If it looks and quacks like a duck, is it always a duck ?
Transport Canada says an ebike has pedals that work, 500w or less , and does not power you over 32 kph… Then, it can be called an ebike, in Ontario.
Consider for a moment, the automotive industry, cars, trucks, vans and every other type of four wheeled vehicles. Everything from clunkers that break down on a weekly basis, to quarter million dollar race cars that can reach 300 kph speeds, all sharing the road, taking their owners from A to B.
There are equally cheap ebikes that barely manage on level ground… and there are works of art, custom, one of a kind builds that cost 10,000 $ + and can zip you along at 80 kph or more.
Ebikes, according to most places in the world, have imposed power and speed limits, in order to be given a free pass on insurance, registration and all the nasty bits that make car ownership a financial drag.
In Europe, the laws are even stricter, with 250w maximum… why ?… i’m not entirely sure.. but it’s a hot topic on many discussion forums.
What do i think ? if anyone cares to ask….
First, let’s look at that power thing.
Volts x Amps = Watts , ( yeah , yeah, i know, math sucks… bear with me )
My toaster oven is capable of 1000 w
Blender is 450 w
50″ plasma TV about 300 to 500 w
So my ebike is allowed as much power as a kitchen blender. Hmmm… what the hell… argh.
Here is my gripe with the whole power limit thing….
Let’s say you take a 500w ebike, it is pretty cool if you weigh under 200 lbs, tires pumped 40 psi, and ride in a typical city with small hills… It will zoom along nicely at 30 kph while you pedal lightly with a big EV-Grin..
However, take that same 500w bike, give it to a 250 + lb person, with a loaded bicycle trailer on the back, and head up some serious hills, that 500 w of power is better than nothing, but it’s not going to put much of a smile on your face when it shuts down from overheating..
500w vs 1000w is a matter of perspective, this wattage thing does not make a whole lot of sense to most people, including law makers.
Technically, 750 w = 1 hp . . .. an average Joe pushing himself hard can pump out about 400 w for a while before passing out. Athletes in top form can maintain 400 w and more for much longer but I have found that I can contribute about 100 w if i pedal leisurely ( i weigh 185 lbs, not in the best shape but not terrible either.. ).
Some guys have gotten creative and have put together some really impressive machines, with more power on tap ( the craziest of them all goes by the name of ” Deathbike ” ) Google it !
I admit, some of my bikes have more power on tap, my KMX Trike with a Dog in trailer is a beast to pedal at any reasonable speed, I can granny gear my way to 10~15 kph but that’s about it…. 500w simply will not do the job !.. Thankfully, I built it with 5,000 w on tap, so i can hit ANY hill in my city and just roll on upwards as slow, or as fast as I need or want.
Does this make it an electric motorcycle ? .. maybe it does.. depending on your point of view… I called the local Registration office and asked if I could register my ebike, oh that was fun, ” sorry sir, can you hold while I ask my supervisor ? ” .. after over two hours on the phone and countless transfers… I reached a vehicle inspector who knew he was the last in line but was a very insightful guy and we had a good conversation about the topic.
Bottom line, does it have a V.I.N ? .. no. .. then you do not need to register it, and you cannot because it’s a requirement for a registration.
What can I do to make my bike ” Legal ” today ? .. nothing.
As long as I ride respectfully, wear a helmet and gloves, stop at red lights.. When riding in trails I always go slow and safe, while sometimes getting passed by regular bicycle riders…. It’s sometimes tempting to race…. but that’s another topic .. see: That’s Cheating
Parts of my city do not have bike lanes, in those instances, I often see ” Shared lane ” signs with a picture of a car and bicycle side by side…. yeah right.. I bet the guy who made that sign does not even own a bicycle, otherwise he would have drawn it differently, adding an ambulance..
In a perfect world, everyone driving cars would be respectful, a good safe driver, with no distractions while driving, sad fact is that driving a car these days is nothing but a distraction, radio, GPS, smartphone interaction, big fat hoods and crumple zones to protect it’s driver while partially obstructing their view…
Don’t even get me started with bad drivers…. and violent one’s…. and Seniors… Defensive driving on a bicycle or ebike is a skill…… Maaaaan.
After years of riding, and 1000’s of kms mixing it up with cars, on various bikes I’ve built, there are times when it’s just better to get into the lane and follow the flow of traffic.. In Moncton NB, this means going up to 60 kph at times.
Riding by the side of the road makes you a sitting duck when there is not enough room for 2 cars to pass each other and a bicycle at the same time, a reasonable car driver would slow down, let the other car pass, and then at least take part of the other lane to pass you… but nope.. gotta get to that red light.. as quickly as possible… too bad if I have to run over a guy on a bicycle. oh well.
Likely the main reason most people drive cars, creature comforts, distractions, and that big fat crumple zone… and knowing how many drivers out there treat people on bicycles while in their cars….. no surprise there are not more people out biking.
As these BSO’s ( Bicycle Shaped Objects ) become more popular, so does their abuse. Just like the Gun argument, people kill people, using guns. And ebikes are as safe or dangerous as the people using them. Just like some car drivers are unsafe, some ebike riders will inevitably do the same……
How will this change the future of transportation ? .. only time can tell but I feel we need to remove this ” Power Limit ” from the definition of ebike, sometimes you need a little, sometimes you need a lot ( hey, that’s a toilet paper commercial punch line hmpf ) ..
The very nature of batteries currently, and for the long distant future, is that power levels will be limited by common sense for the masses.. Of course there will be exceptions, guys like me, who never leave good enough alone.
One thing I do know for sure, ebikes are fun, and more people should be introduced to the idea…. Light weight electric vehicles capable of keeping up with the flow of traffic are even more fun, but require an added level of awareness.
If enough of these machines start being used, eventually they will require legislation, and more specific rules, I hope and wish that the people writing have had a chance to ride one first.