FULLY CHARGED: E-bikes and What’s Next
By Tony Donaldson [email protected]
Electric Bike Action is part of Hi-Torque Publications. There are seven magazines here, and the various titles cover almost everything with two wheels. There are three bicycle magazines, including Electric Bike Action, Mountain Bike Action and Road Bike Action. The rest of the magazines are devoted to powersports. The staff of all of the mags are enthusiasts of their particular realm and one of the coolest and most dedicated staff I’ve ever worked with. I am constantly learning from them.
Reading through the latest issue of our sister magazine, MBA, the entire “Trailgrams” column was about electric bikes. There were a couple of haters, but many with intelligent viewpoints on the subject. It’s a far cry from the pure vitriol that spewed from MBA readers just a year ago. As with any change, there are those who fear it—and hate it because it’s different from what they like. That’s a normal reaction. When you feel good and you’re mired in the dogma of what you love and live for, why try anything else, right?
The hard-core cycling community was largely against electric bikes, and there was very vocal pushback against it. Meanwhile, many bicycle brands had electric bikes in Europe for several years, and now many of the major brands are all bringing their great electric bikes here to the U.S.
“I’ve heard rumors that Harley-Davidson may be making more than prototype electric bikes soon.”
And it’s not just bicycles. KTM just debuted their electric motorcycle here. It’s been available in Europe for about three years, and it’s been under testing here in the U.S. for a year. They’re directly competing with Alta Motors. On-road, there are companies like Zero and Energica, and I’ve heard rumors that Harley-Davidson may be making more than prototype electric bikes soon. That is a massive switch!
A couple of years ago Storm Sondors captured the imagination of the crowdfunding world with his $500 electric fat bike. He asked for $75,000 to bring it to market, and Kickstarter crowdfunders pledged him $1.3 million! His bike is very basic, and although we feel it is underpowered, he did deliver an electric bike for well under $1000.
Now, Sondors is working on building an electric car, and I’m excited to check out the prototype electric car at the upcoming L.A. Auto Show. The look of the car is sexy, especially for a three-wheeled, three-seater electric car that he expects to sell for a mere $10,000. Having successfully delivered his $500 electric bike (albeit with some reliability problems), it will be interesting to see what kind of future the car will have. Listening to Sondors speak, you’d be forgiven for thinking that his thought process is akin to something you’d hear from Richard Branson or Steve Jobs. Sure, some of his ideas might seem a bit nutty, but I’m hoping he can pull off his latest initiative. It’s bold, but it could revolutionize the car industry in ways that even Tesla hasn’t.
Electric vehicles of all sorts are being adopted rapidly, with the advantage of being fueled by energy from a plethora of sources—from solar to nuclear to wind to coal and more. Electric bicycles will become a very normal part of transportation. I see them on the streets of Los Angeles in growing numbers and was very surprised at the dearth of them in New York. They’re still dealing with the legality, and the scary, lawless delivery drivers on throttle-driven electric bikes are not helping.
Specialized and other bike companies are seeing up to 50 percent of their profits coming from electric bikes already. It’s not hype; it’s about the fun factor. Now that more people have swung a leg over a bike and the electric light bulb has lit up, the haters are being drowned out by the enlightened. Some companies are switching their emphasis to becoming more e-bike-oriented.
The Boogaloo race series really has me fired up, just like its founder, Troy Lee. Watching this grassroots race series from the very beginning is exciting, and I think it has the potential to enjoy significant growth. So far the participants I’ve spoken to have had a great time, and many pro riders are beginning to get involved. It’s another great way to spread the word and get more people having fun on two wheels.Stay tuned and #getoutandride!
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