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The History of the Electric Bicycle

Updated on February 15, 2011
Old electric bike from the early 1900s
Old electric bike from the early 1900s

Electric Bicycle Definition

Before we get into the history of the electric bicycle it would be a good idea to define and explain exactly what one is. Basically electric bicycle is a bicycle with an electric motor attached to the rear will of the bike which will generally assist the rider while he or she is peddling. This means that as you are pumping the pedals of the bicycle the electric motor is helping you with power from the electric bike motor so that you do not have to pedal nearly as hard as you would with a regular bicycle. As a matter fact, some electric bicycles come with throttles so that all you have to do is twist the throttle to ride the electric bicycle without even pumping the pedals.

Usually, electric bikes get their power to drive and run the electric motor from energy stored in electric batteries that are located somewhere on the electric bicycle. These batteries are usually rechargeable by plugging them into a regular household outlet and the batteries are usually stored in a charger when doing so. This is very similar to rechargeable electric batteries that you may have around your house. So, the electric energy which distorted of the batteries powers the electric motor which is located on the rear will of the electric bicycle and this is what propels and assists the rider of the electric bicycle.

The earliest motorized bicycles were usually gas engines (or what are considered to be internal combustion engines) and very few utilized electric motors. Originally, most batteries were the lead acid types, which were very heavy and bulky. However over the last several years, different types of rechargeable electric batteries have come onto the market which are lighter, longer lasting and have a faster charge rate than the earlier lead acid batteries did. About the only benefit of the lead acid batteries is that because they were heavier and bulkier, temperatures did not affect him as much as the lighter and newer models of batteries which are lithium-based.

Magnetic Hybrid Bike!! Amazing!!!!

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Diagram of an Electric Bike
Diagram of an Electric Bike

The Boom of the Electric Bicycle

Sometime around the year 1898, one of the first rear wheel electric drive was implemented by using a belt along the outside of the bike. It wasn’t too much longer than that in which other improvements were made to the electric motor itself which would prove significant.

Despite these improvements, it will not be until the 1990’s when massive changes will occur in electric motor technology as well as battery technology. In Japan for example, the Japanese developed torque sensors as well as power controls and produced an electric bike that was marketed to the public called “The Zike”. This electric bike utilized Nickel – cadmium batteries as well as a permanent magnet motor that were both affixed to the electric bicycle.

By the end of the 1990’s Yamaha and Panasonic developed and marketed electric motors which were sealed drive units ( these are units that are sealed from dirt and water, thus making repairs and breakdowns minimal) and Panasonic marketed an electric bicycle called the Giant Lafree ( known as the Giant bike today) .

Within two years or so, there would be an explosion of electric bicycle models somewhere in the vicinity of 50 styles and types. Between the year 2002 and 2004 the production of the electric bicycle grew about 40% and in 1995 over 106 million units were sold.

Into the Future of Electric Bike Technology

Circa the year 2005, the boom of electric bikes has been phenomenal. Much of this success is due to the fact that the Asian market has been much more active due to the growing affluence and these countries as well as the need for cheaper transportation and less dependence on fossil fuels. In many countries such as India for example, the bicycle itself has been a principal mode of transportation that is very cheap and easy to use. Now, electric bikes are being used in place of fossil fuel vehicles which are much cheaper, and emit no pollution.

Today, there are literally hundreds of electric bicycles on the market and in the last several years the electric bike motor as well as the batteries have gotten much more advanced and capable. For example many of the lithium style batteries that are on the market are more expensive yet they are very light which means that the electric motor does not have to power I have your bicycle therefore using up more energy. Not only are the style of batteries much lighter, but they charge much quicker and can hold longer charge than the lead acid types of batteries. However, the only drawback to the lighter batteries is the fact that the lead acid batteries were not affected by temperatures as much as the lithium style batteries are. If it is cold out the lighter batteries will not function nearly as well in the lead acid battery. However, it can be said that this is not a problem if you live in a foreign country that has a subtropical climate most of the year.

Because of the fact that there has been so much production over the last five years, the technology of the electric bike has excelled phenomenally in the production of the various different styles of electric bicycles has flourished as well. Because of all this competition electric bike manufacturers have been striving to produce electric bicycles, electric scooters and electric mopeds that ride further, need to be fixed less, has less of is charge time, and has other great innovations like removable chargers so that you can plug your batteries and anywhere.

There is no telling where this technology will go in the future. Currently, M I T has been experimenting with paperthin batteries that may one day replace the bulkier regular batteries that you see on electric bicycles today. With the paper battery you could easily paste the paperthin battery to the body of the bike and then lacquer over it so that the battery will actually become part of the bike frame and will be extremely light so that the energy of the bike will not be taxed as much. However, this is in the very first phases of new battery technology and as the batteries get better so will the motors and the systems of riding these wonderful vehicles.

It would probably be a mistake to not mention the fact however that not only will electric bikes improve but also electric mopeds as well as electric scooters will be drastically changed over the next 10 to 15 years, and perhaps the dream of having a society that is more dependent on other sources of energy to fuel our vehicles besides fossil fuels will become a reality.

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On Buying an Electric Bike

If you are considering buying electric bike there's a couple things that you need to know. First of all, you need to consider which are going to be riding the electric bike for. Don't just go out purchase of electric bike think you know what you are doing you could waste thousands and thousands of dollars that way. This is just another purchase this is something that's going to last you for quite some time and you should get a little bit more educated as to what the electric bike can and can't do.

