As gas prices soar and concerns grow over global warming, alternative fuel vehicles are gaining traction. When it comes to cars, trucks, and SUVs, a hybrid is currently the most popular alternative to a gas powered engine. But when it comes to short-range commutes, say 20 miles or less, an electric bike is a fun, economical, and environmentally friendly option. For only pennies, an electric bike can get you from place to place without breaking a sweat and without the hassles of traffic congestion.
An electric bike has pedals like an ordinary bicycle, and you can use those pedals to propel yourself under your own power. But the electric bike also has an electric motor, which you can use to augment your pedaling. The supplemental power is useful when starting from a stop or when riding against the wind. Alternatively, you can let the electric motor provide all the power while you sit back and enjoy the ride. This makes an electric bike one of the most versatile vehicles around. There are even models of electric bikes that fold up for easy storage or travel, as well as recumbent electric bikes, which will take bicycling to a new level of relaxation (just don’t fall asleep at the wheel!).
An electric bike can be purchased as an off-the-shelf item, or you can purchase a conversion kit to convert most any bicycle to an electric bike. The important factors to consider when selecting an electric bike are battery life (which determines how far you can travel on a charge), speed, and durability. Today’s electric bikes take advantage of recent advances in battery technology. Many electric bikes are powered by nickel-metal-hydride or lithium ion batteries, which can give a travel range of one two hours. Most electric bikes are capable of reaching speeds of 10 to 20 miles per hour. Durability is an important consideration, and like anything, you get what you pay for.