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Lee Goldberg

Professional Green Technology Expert

Best Electric Bicycles & Best E Bike

If you want to have fun, get fit, and make a major dent in your carbon footprint at the same time, consider an electric bicycle. Boasting sub-$0.01 per-mile operating costs and hassle-free parking, these electric-assisted vehicles use a mix of muscle and electron power to scoot you through traffic at speeds that would make Lance Armstrong jealous. For middle-aged folks like me, the reduced effort it takes to pedal an e-bike on a short hop to the bank or the corner store makes hopping onto an e-bike a fun, heart-friendly alternative to hopping into the car.

The improvements in range, comfort, and speed that have been packed into the latest generation of e-bikes makes them an exceptionally practical alternative to your car for short commutes and the many errands within 5-10 miles of your house that make up a good chunk of most people’s driving. Depending on how much boost you choose to use, you can get a full aerobic workout on the way to the drug store or commute to the office in business clothes without arriving drenched in sweat.

Electric bikes are incredibly efficient because they are based on 100 years worth of design refinements aimed at getting most out of the 1/4-1/3 horsepower that the average adult’s legs can deliver. Even the modest 250W motors found in basic electric bikes require only gentle pedaling to push you along at 18-20 miles an hour on level ground. The larger 500W and 700W motors found in some premium vehicles will give you better acceleration and hill-climbing ability as well as a higher top speed (sometimes limited to comply with state or federal regulations).

Regardless of what size motor you pick for your electric bike, you’ll enjoy energy efficiency that makes a 50-mpg Toyota Prius look like a gas guzzler. It’s easy to calculate your bike’s (or any electric vehicle’s) equivalent gasoline miles-per-gallon (EMPG) if you remember that a gallon of regular gas contains 33.6 kilowatt hours worth of energy. A typical electric bike can go around 20 miles on the 500 Watt-hours (0.5 kW) stored in its battery. Even if you figure that only half the energy produced at the power plant actually reaches your bike’s battery (due to the losses incurred during generation and transmission), you still get an amazing 1,350 EMPG! On the far end of the spectrum, the highest-powered machine we reviewed here (the pedal-less eGo uses a 1.2 kW motor) still gives you an impressive 390 EMPG.

Buying an electric bicycle that suits your needs is relatively easy if you follow a few basic guidelines listed here. Price depends on the range, performance, and features you want.

Quick Buying Tips for Electric Bicycles:

- Decide on the kinds of missions you’re going to use your e-bike for. First, choose the frame type you want depending on your physical condition and the kinds of trips you want to take. The mountain bike-type frames used by many e-bikes are sturdy and sporty but you might want to consider a step-through style frame if you intend to regularly use your e-steed while wearing business or dressy clothes. If your back and arms (and butt!) cannot tolerate the forward-leaning riding position of a mountain bike, take a look at the “cruiser” style frames that have become more fashionable in the last few years. For maximum comfort and better long-range capability, the low-slung recumbent frame styles offered by several manufacturers is an exciting option.

- Next, consider the maximum distance you’ll want to go, how hilly the terrain you’ll cover is, and whether you intend to carry “cargo” such as groceries or parcels. This will help you decide on motor size, battery capacity, and whether you need to add a luggage rack or saddle bags to your new ride.

- Avoid lead-acid batteries if at all possible. While lead-acids were pretty much the only battery technology available for e-bikes until a couple of years ago, they are finicky, fragile, and usually give you only 100-200 reliable recharge cycles before they begin to loose capacity. If you intend to use your e-bike on a regular basis, investing in a good set of Nickel-Hydride (NiMH) or, better yet, Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) cells will pay for itself in better range and a much longer life. Many high-end manufacturers will give you a choice of battery capacity and chemistry, allowing you only to buy only as many miles of range and recharge cycles as you need.

- Check which brands are supported by your local dealers. Most components on your e-bike can be serviced by any competent bike shop, but it’s an added bonus if you local dealer is familiar with the intricacies of your electric drive system and has quick access to specialized repair/upgrade parts for your particular machine.

The best electric bicycles combine muscle and electricity for must-have transportation. These best e bike recommendations help you get in shape and also put a dent in your carbon footprint.

Best Electric Bicycles by Lee Goldberg

The Best You Can Get

  • PiMobility’s Pi

    Lee says: Breathtakingly beautiful, awesomely efficient, the Pi is a delicious fusion of eco-smarts and aerospace technology. While there are more expensive e-bikes on the market, none match the excellent balance of performance and practicality that the Pi offers.

    PiMobility has completely re-invented the electric bicycle from the frame up with a single sleek arc of aircraft aluminum tubing that’s sturdier and lighter than a conventional double-diamond frame and enables comfortable accommodation of nearly any body type. The same clean-sheet thinking that went into its frame also extends to its sturdy and efficient drivetrain. While most e-bikes use hub-mounted motors, the Pi couples its 500W drive unit through the same transmission as the pedals so that you can amplify its torque for more effective hill climbing (it can handle a 25% grade) or maximize speed and range on the flats. This, and several other innovative design features, allow the Pi to squeeze two hours of cruising time from its modest 10 Ah battery pack. If you want more range, it’s easy to add a larger set of batteries that will boost its 25-mile (unassisted) range to over 50 miles.

