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Electric Bicycle (E-Bike) Stories from around the World

Note : Jan 2014, this page is not being added to. New items are posted on a new blog and over time the blog will replace this page
If you go there - in the categories drop down select whatever interests you"

Future Electric Bicycles

I'm David kemp, the old guy here and I'm very interested in exploring where e-bikes are going...
what they will look like,
how they will work,
how practical they will be,
(and other stuff like the future of transportation, and indeed what will become of this wonderful world.)
Early cars looked quite like the buggies they replaced. A century later there's no resemblance.
E-bikes look quite like the bikes they are (partly) replacing. In a century, or even in a decade they won't.
I've seen maybe a hundred proposed designs that are significantly different. Some will get into production, some already are being produced.
If there's a project in a design school to design an e-bike given free rein and without preconceptions there will be very varied concepts. It's a good project and produces a greater variety of concepts than to design say, a chair, or baby pram.
What I aim to do is write about concepts that have some chance of making it into production.
I'll look for significant points of difference... for there are now very many e-bikes of a kind...city bikes, mountain bikes, 20" folding bikes... that are different in only small ways.
It will be a work in progress, probably always,
and not a neat exposition, as if for a thesis.
So...these futuristic bikes get posted on a new page...in note form to start with and in no particular order, yet

Electric bicycles in United States

I've just read a long presentation to a transportation seminar by John MacArthur at Portland State University. "Electric Bikes in United States". Lots of stats, and photos, and interesting results of a survey of e-bike owners. Cities in Europe, especially Holland, are much more bikey (and e-bikey) than Australia or US. Australia is probably quite like US in bike use so it's interesting to see a survey of e-bike use in US.

Some of the interesting demographics of those surveyed are :
58% have health that is "very good" or "excellent"
71 % are over 45
50% earn over $US 75000
71% are college graduates
90% have access to a car
67% bought their e-bike as recently as 2011 or later

94% rode a bike as an adult, and of those :
55 % said they rode a bike daily or weekly before buying their e-bike, but 93% ride their e-bike daily or weekly
73% reported that they now ride to other or more distant destinations than they did before
about 75% said they do not now need a shower after commute whereas about 67% said they did need one before
about 60% said they felt safer riding their e-bike than their ordinary bike

When asked the reason, and the purpose, for buying their e-bike the top 3 reasons given were

1. to reduce some car trips
2. to increase physical fitmess
3. to ride with less effort

and for the main purpose it was roughly
commute 45%, local trips 25%, recreation 20%

When asked what the comparative advantages of their e-bike are the top 3 were

1.increased range
2. less effort/help on hills
3. health

And of the 6% who had not ridden a bike (as adult) before buying their e-bike 89% are now riding their e-bike daily or weekly. (I am hearing similarly from customers who had not ridden a bike since they were children).

You can read the presentation here and there's a link included if would like to send your experience with riding e-bike for the ongoing survey

A 4000 km e-bike test around glaciers, hot springs, volcanos and spectacular scenery.

bikes in iceland

Fancy riding a bike around Iceland? (Actually quite a lot of Icelanders do ride bikes). In June and July this year Pedelec Adventures took some e-bikes to Iceland to show what’s possible on electric bikes. In urban Reykjavík, on remote gravel roads in the West Fjords and in the rough terrain of the highlands with its rivers and lava desert, the bicycle-fans challenged the all-round talent of their bikes which were provided by the tour‘s main sponsor eflow. Check out this link to see the bikes enduring wind rain and arctic temperatures, and the amazing scenery. Icleand Challenge

