built E-bikes hitting the market with the battery built into the frame…a welcome addition to a market that has been full of mostly conversion electric bikes using mass-produced frames with a hub-motor and batteries mounted to the rear rack.
Until this year there were only four bikes that had batteries built into frame that were marketed in the USA…Stealth, Optibike, A2B, and Stromer. Now there are at least 10, with a lot of new product announcements in 2012.
You might wonder why this website keeps referring back to the same short list of E-bikes. That is because there is very few E-bikes that are purpose-built.
This website classifies E-bike frames in 3 ways.
1. Purpose built (this list of 10 E-bikes)
2. Battery add-on Electric Bike ; a bicycle that has had a battery mounting system factory added to it such as a rear rack (list coming soon) as the bike pictured below.
3. Conversion bike; a bicycle designed only to be a bicycle with a rear rack or fabric bag added to convert the bike by the manufacturer (most DIY bikes, Hi-Power Cycles pictured below)
Here is a list of the 10 most prevalent bikes with batteries built into their frames. We salute these companies for going the extra mile and designing their bikes from the ground up to be electric bikes. For the purpose of rating, these bikes are numbered by how big of a battery (in watt hours) the frame holds…#10 being smallest, #1 being biggest. As you can see, the larger the pack the harder it is to hide within the frame.
#10 Specialized Turbo (read our article)
325-Wh The Specialized Turbo has the removable battery built into the downtube. An elegant and clean solution. However the 36V / 9-Ah battery gives you a puny 325 watt hour battery…kind of ridiculously small given you are paying $7000 for this bike.
#9 Easy Motion Neo Line (read story here)
325-Wh The pictured bike is the Neo Jumper, the flagship bike in the Neo line. Easy Motion spent big bucks to fit their samsung 36 volt 9 ah battery into the downtube. The bike above only weighs 45 pounds.
#8 Smart Electric Bike (read story here)
360-Wh Smart electric bike decided to go with a 250 watt bionx hub motor kit for all their electronics and put their time and energy into building a custom frame which will hold 36V / 10-Ah of battery (360 watt hours). This clean looking bike also features a belt rare drive pedal system.
#7 Stromer (read review here)
360-Wh, The Stromer is a Swiss-made electric bike with a 250 watt hub motor and a 36V / 10-Ah (360 watt hours) removable battery pack built into the downtube. Very similar to the Specialized Turbo in performance and feature set at half the price, the Stromer is one of the better priced options on this list.
#6 A2B Metro
410-Wh, The A2B looks beefy but uses a battery chemistry (lithium magnanese, LiMn) that is not as power dense as some of the other bikes on this list. The A2B hold 36V / 11.5-Ah for a total of 410 watt hours. It has the ability to easy add a second pack of the same size to the rear rack, to effectively double your range. Because the rear battery pack is easily removable, you can carry as many battery packs as you can buy for this thing.
#5 Easy Motion Jumper (read article here)
576-Wh, The KTM Egnition builds the battery into a unique space below the downtube allowing just enough room for the front tire to glid past it when the front suspension compresses. This bike takes advantage of a space which is usually wasted on a traditional triangle front suspension mountain bike. The KTM Egnition holds a respectable 36V /19-Ah of battery for 576 watt hours, and because it is using an efficient mid drive system should get maximum miles from those amp hours.
#4 Pi Cycle (read review here)
720-W,h The Picycle like the Optibike utilizes a aluminum monocoque frame which holds all the electrical components of the electric bike. This bike uses a front hub motor and no suspension allowing for a creative shape. The Picycle frame holds a respectable 48V / 15-Ah, 720-Wh battery.
#3 Optibike (read review here)
936-Wh, The Optibike is an elegant solution with the 36V / 26-Ah (936 watt hour) battery built into the Y shaped frame. The components are held nicely in this aluminum monocoque frame, but to get to battery or controller is a real task that will most likely have to be performed by the factory, since the bottom bracket motor must come off to access them. The Optibike uses a sophisticated mid drive motor system that lets the Rohloff in the back serve as a 14 speed transmission so you get maximum efficiency for all those watt hours. Of all these bikes, in my opinion Optibike does the best job of hiding the most amp hours in a tight and clean looking package, and having the most range per watt hour.
