By Luigi Fraschini

You may not realize it, but there is one type of electric vehicle that has improved and has become more affordable in the past few years: the electric bicycle. Even though electric bikes have been available for more than a decade, they have made great advances in both technology and consumer acceptance in the last couple of years. Now, the United Kingdom’s Environmental Transport Association has joined with electric-bicycle manufacturer Spencer Ivy to encourage more people to try today’s high-tech bikes.

The new program, which could soon come to America, promotes the idea that electric bikes really are for everyone -- young and old alike. The newest Spencer Ivy bikes work well as conventional bikes, complete with Shimano internal eight-speed gears. They work even better as electric-assist bikes, with a Panasonic motor system that allows riders to pick from three different levels of assistance and to enjoy up to 50 miles of assisted riding range. If you run out of juice, you simply pedal to your destination.

Compared to other forms of alternative-energy transport, the electric bike is difficult to beat. It saves time on travel and parking, it saves money, and it benefits your health and the environment. Plus, even though the bike is motorized, in many jurisdictions it is not classed as a motor vehicle -- so it doesn’t require a driver’s license or vehicle insurance.

In Britain, electric-bike riders generally range from those in their 30s who use it to commute to work without the sweat of a conventional bike, to those in their 70s who want to extend their cycling life. These riders often pedal most of the time, but turn the power on when they need it.


Luigi Fraschini is a Driving Today contributing editor based in Cleveland. He writes frequently about auto safety and other auto-related issues.



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