E-Bike Stories

Those who sit for long hours take note! - a very important warning here
Want the fastest electric bike? Here'show to build an 80kmh bike (Note big 70MB file)
E-Bike testing in Iceland plus wonderful scenery...glaciers, hot springs,volcanoes
The latest smart wheelsElectron Wheel, FlyKly Wheel, Cophenhagen Wheel - motor, battery and controller all in one wheel
10 lists of 10 e-bike articles from crashes, fastest, dangers, wierd, to tips about e-bikes
Lose weight by riding an E-Bike ? Yes you can !
There are very many good reasons to buy an e-bike, all good for you
Very good for you, especially that you can add years of happier, healthier, mobile life
There are some misleading claims about e-bikes about
Fueled motorised bicycles are not legal on road
How fast can an e-bike go? uphill?
E-Bike laws in Australia and EN15194 eplained

Some Places are Getting Tough on E-Bikes

$1000 fine if you ride one in NY City

From Electricbike.com April 2012
The officials in charge of New York City have had enough of e-bikes and are clamping down and intensifying enforcement on a law made back in 2004 that electric bikes are illegal in the entire state of New York.
It was announced on April 12th on the city hall steps by city council member Jessica Lappin that the fine for riding an electric bike in New York has been increased from $500 to $1000.
She said “My office has been deluged with complaints about the scourge of these souped up delivery bikes, which can hit speeds of 45kph.
In a recent survey, a whopping 72% of constituents said they’d “been hit or almost hit” by a delivery bike, and not surprisingly, about the same percentage favored increasing fines on electric bikes.”
Most of the blame on the crackdown is being put on food delivery men who often time ride electric bicycles at reckless speeds.
Also it has been announced that many electric bikes have been confiscated by the New York City Police Department.
The Council Member said she was particularly concerned for elderly residents in her Upper East Side district, and quoted one of them as saying these electric bikes “converge on me from multiple directions.”
State Senator Liz Krueger was also on hand, and echoed the same concerns, asking, “Who will think of the mothers pushing carriages who are at risk for their lives?”
David Pollack, from the Committee for Taxi Safety, went even further, calling the bikes “a menace to little children” and a “menace to society”, and describing how he was nearly hit twice during a single walk outside this week.
In China where millions of electric bikes are flooding the streets, many big cities have outlawed electric bikes as well. Southeastern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, banned electric bikes in main downtown areas reduce related traffic accidents.
Statistics showed electric bikes were blamed for 64 deaths in 268 roads accidents last year in just that one city.
The city has over 500,000 electric bikes and the ban is believed to greatly increase the operational costs of express delivery companies which rely heavily on electric bikes.
The article has pictures of 2 $12k ebikes confiscated by NY Police (a Stealth Bomber, and a Optibike 850). An ebiker is quoted saying his plan is to continue riding his Stealth Bomber which is silent, and if he gets pulled over tell the officer he is riding it with the power off.
However, the officer might argue that an ebike riding on the street is illegal whether the power switch is turned on or off.

Another ebiker said he plans to buy an Optibke just so if the cops see him he looks like an ordinary bicyclist taking advantage of the Optibike’s stealthy appearance (looks like regular non powered mountain bike).
For electric bike enthusiasts this clamping down in NYC and other big cities where the electric bike movement is more progressed (China) should raise alarm signals of what could follow in other major cities if Ebike riders do not change their riding habits.
As the population of electric bike riders grows, it will become more and more of an issue.
Anyone who’s driven or walked through mid-town Manhattan knows what a navigational nightmare it can be for anybike rider most hours of the day or evening, i.e. buses, cabs, emergency vehicles, delivery trucks, vendors, and more, all competing for a piece of pavement, many making frequent stops or detours around double-parked vehicles, etc.
Now add both pedal and e-powered bikes, many driven by impatient underpaid deliverymen who routinely disobey both traffic laws and common sense, e.g. riding on sidewalk, riding the wrong way down one way streets, etc. and you start to appreciate the potential for personal injury and utter mayhem.
There are no easy answers here due to the severe congestion and lack of sufficient patrolmen to enforce whatever laws are on the books.
I’m neither condoning nor condemning this latest proposal because NY has yet to pass any sensible e-bike legislation to date, though there’s been a perfectly reasonable bill sitting in the state senate for several years now.
I will say that one positive of this controversy is that perhaps it will get all sides talking seriously and finally deciding what should and should not be legal on the streets of the city and NY state in the way of e-bikes.
Separately, bike lanes have been tried in Manhattan–and mostly abandoned or ignored–in the recent past, mainly because they’re simply impossible to enforce in such an overcongested environment.
What is interesting in New York City Wheels, one of the largest ebike retailers in the United States with a big internet presence is based in NYC where it is technically not only illegal to ride ebikes but also to sell them.
As a funny aside in Harlem they are having a problem with off-road totally illegal mx motorcycles running rampant through city streets, on sidewalks etc.
The police have decided to not chase these guys because when they do they can't catch them and people tend to get hurt.
Because the guys are not slow and cooperative like ebike guys the Harlem riders are hard to catch.
Read the story here an be sure to watch the video for pure chaos, guys riding along side cop cars and fleeing on sidewalks etc:

