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Electric Bikes; 120 Chinese Cant Be Wrong
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The Chinese know a thing or two about transport. They may not be well known for driving huge flashy cars like Americans or Australians, but they are certainly known for making the best of what they have. Look at the pulled rickshaw and the bicycle rickshaw, simple but effective modes of transport born from necessity.

With a huge population such as theirs, you have to be sensible. People need to get around and need cheap and efficient way of doing it. No point everyone driving huge gas guzzling vehicles that would not only be prohibitively expensive, but would lead to ridiculous congestion in the main towns and cities, as we have already seen in other countries.

Enter the electric bicycle. The electric bike, or E-bike is becoming more and more popular around the world, but nowhere more so than in China. The latest figures indicate that there were an estimated 120 million E-bikes in China (2010) with over 700,000 sold in Europe in 2010. That's a lot of exhaust pollution that is not being pumped into the air, fouling the atmosphere and slowly choking us.

Obviously, the production of electricity does, for most of us, produce some pollution, but the efficiency of the new breed of E-bikes, along with the emerging natural energy producing methods like solar etc, means that the damaging footprint we leave behind using E-bike is far smaller than when driving a gas guzzling car.

Just to give you an idea of the efficiency of the new breed of E-bike, here are a few things you may be interested in if you are even vaguely interested in joining the E-bike revolution.

Batteries. Advances in battery technology have brought about huge changes in the type of power source we have to lug around. Gone are the days when bulky, heavy lead acid batteries had to be fitted to any electric vehicle, adding huge amounts of weight to the vehicle and in the case of bicycles, increased instability as they were often mounted high on the luggage rack.

Good quality bikes these days have Ni-cad batteries, which are lighter, more efficient, longer lasting and can be made in various formations so as to be incorporated into the shape of the bicycle frame rather than being perched high up on the luggage rack. This lowers the centre of gravity and therefore increases stability\.

Cost. the cost of an e-bike can vary depending on the quality, but the cost of running one can be estimated with a little more accuracy, and once you have done a couple of little trips on it, it will be much clearer. For example, my own E-bike was advertised as being able to travel around forty kilometres on electric power alone, but I prefer to pedal most of the time, just using the electric motor to help me with the uphill bits, so I get more than the forty kilometre range. There are also ‘hillyness’ of your area and your weight to be factored in.

I have discovered that with all the variables factored in, it costs me around fifty cents to charge my battery and I travel around forty kilometres on that charge. This means that I travel to work all week for a tiny fraction of what it would cost me if I took the car, and I keep fit into the bargain.

Exercise. The beauty of an e-bikeis that you have a choice of whether to get a lot of exercise or a little. Most of the good bikes have all the functions of a normal bicycle; gears, suspension, lights etc, so can be ridden as one, which is great for those of us that want a lot of exercise. But some people may find that although they would like to cycle to work or the shops, it's just a little too far or too hilly and so they put it off and end up taking the car, joining the traffic jams and getting no exercise at all. With an E-bike you can regulate the amount of work you do. Have it turned on to 'pedal assist' and the motor will kick in every time you turn the pedals, and will continue to assist you as long as the pedals are turning. Have it turned to 'manual' and the motor will only kick in when you squeeze the throttle, meaning you can just ask for a little help up the hills, or if you want to just go faster on the flat, or if you would just like to sit back and let the motor do all the work while you sit back and enjoy the scenery.


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