If you're going to be writing your electric bike on rough terrain or appeals that you will need a more powerful electric motor. I would suggest getting electric motor with about 700 Watts of power if you're going to be writing appeals, however you can get the more powerful electric motor that you go up to over 1000 Watts of power but you will then have to probably get a license for your electric bike. You will also need to consider your own weight. If you are very light person this is no problem, but if you are tubby-tubby over chubby, that you need to consider getting a more powerful motor that can haul your tail around. (Yeah, I'm speaking from experience.)

Another thing that you really need to think about is how far you're going to be needing to ride your electric bicycle. If you're going to be going 30 miles away, that you will need to have good quality electric batteries the can hold a large charge.

There are many different types of batteries that you can get, and the more high-tech versions of lithium style batteries as well as nickel types of batteries are on the market today which are lighter and can hold a charge much better. They can also charge little faster than the older lead batteries do. The problem with lead-based batteries is the fact that they are much heavier and bigger and bulkier than the nickel in the lithium-based batteries are. This is not to say that they are totally bad, because if you live in cold weather I would almost rather tell you to get lead-based batteries because the cold is not effective as much. The lighter batteries which are the nickel of lithium style will freeze up much quicker if you live in colder temperatures.

You'll also need to consider what kind of electric bicycle you're going to be buying. If you go to be dirt bike writing that you need to look at electric bikes that are dirt bikes. Yes, they do have those kinds of bikes and some of them are very expensive. Optibikes of Colorado is one of those companies is making expensive electric dirt bikes and you will have to pay through the nose to get one. However, if you're going to just be riding to work that you will need to consider buying your standard electric bicycle the looks much like a normal bicycle but it's electric.

These are usually pedal assist bicycles which means if you're peddling along and the bike needs more power while you were going uphill at you*pedaling harder, this sensor the torque tells it to allow the electric motor to start running which will assist you in getting to work. The great benefit of all this, of course, is the fact that you will not wind up at work all sweaty and tired like after a hot date. (I wonder if anybody really reads this stuff.)

If you're wanting to ride around on electric bike and you have leg problems or something like that, that you could probably get an electric bike that will allow you to use the throttle to drive around. There are plenty of those types of like bikes on the market but you could also consider buying of electric scooter or even electric moped. These will probably fulfill your need to get to work or whatever as you scoot around town avoiding all types of traffic jams.

Important Tip!

One last thing I want to say, do not purchase of electric bike from a manufacturer that you will not be a will to call or get assistance from. You need to buy electric vehicle that has a warranty or a guarantee on it. If the manufacturer or at the very least the seller is not offering or to your guarantee, that I would probably avoid that brand of electric bike or electric scooter.

The reason for this of course is if the vehicle breaks down for whatever reason, you can get replacement parts or you get it fixed. It would be a shame to spend thousands of dollars for electric bike only to find out that something what wrong with it and you can find replacement parts for it.

So, as I said before, make sure you do some research on which electric bike you want first, the manufacturers and how the electric motors work as well as the batteries a you will be far better off to possibly save yourself all kinds of money.

Hydrogen Electric Bikes Are Here!!!

Newer Innovations in Energy Creation

Now that you have read about the history of electric bicycles you somewhat understand more about how they came and be, who was behind them and what role they play in world history. As we move forward into the 21st century electric bicycles will become more more prominent as time goes on. Once again this is due to several factors that are occurring within the geopolitical system on the planet Earth. For example, as I said before oil is a finite product and we're not going to have enough fuel to go around over the next 20 years. Obviously, we need to move forward in developing newer technologies that will not rely on fossil fuels to power things. What will probably happen, is that we will have to depend on natural resources to powered vehicles. For example, nuclear power is in its infancy and possibly there will be a way to fuel vehicles utilizing radiation. Even though that seems like a dangerous prospect as time goes on and we are able to harness this type power, we will be able to run our vehicles, like electric bikes, scooters and even electric mopeds on this type of fuel.

Hydrogen Fuels

In California or example there is another natural resource that is able to powered vehicles the most people don't think about. That natural resources hydrogen. There are hydrogen buses running all over the city's in California and they even nothing more than water out of their tailpipes. I'm sure that one day we will be able harnesses electricity to power the electric bicycle or an electric scooter. After all we are doing it on such a bigger scale anyway with buses or trucks it would seem like a natural progression to move towards that type of natural resources power all types of vehicles.

Solar Energy Might Save the Day

One of the most obvious source power that we can possibly think about would be solar energy. Now, I know what you're thinking you don't want to drive around on a bicycle with solar panels sticking out all over the place. But think about this, you can power up your electric bike batteries by using solar panels on top of your garage. That's right, if you have solar panels on top of your garage they could go down into a charging station where you could recharger electric batteries using solar energy. There are already people that are doing this with cars, motorcycles and other types of vehicles so would seem obvious that you could charge of electric bicycle like this right now. Of course, there is a pretty good outlay of cash bike solar panels first, but think about the amount of money you would save using the power of solar energy of this method.

There are other things that are occurring in the world which will make energy sources and uses more viable. For example, scientists are coming up with batteries, electric motors and other types of innovations that require less energy than ever before. For example, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been using carbon nanotubes to store electricity into. They recently found out that nano tubes can store an awful lot of electricity in them and discharge a large amount of that energy and the use of an electric motor. This is true, then we have truly moved into a new era with electric batteries which will revolutionize the electric bicycle, electric moped and electric scooter world.

As the world begins to run out of fossil fuels, newer technologies will come forward which will enable humans to harness and create energy from different sources and innovations, to ignore the fact that we are running out of fossil fuels the foolhardy and in time would be the ruin of us all.


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