I do want to spread the word and get more people out of a car, and onto an electric bicycle...
after all, the majority of car trips are short trips with one person... and that person could well be on a bicycle, and that car could stay in the garage,or not even be needed. I collected some stories, wrote some, and got side tracked trying to start the business.
I recently started a real blog www.electricbicycles.me and am moving items from here to there and will eventually put there anything I can think of...how-to, why, links, whatever. You are welcome to visit electric bicycle blog and add a story or comment, or anything useful. There are now many videos on YouTube about people and their electric bikes. If you see any that are useful and informative let me know and I will put up a link. Also if you have or see a good e-bike story let me know... or you can post on the blog when there is anything worth a comment. noosa@value-e-bikes.com.au subject: "blog"
Let's get more people enjoying electric bikes...David Kemp, July 2012

Electric Bicycles in Australia

By David Kemp, Noosa

Biking versus bussing in Noosa.

I live at Parklands on the Cooroy side of Tewantin. A bus goes past my door, but only hourly, and only 7-7. The Sunbus meanders around to link in and serve retirement villages and shopping centres. On one of my e-bikes I can get from Parklands to Tewantin in 8 minutes, Civic in 14 minutes, Noosaville in 16 minutes, Hastings St in 25 minutes, National Park, Sunshine Beach or Sunrise in 30 minutes.
I can beat the Sunbus to anywhere in Noosa on an electric bicycle, come and go, or stopover, whenever I like, and enjoy the ride and stay fit. No waiting, no parking, no fares, almost for free.
With some electric bicycles one has to do some pedalling, with some one needs not do any pedalling at all. I choose to use one where I must do some pedalling. That way I will get some exercise...about as much as a brisk walk. Enough to have a good benefit, but not enough to be sweaty.

Biking versus bussing in other places.

I expect it would be similar in any large town or medium size city...
where it is quite easy to ride around...
such as Caloundra, Maroochydore, Hervey Bay, Byron Bay, Cairns or Coffs Harbour to name just a few.
Where the city is larger, busier, such as Gold Coast, and where the buses are more frequent the trade-off between bussing or biking would be less clear.
Where the city is large and sprawling, like Brisbane or Sydney, it may be a long walk to a bus stop, a wait at an interchange, and a walk at the other end. Biking for any distance up to about 15 km, or about 40 minutes, is a better alternative.

