Electric bicycles are ready for their closeup.
As a couple of major manufacturers get closer to the launch of their electric bicycles, get ready for more hype, more marketing and more competition in what looks to be a growing market.
Smart, the mini-car manufacturer owned by German auto giant Daimler, has already started selling its e-bike in Europe and Asia and is gearing up for its end of May delivery date in the United States. The bike, designed with help from Berlin-based electric bike maker GRACE and powered by a Daimler-provided BionX lithium-ion battery, was recently awarded the prestigious “Ted Dot: Best of the Best” prize for top design quality.
As we’ve previously reported, the smart bike can provide four different levels of boost to aid the rider’s pedaling. The engine is activated as soon as the rider begins to pedal. Pedaling creates storable energy and the smart’s rider decides how much power she wants the electric motor to deliver to support her muscle power by pressing a button on the handlebar. Braking can also charge the battery due to recuperated energy that is converted into electrical energy and stored in the ebike’s battery.
Perhaps the toughest challenge for smart is convincing potential buyers that the bike’s electric assist, USB port and smartphone connectivity are worth the $3,800 asking price.
Not to be outdone, Germany’s Audi recently offered a peak at their new e-bike. The Audi cycle is described by the company as “a high-performance e-bike for sports and trick cycling.” Audi, which recently bought Italian motorcycle maker Ducati, included a bit of motocycle technology in its effort, as the bike is propelled by a twist grip. The Audi features 26-inch wheels, a carbon fiber frame and weighs in at about 56 pounds. The rider can select modes such as “Pure”, where the bike is powered by pedals alone; “pedelec,” where the battery assists the rider; “eGrip,” where the battery provides all the power up to 50 kilometers per hour; and “Wheelie,” where the back wheel power delivery is moderated when the front wheel is in the air.
Audi has yet to announce pricing or availability for its e-bike.