One bike to rule them all
August 3, 2016 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to have a single bike that can easily switch between regular and electric operation?

Imagine an electric bike that would allow the electric stuff (motor and batteries mainly?) to be easily removed so that it could operate as a normal, not too heavy bike. I'm sure that most electric conversion kits can be removed with enough time and expertise, but for this question I'm imagining something easily accessible to a non-bike expert: suppose the switch between regular and electric requires at most 15 minutes and one simple tool like a wrench.

Does this exist? If not, are there some technical requirements that make this hard or impossible?

I don't know much about electric bikes, and my attempts to search online haven't been able to answer this question.
posted by medusa to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't think this exists. I doubt there's anything intrinsic to the idea that would make it impossible to create an e-bike with removable motor and battery, or even just battery, but the most well-regarded e-bikes -- take a look at the Specialized Turbo -- are those that integrate everything pretty smoothly. Integration makes the kind of adaptation you're asking about hard to pull off, and so it might be a technically plausible idea that can't get to market because of external issues.
posted by uberchet at 12:46 PM on August 3, 2016

Best answer: Almost all bikes will have an easily removable battery pack, because that's necessary for charging. Hub drive bikes have the motor in the wheel, which will be more of a pain to remove. Mid-drive bikes will have the motor near the bottom bracket, which would also be a pain to remove depending on your set-up. But some mid-drive motors are light enough that you could just leave them there and not notice a huge difference. In any case, a lot of these bikes are going to have engineering in them that makes them heavier anyway, to deal with the extra weight and technology. So things like disc brakes, heavier wheels, suspensions, etc.

I think if you wanted to do something that was seriously dead simple, you could do something like a Flykly smart wheel (back wheel) or Electron wheel (front wheel), which have everything integrated into the wheel, and simply relies on your smartphone to control it. Then you could just drop in replace the wheel with a regular wheel if you wanted to switch back.

(Caveat: I haven't actually ridden on any of these but I am doing a lot of research on them right now)
posted by thewumpusisdead at 12:55 PM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My ebike, a Felt Sport E, does this. The electric motor gives pedal assistance when it is turned on. When it isn't, or is set to zero, the bike works just like any other. I do in fact usually leave it in "eco" mode, which is very light pedal assistance. Also, you can easily take the battery off the bike. It is already fairly light as e bikes go, but removing the battery takes a few more pounds away.
posted by bearwife at 1:16 PM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This is very possible. Basically, for an electric bike you need a big battery, a motor, a motor controller, and the associated wiring (plus throttle if desired, brake cut-offs, etc.). I think the easiest way to achieve this currently would be to have a front wheel hub motor and a rear mounted battery pack and controller. You remove the front wheel (wrench required, plus a plug to disconnect), replace it with a normal wheel and remove the rear battery pack and controller (remove from rack, unplug). The wiring stays on the bike. Once you've done it a few times, this would be a 5 minute task.

However, there is little reason for this to exist. Ebikes are not cheap, so the cost of an ebike plus a wheel is not much less than the cost of a ebike plus a cheap normal bike. For most people, the extra storage space is not an issue. Maybe as the market matures, something like this targeted at urban dwellers might become available, but I think it would be a pretty small market for this specifically.

Also, ebikes generally need to be burlier than normal bikes to support the additional weight and torque, so you'd end up with a somewhat heavier than normal bike. If you are just cruising around and don't really care about the weight of the bike, why wouldn't you just ride the ebike as an ebike? If you want to go for a bike, in the sport sense, you probably don't want a heavy bike with wiring and a big rack on it.

Almost all bikes will have an easily removable battery pack, because that's necessary for charging.

You definitely do not need to remove batteries for charging and not all ebikes have this capability in a simple way.
posted by ssg at 1:20 PM on August 3, 2016

Best answer: This is my electric bike. What would you want to remove? Sure, leave the battery (behind the seat) at home and save maybe three lbs. The motor is in the wheel and the electrics are behind the pedal, not removable but who cares. I keep the motor off for the most part and turn it on for heavy assist on one hill on the way to work and light assist for a slight but long incline on the way home. The bike weighs about 37 lbs all told and while a bigger battery is available this does me for a week of commuting at the low usage given above.
posted by Iteki at 2:08 PM on August 3, 2016

Best answer: This exists.
posted by a strong female character at 2:26 PM on August 3, 2016

Best answer: Similarly: the Copenhagen Wheel
posted by supercres at 2:39 PM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding the GeoOrbiter
I saw it on Kickstarter and it looks awesome! Add that wheel kit to any bike, they say it's a 60 second install.
They now have a website noted above by 'a strong female character" and are taking pre-orders at $799., unfortunately it's not ready for distribution yet.
That wheel kit price is approaching that of an electric bike, but if you have a nice bike you really love that would be the way to go.
I like the look of the minipenny bike frame, with the wheel in the carrying case that makes a really portable bike you can stuff in the trunk of a car too.
posted by IpsoFacto at 4:00 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Faraday Porteur is a bike that I believe fits your request. It can be easily switched between pedal-powered, motor-powered, or somewhere in between. There's nothing that you need to/can remove, and it's not that heavy.
posted by destructive cactus at 4:31 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A few more options: Rubbee (attaches to seatpost) and Ridekick (trailer) both detach in seconds. The go-e ONwheel also looks interesting.
posted by flicken at 6:05 PM on August 3, 2016

Best answer: Additional options I just found: add-e and gboost.
posted by flicken at 8:50 PM on August 3, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers. I usually try not to mark every answer as 'best', but these were all very informative in different ways. You're awesome, metafilter.
posted by medusa at 12:07 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older DVD player "Eject" delay: what's taking so long?   |   Third Party DVR that works with SlingTV? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.