There's too many cars in our cities. (and not enough bikes)

Has anyone been to Amsterdam? A city with about as many people as Brisbane, and hardly a car in the city! There's a lot of electric trams coming every few minutes, and bicycles everywhere, tied to every possible hitching space, but hardly a car.
There's so many bikes it is very hard to find a hitching place, and there is even a multi story bike parking station. For just about every bike there is one less car, and that is just as well because it is very hard to own a car and to have a place to park it in Amsterdam.
Some cities in Europe such as Lyon have a free, or very cheap, bike rental scheme with many places around the city where a bike can be taken or left much the same way as one takes or returns a shopping trolley.
Some cities such as London have put a ring around the city...cross over and pay, $10!... and so less cars now, and so more bikes now, and it's easier on a bike now.
Sooner or later all cities are going to have to do something to improve living and travelling in the city. That will involve wider town planning issues, the city design, the amount of space we have, and more. I got a Town Planning degree 35 years ago, and it was obvious then that change would be needed, and it's all gotten a lot more congested since then.
So I am all for anyone getting out of a car and onto a bicycle, and better still - swapping the car for a bicycle. Also for making it easy to do the swap. Making it easy to get around on a bike. From anywhere to anywhere. It's easy enough in Noosa, but not Parramatta Rd or pacific or Cumberland Highways 5 in Sydney.

Biking for Fitness.

I'm all for it. I'm just a bike-about-town bloke, and certainly not a serious road biker...
but I hadn't ridden to work or shops in years past then given my genes I'd be twice the weight.
Fitness campaigns come and lapse. All the bike-for fitness programs and bikathons end up on the back verandah along with all the outgrown kid's bikes and all the cheap bikes. I saw more bikes beside the road at the last Council cleanup than ever I saw on the road. I'd like to see more people riding bikes, more often, further.
If they were to say that too much effort, then I'd like to convince people that by spending half that effort but doing it 4, or 10, times as often that's twice or 5 times that "too much effort".
And the half the effort comes from riding an electric bike, one of the ones that one has to do some pedalling. I'd like to say...if you need to go somewhere regularly, then go there on a bike, reguarly... That it's better to do that in the first place than to spend 15 minutes driving to work, and then back, and then spending an hour going for a walk to make up for the lack of exercise.

Do you use a push mower for your lawn? (or a motor mower?)

Way back in the distant past we had to use a push mower or a scythe to cut our grass. I remember my father labourously slashing about and acre of long paspalum grass with a scythe a few times a year when it got too long and sticky to wade through. And me labourously raking the cut grass into heaps for carrying away to a pile. That thick grass was far too thick to use a push mower on. We just used that to keep a track through the long grass and a space under the washing line mowed.
I remember how happy my father was when he got one of those new fangled Victa mowers, and what I difference that made.
I think electric bicycles will make a similar revolution to the way we get around as did motor lawnmowers in changing cutting or slashing grass into mowing lawns. And that an electric bicycle is to a bicycle as a lawnmower is to a push mower.
Does anyone still use a push mower? I saw a new one in Bunnings and wondered.
To take this analogy further, if I may, electric bicycles are to cars as lawnmowers are to ride-on tractor mowers. Short distance everyday trips on an electric bicycle or longer distance trips in a car:
300 square metres of lawn or 3000 square metres of grass.
Enjoy your short trips on an electric bike!

