The Como 4 e-bike in action
E-bike Vs. E-car: First Steps
Is swapping an electric car for an electric bicycle really viable? Mukti investigates …
I’ve had an electric car for four years and absolutely loved it. The BMW i3 is fast, nippy, quiet and comfortable. It is manufactured using only renewable electricity and from 90% recyclable materials. It made great sense when I did 12,000 miles a year for work. However now I am desk based the annual running costs of £7,000 to drive just 3,000 miles is too expensive. I also have to admit that spending a lot of time at my desk means I’m getting unfit – I could use my bicycle more for short journeys, but since the car is electric I don’t always have self discipline!
When I heard that e-bikes now do 100 miles on one charge I wanted to know more. I was soon convinced that I could replace my car with an e-bike. While not for everyone, personally it means saving £6,000 per year and getting fitter and healthier. I can always hire a car or take a taxi from time to time when needed.
First I had to think carefully about how I would use it. Most of my journeys are under 15 miles each way, with the occasional 30 mile ride to Dartmoor. I also want to be able to carry luggage and sometimes do longer trips.
Range and power
The range – distance per single charge – varies with rider weight, fitness and luggage. However with all those things being equal, it comes down to battery capacity. Smaller 250 watt-hours (Wh) batteries are good for lightweight folding bikes and performance road bikes, 500Wh batteries for long-distance and hybrid bikes, and there are also a couple of 700Wh models. The power of the motor is measured in Newton metres (Nm) – typically 30Nm and 70Nm motors are available – which determines how much help you can get on hills.
Weight and durability
Whilst a normal bicycle weighs around 15kg and racing bikes around 10kg, e-bikes tend to be 20-25kg. Heavier bikes are slower but sometimes more hard-wearing. It’s worth considering that replacing parts on a high calibre, ultra lightweight bike is a lot more expensive, while the parts for a hybrid commuter bike are less expensive and more durable.
E-bikes range from around £1,500 for a small folding bicycle, £2,500 for a long range, durable e-bike, and £3,500 – £5,000 for high-end models.
The Turbo Como 4 by Specialized, with a 710Wh battery for longer journeys. It weighs 22kg and cost £3,700. Splitting this over 5 years, including insurance and servicing, works out at about £70/ month. (My electric car was costing me about £570 per month!) <<Click here to see this bike>>
What’s it like?
After just five days I’m absolutely loving it. I feel like I’m gliding and the upright Dutch-style riding position puts less strain on my back and I can really enjoy the views.
There are three power settings; eco, sport and turbo. On turbo-mode, a recent 15-mile journey into the wind took 55 minutes, and the range on this setting would be about 50 miles. On eco-mode – yet to be tested thoroughly – it should do around 80-100 miles at a slower pace. This bike can be programmed to regulate power usage on a ride – just specify your destination and how much battery power you want left when you get there. E-bikes only give power while you’re pedalling and only assist when you go less than 15mph – above this the electric power switches off. I have been doing shallow to medium hills at 15mph, steep hills at 10mph, and 20-30mph downhill.
Last Sunday there was a westerly 40mph gale and pouring rain. Putting my bike and waterproofs to the test, I met friends for lunch 16 miles away. I had recently re-waterproofed my walking jacket with Nikwax and wanted to see how well it had worked.
The ride was a real pleasure. The electric motor made the hills easy and the head wind was no problem. With my merino wool thermals and waterproofs I arrived almost completely dry (apart from the neck area which I had unzipped to keep cool). After lunch I cycled another seven miles to see my parents. I took it easy, peddling but leaving the motor to do all the work and the journey felt effortless. On this ride I wore warm clothes and did not overheat at the relaxed pace.
I can already feel the good effect cycling more is having on my health. I don’t have to plan exercise so much – when I travel, exercise comes with it. And I’m feeling smug in advance at saving nearly a tonne of CO2. Now, what kind of eco-holiday can I plan with the £6,000 a year I’m going to save?
Comparative carbon emissions of an e-car and an e-bike
*Includes manufacturing and charging missions for 3,000 miles per year over 12 years.