Ever since SOLAR 2008 in San Diego, where I got to scare pedestrians with the electric Photon trike, I’ve been lusting after a fast e-bike. As we reported in the July/August issue of Solar Today, Chinese and European factories are now cranking out millions of electric-assisted bicycles, sold mostly to commuters. A dozen or more companies, like Optibike, have sprung up in the U.S. to sell or even make these machines. To be classified as a bicycle, speed must be limited to 20 mph. Up to 30 mph, you can classify the bike as a moped, and it’s more likely to be styled like an old Vespa scooter.
I stumbled across a start-up company right here in Boulder, ElectroRide. Their Spark prototype uses mountain bike running gear (except for the serious-looking roadie tires), but otherwise looks like a mean motorcycle. I rode the Guzzi over there to prove I could handle two-wheeled speed, and begged for a ride.
Blair Keller, the inventor of this beast, wheeled it out and turned me loose. It’s eerie to accelerate away in near-silence (you can hear the drive-chain humming, and a little tire noise). I found a straight stretch of road behind a row of warehouses and turned the throttle. It went 48mph, and 50 if I crouched over the “tank.” This means it will keep up with commuter traffic, for 20 miles at a stretch.
The 180-lb. Spark runs a 12-hp Etek motor, driven at 48 volts by four 12-volt sealed lead-acid batteries (lithium ion comes next). The hardtail frame is a little harsh over pavement seams. The second prototype will have a sprung saddle, a faster, 17-hp Perm motor with regenerative braking, a silent toothed-belt drive, an on-board charging system and nicely-finished fiberglass body panels. It will have a great weatherproof void where the engine cylinders and fuel tank sit on a conventional motorcycle — a storage bin to take your briefcase or grocery bags.
Plan is to get the Spark into production and sell it for about $3000 — very cheap compared to the slick high-speed electric commuter motorcycles, which start at around $8000 and go up. If I commute 10 miles each way, the fuel savings would pay for the Spark in less than four years. And of course the carbon footprint is tiny.
I look forward to a day when our streets flow silently with clean, sensible personal vehicles that can knock your socks off.
1 Comment so far
Leave a comment