E-Bikes in China, Holland and US

By J. DAVID GOODMAN, Published: January 31, 2010

SHANGHAI - Jiang Ruming, a marketing manager, owns a van, but for many errands, he hops on a futuristic-looking contraption that lets him weave rapidly through Shanghai's messy traffic. He rides an electric bicycle. Electric bicycle riders in China, where about 120 million such bikes are used, with some going up to 45kmh. Half a world away, in San Francisco, the president of that city's board of supervisors, David Chiu, uses an electric bike to get to meetings without sweating through his suit.
And in the Netherlands, Jessy Wijzenbeek-Voet recently rode an electric bicycle on a long trip that, at 71, she would not have been able to make on a standard bike.
Detroit may be introducing electric car designs and China may be pushing forward with a big expansion of its highways and trains. But people like Mr. Jiang, Ms. Wijzenbeek-Voet and Mr. Chiu - as well as delivery workers in New York, postal employees in Germany and commuters from Canada to Japan - are among the millions taking part in a more accidental transportation upheaval.
It began in China, where an estimated 120 million electric bicycles now hum along the roads, up from a few thousand in the 1990s. They are replacing traditional bikes and motorcycles at a rapid clip and, in many cases, allowing people to put off the switch to cars.
In turn, the booming Chinese electric-bike industry is spurring worldwide interest and impressive sales in India, Europe and the United States. China is exporting many bikes, and Western manufacturers are also copying the Chinese trend to produce models of their own. From virtually nothing a decade ago, electric bikes have become an $11 billion global industry.
"It's miraculous - it takes the hills out of riding," said Roger Phillips, 78, who rides an electric bike around Manhattan. The sensation is akin to a moving walkway at the airport, he said.
Electric bikes have been a "gift from God" for bike makers, said Edward Benjamin, an independent industry consultant, not only because they cost more - typically $1,500 to $3,000 - but also because they include more components like batteries that need regular replacement.
In the Netherlands, a third of the money spent on bicycles last year went to electric-powered models. Industry experts predict similar growth elsewhere in Europe, especially in Germany, France and Italy, as rising interest in cycling coincides with an aging population. India had virtually no sales until two years ago, but its nascent market is fast expanding and could eclipse Europe's in the next year.
"The growth has been tremendous in the last two years," said Naveen Munjal, managing director of Hero Electric, a division of India's largest bicycle and motorcycle maker. He expects sales at Hero to increase to 250,000 electric bikes in 2012, from 100,000 in 2009.

While the American market has been modest - about 200,000 bikes sold last year, by some estimates - interest is rising, said Jay Townley, a bicycle industry consultant. Best Buy began selling electric bicycles in June at 19 stores in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. Trek, a manufacturer based in Wisconsin, recently began selling a bike created by Gary Fisher, a prominent bicycle designer.
"Electric-assisted bicycles will change how people think about bikes in urban areas," predicted Mr. Chiu of San Francisco, who has been riding a prototype of the Trek bike since the summer.
Improvements in technology are resulting in lighter designs that appeal to older cyclists. "Now you've got a product you can present to a baby boomer," Mr. Townley said.
New York City's largest electric bike store, NYCeWheels, opened in 2001, and in the last few years, business has been growing, said Bert Cebular, the owner. In Chinatown, electric bikes are showing up on nearly every corner and several shops have recently appeared, selling bikes imported from Chinese factories.
As the global market develops, two types of electric bikes are emerging. One is similar to a standard bicycle with pedals, but it has an electric motor that engages on command or when the cyclist pedals. These are the most popular type in the United States and Europe, with many people using the electric motor mainly for help in wind or on steep hills.
By contrast, in China, electric bicycles have evolved into bigger machines that resemble Vespa scooters. They have small, wide-set pedals that most cyclists do not use as they travel entirely on battery power. The bikes move at up to 30 miles an hour, with a range of 50 miles on a fully charged battery.
These larger models are causing headaches for global transportation planners. They cannot decide whether to embrace them as a green form of transportation, or ban them as a safety hazard. Some cities are studying the halfway measure of banning them from bicycle lanes while permitting them on streets. In China, electric bicycles "have a moderating influence on the use of cars," said Cornie Huizenga of the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities, an advocacy group. A survey by American and Chinese researchers in the Chinese city of Kunming found that one in six electric bike riders would drive a car or take a taxi if their bicycle were taken away.
Such is the case with Mr. Jiang, the Shanghai marketing manager. Environmental benefits never factor into his decision to use his bike instead of his car, he said; it is simply a matter of convenience. "If I'm not going to anywhere distant, driving a car doesn't save any time," he said.