    While the Pi is not cheap, it is an exceptional value. In addition to its excellent performance and comfort, the Pi has been specifically designed for reliable operation and easy maintenance. Unlike some high-end bikes, which can require a specialist to work on many parts of their innards, the Pi was designed to be dealer-friendly using standard premium components and a design that allows most of its subsystems to serviced adjusted or repaired by any competent bike mechanic. Its batteries have also been chosen so that they can be easily and affordably replaced. PiMobility’s marketing philosophy is as unconventional as its products. Not content with simply carving out a large chunk of the high-end market, they are busy refining their design and manufacturing techniques in order to offer a machine that with all the features and performance of the current model at less than half the price. Look for it sometime in the next year or two.

    • Aluminum frame
    • NiMH 10 Ah capacity battery
    • 1-year warranty
  • OptiBike

    Lee says: If you are a connoisseur of fine bicycles and have several thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket, there might be an OptiBike in your future. Featuring a hand-built aluminum frame and your choice of world-class components, these machines offer all the features of the finest non-electric racing/touring bikes. Add to this your choice of rugged motors (400W-850W) and battery options that give you up to 60 miles of range, and you have an awesome electric cruiser. Depending on your mission requirements (and the depth of your pocketbook) you can chose from four models ranging the basic Optibike 400, the Optibike OB1, Li-Ion-powered OptiBike 600Li, and the Li-Ion powered 800 Li.

    • Aluminum monocoque frame
    • 20 Ah Li-Ion battery
    • 1-year warranty
  • UltraMotor A2B

    Lee says: If you’re looking for a high-performance urban assault bike, you’ve found it. Billed as a vehicle “with the heart of a bicycle and the soul of a scooter,” its no-nonsense styling and rakish lines scream “kowabonga” even while it’s standing still. The A2B’s compact, maneuverable Tig-Welded 6061 aluminum frame and monoshock suspension beg for curb-hopping combat duty on the mean streets of your local metropolis. Its 500W motor and ample Li-Ion battery give it a 20-mile operating range that can be doubled with an optional battery pack. The A2B strikes a good balance between the higher-end wonder-bikes and a basic e-cruiser.

    But the A2B is not all about good looks and fun times. Optional cargo kits will allow you to equip your urban hauler with a pair of saddle bags and two generously-sized baskets. If that’s still too sporty for you, UltraMotor also offers the Europa, a more conventional-looking cruiser style machine and the low-slung Portia that features a step-through frame.

    • Tig welded 6061 aluminum frame
    • 36V Li-Ion battery
    • 2-year motor controller & battery warranty
    • Lifetime frame warranty
  • Electric Motion Systems’ E+ Cruiser

    Lee says: Rugged, powerful, and refined, the E+ combines traditional styling with a state-of-the-art drive system for a no-nonsense machine that’s equally at home on urban streets, open roads, and even light off-road trails. A handlebar-mounted LCD display and control console allows you to monitor your battery level, set your power mode, and even engage an electronic cruise control.

    Both the cruiser and mountain bike models come with a 750W brushless permanent magnet motor and a sophisticated nineteen-mode electronic power control system that allows you to choose your preferred level of electric boost performance. If you opt for the more powerful 1000W motor, you also get a range-extending regenerative mode that allows the motor to act as a brake to provide stability and controlled braking while pumping energy back into the battery. If your travels often take you between urban canyons and rural dirt roads, consider the money you’ll spend on an E+ a wise investment.

    • Aluminum frame
    • 9 Ah NiMH battery (36-volt)
    • 1-year warranty
  • Panasonic Vivi – RX-10S

    Lee says: If you didn’t know any better, you might mistake Panasonic’s Vivi RX-10S for one of the sturdy, utility-oriented around-town bikes that inhabit the streets of Amsterdam, Paris, and many other European cities. Everything from the ample fenders to the front-and-rear cargo racks on the Vivi’s comfort-oriented step-through frame lets you know that this bike is a workhorse. It’s a natural choice to get you to and from the office, a run to grocery store, or a Sunday ride in the park comfortably, with a minimum of fuss.

    But, lurking under the unassuming guise of a comfortable grocery-hauler is one of the more sophisticated electric drive systems on the market. Its handlebar-mounted control console allows you to choose from one of four different levels of battery assistance and also manage the bike’s regenerative braking system. Much like the regen systems found in hybrid cars, the Vivi’s motor can be turned into a generator to pump energy back into its Li-Ion battery as you slow down or coast down a hill. Panasonic claims that the regenerative braking can add as much as 50% to the Vivi’s 50+-mile maximum range.