#2 Phasor Electric Bike (read review here)
1500-Wh, The Phasor electric bike is a new product that uses a Stealth-like frame to hold as much as 1,500 of Hobby King LiPo in its shell. However, this bike comes with the frame only, and you will be forced to build the battery pack and assemble the electric bike yourself.
#1 Stealth Bomber and Stealth Fighter (click for reviews)
1500-Wh, The Stealth Bomber carries a massive 83V / 20-Ah (1,500 watt hour) LiFePO4 battery in its arrow shaped shell. This is enough to give you a range of 50 miles on the flats if you ride at a modest 15-MPH. This is shape of frame that we see in the Phasor, and even the Optibike, because it is one of the best frame shapes that allows you a full suspension, good ground clearance, and massive battery storage potential. Unlike the Optibike, the Stealth components are easily accessible through a removable side plate. The Stealth Fighter is a smaller frame and holds 52V / 20-Ah for 1000 watt hours of LiFePO4 battery.
This is a short list of honorable mentions that did not make this list…bikes that I know of with purpose-built frames for holding the battery. I do not know of any others…please leave in comments if you know a purpose built frame and I will include it in this list.
Just this year Currie was bought out by a high end European bike producer (read story here) and cranked out some fantastic looking and purpose built electric bikes in their Izip line (read our review on the Izip Cruiser). Although some Currie fans gawked at the $2500 price, for a purpose built electric bike this is actually very affordable price. This bike has a built in battery pack (not removable) but riders can mount an otpional 2nd battery pack on the rear rack, or even carry one in the front basket if you are a true renegade.
EH Line Racer (read our story here)
I am not sure if this bike is being sold yet and I have not heard of one existing in the United States. But this bike packs a rather large 48V / 9Ah battery (465 watt hours) packed into the downtube and still manages to weigh less than 40 pounds. This is an exciting bike given its weight and large battery pack in a stealthy looking frame.
Lee Iacocca E-Bike
This one made the honorable mention list because it is now a piece of E-bike history. In fact this is the bike that coined the term “E-bike”. Former Chrysler and Ford President Lee Iacocca jumped into the E-bike business in the early 2000′s with a purpose built frame. The bike did not sell well with its heavy sealed lead acid battery (SLA) and lost millions for Iacocca and his investors. These bikes can be found on the used market at bargain prices and make excellent lithium-conversion bikes. You can fit a lot of Ah in that huge battery cage.
Mercedes Electric Bike
When german car giant Mercedes released an electric bike back in the early 2000′s they decided they were going to purpose build the frame. This bike had a removable NIMH battery, which at the time was state of the art battery chemistry for an electric bike and now is completely obsoleted by lithium. This bike failed miserably in product sales (probably because of inferior battery), and is no longer in production.
Tidalforce Electric Bikes (read our history story here)
The Tidalforce had several of their frames purpose-built with nice features such as wires that were hidden through the frame. This is a very unique bike in that the Nickel Metal Hydride battery (NiMH) is contained in the front wheel. This bike is on the honorable mention list because like the Iacocca E-bike, Tidalforce also lost millions for its investors and is now bankrupt. Tidalforce frames with the hub motors make excellent conversion bikes, and can also be found on the used market for bargain prices.
m55 (read our story here)
Exclusive bikes in very limited production with prices of over $20,000 like the m55 were purposely excluded from this list. For the bike to be on the list there must be a dealer in the USA selling the bike so that we know it is not vapor ware (we are a USA based site).
Dogati (read story here)
The Dogati is an example of a home built electric bike that fits the battery elegantly in a purpose built frame. This bike was built in a garage (but a very nice garage). This bike proves that it is possible for any electric bike company to build a purpose built frame if they use their ingenuity. This bike came out so well, that soon after completion the designer decided to start a company (Read Benjamin Chiu’s announcement here)
If you know of any other electric bikes which belong on this list please leave a comment. We welcome your input.