Interbike is the once-a-year Las Vegas bicycle extravaganza, which until now has been dominated by pedal bicycles, with electric bikes comprising a very small niche. This year electric bikes were everywhere. Imagine the electric bike test track, right next to the pedal bike test track. The electric test track was flooded from end to end with people trying or waiting to try electric bikes. There was usually a wait just to borrow a helmet. The pedal bike test track seemed like a ghost town…not a single bike being ridden most of the time.
2012 seems to be the breakthrough year for electric bikes at Interbike.
The downside is, even with all those new e-bikes, we did not get to see much innovation. The affordable hub motor, Chinese made, lithium battery pack, turn key electric bikes seemed to be the most common theme. The only competition between the electric bike sellers seems to be…who can market the best Chinese-built bike for the cheapest amount of money. Prices are plummeting, though quality is improving. Dorky plastic looking e-bikes have all seemed to disappear, and stylish designs are stepping up.
With a few exceptions, most of the new electric bikes are Chinese-made bikes of European or USA design. The price on some of these bikes was surprisingly low. For $2,000 retail you can now buy a reasonable bike with excellent battery, motor, and controller.
Hub motor kits and conversion part suppliers were nearly non existant. The only two I saw were Bionx and Falco. There was a new hub motor kit from Falco that they are offering with a wireless dash and throttle, and five hall sensors for ultra-smooth power application.
Here are the bikes that I saw as as stand-outs in the crowd:
Stealth Electric Bikes
The Stealth Bomber was by far the most expensive bike on the test track. This bike, by the time you get it in the US, will cost you around $12,000. (read our Stealth Bomber Review). The Stealth was obviously a stand-out, and by far the fastest e-bike on the test track (50-MPH!). For demonstrations, Stealth had the white Stealth Bomber of Ronnie Renner, world class motocross freestyle rider. Occasionally he would take his bike around the test track.
Stealth also announced their new product “The Fury,” an electric street bike with no pedals. This e-bike was available for test rides as well:
Grace Electric Bikes
Grace bikes of Germany showed up with two beautiful bikes, the Grace Easy and the Grace One. These were two very refined-looking bikes. The Grace Easy is basically the same bike as the Smart bike, with different styling (Grace had also designed the Smart Bike). All the components are the same on the Grace Easy and the Smart, meaning they are all made by Bionx, and both feature a belt pedal drive and the 3-speed internal gear hub. (this is a feat considering the Smart and the Grace Easy are rear hub drive e-bikes).
This bike will retail for about the same as the Smart Bike ($3500).
Also the Smart Bike was on display at the show, and I must say it was impressive in person:
Grace also had their Grace One on display ($5,500). This bike has a 1300W direct drive hub motor system which was fast on the test track. Both Grace bikes had a refined feel to their rides. The Grace One that I demoed on, gave me the impression they are still working on the dash interface. It is scheduled to be released sometime in 2013.
The Grace and Smart bikes were definitely among the artistically stylish stand-outs at the show. But by far my favorite bike aesthetically was the made-in-America (rare) Faraday, which looked even more fantastic in person than it does in picture. I had a beer with the founder of Faraday, Adam Vollmer, standing over what is really a piece of E-bike art.
The Juiced Rider is a 20″ cargo bike, with a small footprint. A 500-watt front wheel drive geared-hub motor allows a 3-speed internal hub in the back. The bikes top gear has a high gear ratio, allowing you to pedal even at high speed (not easy for a 20″ wheeled bike), and this important because, being able to add pedaling when E-powered at the bikes top speed is the single best way to extend your batteries range. The frame-integrated rear rack has enough cargo space to carry a large bag or even a passenger (their website carries a child-seat that bolts down in the rear).
This was one of my favorite bikes in the show. With a 48V / 15-Ah gigantic Lithium-Manganese (LiMn) battery and a $2,000 price tag, this is the one bike at the show I would consider buying for myself. In the picture is Tora (founder of Juiced Rider) and Justin (from ebike.ca and endless-sphere leader) . The significance is that, these two were in a documentary youtube video titled “Ebike Family” during the design phases in China. I highly recommend that you watch this video if you want to know what goes into designing a quality China-made bike.
We will be doing a review of the Juiced Rider in an upcoming story.
E-Motion Electric Bikes
Spanish based E-Motion bikes had an excellent new folding bike on display, as well as a carbon fiber electric bike. This folder had the best folding apparatus I have ever seen on an electric bike. E-Motion is known for making clean bikes that are lightweight and “pedal-bike” looking, with the removable battery hidden inside the frames top-tube. All the E-motion bikes feature 36V systems. Expect a write-up soon on the Emotion line from this site.
Polaris Electric Bicycle
Polaris has jumped into the electric bike game with a line of bicycles all based on a patented technology which uses two different windings in the hub motors, to effectively achieve a speed “gear” and a torque “gear”. Essentially the two different windings serve as two different types of motors, so that the bike is efficient on flats and also when climbing. Unfortunately, this motor is only offered in a 250-watt power level at the current time. We will post more on the Polaris on an upcoming story, but it’s exciting to see such a big name entering the e-bike market.
If you are in love with this bike, I recommend getting the motor with the slower climbing “torque” wind, and raise the volts. Of course you would have to get a new controller and find some way to wire it in.
Voltage Cycles is a Northern California company that builds custom cruiser electric bikes based on the Basman bicycle frame. This electric bike uses a high quality 600 watt BMC motor (read our review) and a top quality 48V All Cell battery pack. These will retail at about the $3,000 price point.
It seems to me Currie has doubled their model line-up for 2013. Lately Currie has been announcing new acquisitions from the European bike market. At Interbike they had a number of their new bikes on display, including a folding Dahon Bike, a shaft-drive and their dashing new Eflow (pictured). Currie is also looking to bring a model with the Bosch drive (the Hai Bike) to market in 2013. All Currie battery packs are made with quality Samsung cells, and they seem to stand behind their products. Currie is by far the market leader for electric bikes in the USA.
Pedego it seems has really stepped up their product line, with a 48V City Commuter (pictured) and also a 4-inch tire electric sand fat-bike. Given how well they have done marketing the medium quality (but dependable and flashy) cruisers, I expect to see the more refined “City Commuter” as being a big hit, especially at its very reasonable $2,300 retail price for the 48V version. The City Commuter features Schwalbe tires, Avid BB7 disc brakes, a geared 500 watt motor, and a dependable electric drive system that Pedego has become known for.
Prodeco had huge showing at Interbike, spending big money on prime space and introducing a new bicycle “the Outlaw“, which should give Currie and Pedego a run for their money. Prodeco has been known for offering decent quality bikes at great prices. Let’s see if this company can keep up with the demand, which has been an issue in the past.
Energie Cycles had a new bike on display featuring a 36V /16-Ah battery pack, which at 576 watt hours, is one of the bigger battery packs offered on a commercially available bike. (The biggest right now would be the Juiced Rider, at 690 watt hours.) This “2.6 tm” model retails for $2,400, a good price considering the size and quality of the lithium battery on this bike.
Next check out our feature story on the handful of mid drive bikes which were on display at Interbike.