For each mile traveled, electric bikes cause fewer emissions of the gases associated with global warming than do cars. But they come with their own set of pollution concerns. A typical Chinese model uses five lead batteries in its lifetime, each containing 20 to 30 pounds of lead. In areas without stringent recycling programs, the potential for environmental contamination is high.
"This is perhaps the most problematic issue for electric bikes," said Christopher Cherry, an author of the Kunming study. Safety is increasingly a concern. An electric bike rider is more likely than a car driver to be killed or injured in a collision, and as the number of riders has soared, fatalities in China have risen. And riders of these vehicles often choose to take bicycle lanes, where they mix with slower-moving bikes and pedestrians, adding to the potential for an accident.
In December, conflict over electric bike safety and design erupted when a government agency introduced a rule effectively banning large electric bikes from bike lanes. But the response from manufacturers and bike owners - nearly 10 percent of the population - was forceful. Less than two weeks later, the rule was suspended.
As China struggles to find the proper place on the road for electric bikes, some bicycle advocates in the United States see them as a potential boon for bike commuting, especially for older riders.
But with greater numbers, conflicts between electric bikers and old-fashioned cyclists may also grow. Several Canadian cities, including Toronto, have considered banning electric bikes from bicycle lanes, while in New York and in parts of Europe, riders have reported harassment from regular bike riders when they use the lanes.
Ms. Wijzenbeek-Voet said she often gets stares from other cyclists when she takes her electric bike to the store. "They look at me wondering, 'How is it possible that lady is going so fast?' "
Officially, electric bicycles are not permitted on New York streets, though that does not seem to be stopping many riders. However, Mr. Phillips, the Manhattan rider, recently found himself unable to get accident insurance, making him wary of riding and eager for a change in the law. A bill before the State Legislature would permit bikes with a top speed of 20 miles an hour and less than 1,000 watts. Other states limit power output to 750 watts. [it's 200 watts here, Ed]
One barrier to wider adoption of electric bicycles in the United States and Europe may be the culture of cycling. Bicycle riders have long valued cycling as a sport and a form of exercise, not simply as a utilitarian means of transportation, and many of them look down their noses at electric bikes.
"To the core cyclist, it's cheating," said Loren Mooney, editor in chief of Bicycling Magazine. "Marketers understand this, and it's why some have put e-bikes in mass retailers like Best Buy, rather than engaging in the uphill battle of trying to sell them in bike shops."

Can there be too many electric bicycles? In China, yes - In Australia, no

By SHAI OSTER - Wall Street Journal

BEIJING-Bundled against the cold beneath a highway overpass on a busy Beijing intersection, traffic warden Zhao Delong waved his colored flag in frustration at the new silent killer stalking city streets.
"Those electric bikes just don't listen! The problem is they go too fast. They can't stop like bikes. I saw an accident just over there the other day where someone on an e-bike rushed through the intersection and plowed over someone on a regular bike," Mr. Zhao said as he tried to keep China's newest road hazard in check.
Powerful battery-powered bicycles are crowding out their push-pedal brethren, delivering a jolt to the Bicycle Kingdom. By some estimates there are 120 million e-bikes on China's roads-up from just 50,000 a decade ago, making it the fastest growing form of transportation in China. Cities at first embraced them as a quieter and cleaner alternative to gasoline-powered scooters.
Officials were caught off guard when that environmentally appealing solution turned out to be deadly on the streets. In 2007, there were 2,469 deaths from electric-bicycle accidents nationwide, up from just 34 in 2001, according to government statistics.
That's roughly 3% of China's annual 90,000 traffic accident deaths. Still technically bicycles, they're operating in a legal gray zone. Drivers of electric bikes don't need to pass stringent driving tests to get licensed, and courts are struggling to sort out lawsuits.
Pedestrians complain that e-bike riders pay little heed to the rules of the road. Drivers of electric bikes are "totally devoid of conscience and respect for the law," complained Wang Mingyue, a blogger on the popular Beijing News Web site.
China's e-bike industry started under the planned economy of the Maoist 1960s. Primitive battery and engine technology doomed early efforts. After China liberalized its economy in the 1980s, a handful of entrepreneurs tried to revive e-bikes just as city planners were casting a worried eye on the explosive growth of exhaust-spewing mopeds and scooters. By the 1990s, cities were starting to ban motor scooters, creating an opening for electric bicycles. Electric bikes had government backing: inclusion as one of 10 key scientific-development priority projects in the Ninth Five-Year Plan. They had the personal endorsement of former Premier Li Peng, according to an academic paper on the history of e-bikes in China by Jonathan Weinert, Ma Chaktan and Chris Cherry.
By 1998, regulators realized they had to limit the speed and size of e-bikes, too. The rules were loosely enforced and left a loophole. If it's got a pedal, it's a bicycle. The original standards put the maximum speed of an electric bike at 20 kilometers per hour But e-bikes' power soon outpaced that. Some are capable of 40kmh or more.
The market grew slowly at first. That changed after China was hit by severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2003. National e-bike sales jumped from 1.5 million in 2002 to four million in 2003 as commuters sought an alternative to crowded public transport, where germs spread quickly.
Electric-bike fatalities rose, too. In 2003, 87 people were killed in e-bike accidents. A year later, 589 died. The deaths led to a backlash. Beijing and Fuzhou banned electric bikes in 2002. Beijing lifted its ban in 2006.

