For many, commuting to work via bicycle is the ideal, but getting there via some form of motorized vehicle is often the reality. A mode of transportation currently working to close the gap is the electric bicycle, which has been gaining popularity in recent years all over the world.
Electric bicycles–or e-bikes–make use of one or more small electric motors to provide propulsion, mounted either on the frame of the bike on in the wheels themselves. The two major types of e-bikes are pedal-assist only (known as pedelecs in the European Union, and elsewhere as electric assist) and power-on-demand. The former responds when both the wheels and your pedaling slow down, due to an increase in elevation or simple cycling fatigue, to provide an electric “boost” where and when you need it. The latter can provide scooter-style transportation without pedaling if you choose–often via a handlebar throttle–but may also be pedaled for added efficiency, increased range and climbing capabilities.
Pre-assembled, factory-direct electric bikes are available from a growing number of manufacturers, including Currie Technologies, Greenlight Bikes, eZee, Revolve and Pedego. In recent years, recognized names like Sanyo and Volkswagon have started to introduce their own lines, as well (there’s even a Tommy Bahama-branded electric beach cruiser).
E+ Electric Bikes also offers clients e-bike conversions for some of the top names in traditional cycling, including Trek, Cannondale, Schwinn and Surly.
If you’re more the do-it-yourself type, a wide range of electric bike conversion kits are available. For around $1,000 (around $500 less than most pre-assembled bikes, which run between $1,500 and $6,000, on average), kits such as the E-BikeKit will turn your own trusty city bike, cruiser, or mountain bike into an electric. (If cost is your primary concern, there are also direct-from-China options online for around the same price.)