By: Dave Engel- Environmental Leadership
An electric bicycle is very similar to a normal bicycle: it has pedals, a chain and gears you can shift between. What is different is the electric motor that is attached to the bike which helps propel the rider in several ways. When Environmental Leadership arrived in Irvine, California, each participant was equipped with an electric bike from Pedego, a company founded in 2009. Don DiCostanzo, who co-founded the company with lifelong friend Terry Sherry, had always been passionate about electric bicycles. He founded the company out of displeasure with the quality of product available. Pedego is now a top of the line brand for electric bikes.
Pedego bikes feature the options of a throttle, a pedal assistance, or both. Located on the handle bar, the throttle works similarly to other automatic personal motorized vehicles such as a moped, propelling the bike forward when twisted. The other feature, pedal assist, senses when the rider is pedaling, and, just as it sounds, assists the rider. Pedal assist helps keep a constant speed on flat surfaces, and helps the rider make it up hills without the rider have to exert too much effort. There are five different modes modes, each one giving the rider a different level of propulsion. Mode 1 gives the rider the least assistance, so it is necessary to constantly pedal to keep a constant speed. Mode 5 only requires the rider to pedal about twice every ten seconds to maintain a constant speed. A rider might consider using mode 5 when battling a large hill or when in a rush.
Each electric bike is powered using a lithium battery. Pedego does not give a standard answer in regards to how long the battery lasts, as there are many factors that determine this. Among these are how much the rider pedals, the terrain or to what level the rider utilizes the throttle or pedal assist and the weight of the rider. However, in our experience over the three days we spent in Irvine, we found that the battery was more than sufficient to carry us wherever we needed. On one occasion, I traveled approximately 25 miles and only used one fifth of the battery. After use, the battery can be disconnected from the bike and plugged into a wall charger. The battery takes from two to six hours to charge. The charger is considered a smart charger meaning that it will turn off as soon as the battery is fully charged.
As a group, we rode our bikes around 100 miles over the course of three days. It was the primary mode of transportation for the whole trip, perfectly combining efficiency and environmental consciousness. Irvine is a city that is biker friendly and almost every road had a bike lane making it easy to use the bikes everywhere we went. There were also several miles of off road bike trails. On Monday morning of the trip, several other participants and I woke up at 5:00 am to bike 12 miles from our hotel to Laguna Beach. When we arrived at the beach it was still dark. It was spectacular to see the sun rise over the beautiful houses that are built into the mountains overlooking the ocean. We were slightly concerned about getting back to the hotel in time; especially knowing we would have to go up hill. We soon realized it would be a non-issue because of our electric bikes. Having these bikes altered the way that we approached transportation for the better.
The electric bike made for a truly great experience for the EL participants. It allowed us to get from destination to destination efficiently, without sacrificing stewardship for the planet. A vehicle like this is an unbelievable investment for the most environmentally conscious to the least. Electric bicycles are bound to grow more popular in bike-friendly cities across the country.