More cities decided they'd had enough. The northeast industrial town of Shenyang banned e-bikes in 2009 after their numbers spiked in the wake of a motorcycle ban. Over the summer, Changsha city traffic police set up checkpoints and handed out 60,000 tickets in five days for e-bikes that violated weight and speed restrictions, or didn't have proper registration. In Zhejiang province, Hangzhou banned out-of-town e-bikes; in Wenzhou, police confiscated 5,000 electric bikes in half a month for being too fast and large. Riders like Yu Dejiang were caught in the legal crossfire. Mr Yu, a 30-year-old air-conditioner repairman in Wenzhou, splurged this summer and spent half a month's salary on a new electric scooter to replace a secondhand one that got stolen. Two weeks later, police dusted off old regulations on the books, confiscated his bike and fined him 700 yuan (about $100).
"The e-bike is a necessity for my work. The fastest and cheapest traffic vehicle I can afford. It's the same for most riders here. I can finish my work on the bike. There are no buses in many places and I can't afford to buy a car. What do you expect me to do?" said Mr. Yu. A few weeks later, he was back on the streets with another electric bike, looking over his shoulder in case city authorities crack down again.
But there's another problem. E-bikes may not be so clean after all. Because 95% of China's e-bikes use lead batteries, they emit more lead into the atmosphere than other forms of transportation, according to some studies. They also rely on electricity that's mostly made by coal-burning power plants.
Then suddenly, in December, the central government dropped a bombshell: tough new nationwide restrictions. There was heated debate. Sales at Luyuan Group, one of China's biggest e-bike makers, dropped 50% in December from November.
"Officials are getting the statistics wrong, they're not looking at them scientifically," said Ni Jie, Luyuan's founder. A former economics professor and electrical engineer, Mr. Ni has given his wife the company reins so he can focus more on industry lobbying. He argues electric bicycles are safer than bicycles or motorcycles and will soon start using cleaner, lithium batteries.
After intense public outcry in the media, the government backed down just weeks later. "In essence, a lack of respect for public opinion and for the reasonable and scientific decision-making process was to blame," for the government's behavior, said an opinion piece in China Daily, the state-backed English language newspaper. Now, the industry associations are trying to figure out new guidelines before the central government steps back in. In the meantime, people are back in the shops.
He Chenyan, a 23-year-old telecommunications engineer, offered this advice as he tested out different electric bikes in Hangzhou. "These limits don't matter," he said. "The traffic police won't bother with us. They'll focus on real motor vehicles like cars and motorcycles." A nearby saleswoman offered another solution: After getting a new bike registered with police, a simple adjustment to the motor pushes the maximum speed back up to 20 mph. "Any slower and you might as well ride a bicycle," she said.