    • Aluminum frame
    • 26V Li-Ion battery

You will be happy with any of these

  • Yamaha PAS Brace

    Lee says: If you are worried that managing your e-bike’s electric assist system might be too distracting in the middle of busy urban traffic, Yamaha’s handsome PAS Brace urban cruiser might be the perfect e-bike for you. Its innovative S.P.E.C.8 mechanism is the closest thing to an automatic transmission you’ll find on the market today, with a computerized controller that senses when a driver shifts gears or changes the speed and autonomously adjusts the level of electric assistance. The controller lets you choose from a fully-automatic mode, a “performance” mode, and an “auto-eco plus” mode.

    With light pedaling, the PAS Brace’s 26V 4.0 Ah Lithium-Ion battery gives you a range of around 39 km in automatic mode. For those deep-green types who don’t mind pedaling a bit harder, the bike’s auto-eco plus mode will get you 61 km worth of electric-assisted travel. When running in its power mode, you’ll go have more fun but only get 23 km out of a charge. Its low price tag makes it affordable as well as practical.

    • Aluminum frame
    • 4.0 Ah Lithium-Ion battery (25.9V)
  • Currie iZip Trekking Enlightened

    Lee says: One of the first, and still one of the most trusted names in electric bikes, Currie has re-invented itself with the iZip series. They offer a full range of cruisers, mountain bikes and even a cute folding urban commuter. Most models are available in the so-called “Enlightened,” or premium version which uses somewhat better components and replaces the iZIP’s standard sealed lead-acid battery with a NiMH power system that’s embedded in the frame. My favorite, the “Trekking” model, is a hybrid between a cruiser and an off-road machine. Like all bikes in the Enlightened series, it features a sturdy 6061 aluminum frame, a geared hub motor, and pedal torque sensing drive control system that smoothly amplifies your leg power for up to 30 miles. If the Trekking’s price tag is a bit steep for you, Currie offers several other excellent machines at a more budget-friendly price.

    • Aluminum frame
    • 24V/9 Ah NiMH battery
    • 1-year warranty for electronics
    • Lifetime frame warranty
  • eGo

    Lee says: Okay, so it doesn’t have pedals, the eGo doesn’t need a license either. While certainly not the most glamorous looking vehicle in the collection, this sturdy little cross between a bicycle and an electric scooter is all about getting you across town with a minimum of fuss. Its step-through frame design, low center of gravity and wide range of cargo carrying accessories make it one of the most practical electric vehicles you’ll ever drive. The price range competes well with the noisy, maintenance-prone 50cc scooters that have traditionally handled this class of urban transport tasks.

    Even without pedals, the 1.5 kW, (4.2 kW peak) motor puts out more than enough power to hold your own in urban traffic and handle steep hills. Using a single battery pack, range is 20-25 miles in the “GO FAR” mode (18 mph top speed) and 15-20 miles in the “GO FAST” mode (24 mph top speed). You can add 50% more range with the extended range battery pack accessory. This is about the only e-bike I’d recommend that has lead-acid batteries. The 12-volt sealed deep-discharge units that come standard with the eGo have proven themselves to be about as reliable as a lead-acid system can be and the manufacturer says that they will carry you up to 10,000 miles before they’ll need to be replaced. Nevertheless, look for eGo to start offering the option of a Li-Ion battery some time in the next year or two.

    • Anodized aluminum frame
    • Two 12-volt lead-acid batteries
    • 10-year frame warranty
    • 6-month battery warranty
    • 1-year warranty on the rest
  • Giant Twist Freedom DX

    Lee says: Taiwanese bicycle maker Giant has earned a reputation for its well-built, affordable and stylish products so when they finally decided to make an e-bike, it’s no surprise they did it right. Although rather conventional in layout, it features quality construction throughout and a unique “hybrid” drive system that smoothly mixes pedal and electric power. Its semi-step-through frame, full-fenders and chainguard, and hassle-free Shimano seven-speed planetary transmission make it a great commuter bike – even if you wear a suit to work. Three selectable modes allow you to trade off performance and range as your mission and mood dictate. In full economy mode, the DX can give you up to 70 miles of electric-assisted riding from its two Li-Ion battery packs.

    • Aluminum frame
    • 26V Li-Ion battery
    • 6-month battery warranty
    • 1-year parts warranty
    • Lifetime frame warranty
  • EZee Bikes Quando

    Lee says: A long-time player in Europe, EZee’s machines started selling in the U.S. three years ago and have acquired a good reputation for reliability and performance.

    If you live in a small apartment or part of your commute is on public transport, EZee’s zippy little folding bike may be the perfect machine for you. Stressing simplicity, the Quando uses a single-speed freewheel hub and relies on its 250W (500W maximum) hub motor to help smooth out the hills. Cruising speed is a tad over 15 MPH, perfect for getting to and from the station and those short hops to the store.

    • Aluminum Frame
    • 36V/10 Ah Lithium-Ion
    • 6-month parts warranty
    • 5-year frame warranty

Related Articles

When buying the best electric bicycles, there are a few things to consider. The best e bike will have the motor size and battery capacity to make it up hills and go the distance you need. The best motorized bicycle also should be supported by local dealers so you can have this electric bike fixed and take the e bike in for general maintenance.