Electric Bicycles: The Complete Guide - Buyer's Guide, Technology, History

| 10th March 2011
As the world looks to sustainable transport methods as one way to meet carbon emission targets, Ali Thomas says that the electric bike could be the car alternative we’ve been searching for

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), developed nations need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent to seriously combat climate change. In light of such reductions, we, as a society, need to change our lifestyle and behaviour and many experts believe sustainable modes of transport may be the answer. The electric bike is top of the list.
In 2009, electric bike sales in China stood at a whopping 20 million. In the UK however, they don’t seem to have made the same impact. That, say authors Henshaw and Peace, is a mistake because the electric bike could have a real impact and could ‘transform the transport scene,’ allowing cyclists to boldly go where they’ve never been before on a conventional bike. A way of getting around that’s cheap, efficient and goes the distance; no wonder they’re all the rage in the Netherlands.
But what is an electric bike? Essentially it’s a standard bicycle with an electric motor attached that makes pedalling easier. But it wasn’t until 2011, after reading this gem of a guide that I found out about them. So how did the book’s authors get involved? Finding himself car-less, a new father and restricted by his rural, Somerset location, was how author David Henshaw first got into electric biking. Co-author Richard Peace went electric after redundancy led him taking up cycling and then a career in writing cycle route guides. Electric Bicycles: The Complete Guide represents a culmination of years reading and writing about, and riding on, electric bikes.
Possibly the best part of the electric bike, though, is it’s green credentials. Consider this statistic: the electric bike is 40 times more energy efficient than the average car. That’s quite a figure, particularly when you remember that it’s also motor powered. While it’s not exactly a family vehicle, for trips into town or for commuting to work, it’s an excellent eco-friendly option.

As with most things, there are many drawbacks to electric bikes, and Henshaw and Peace expose to fair analysis as well as highlighting the pros of going electric. Comparing things such as bike elements - batteries, frames and motors - they provide an honest and balanced view, which is exactly what you want from a guidebook. And if you’re buying an electric bike, it’s brilliant. Have you considered the ruggedness of the terrain you’re likely to ride over? The distance and range of the journeys you’ll be taking or the reliability and ‘foldability’ of your bike? Whatever your question, Henshaw and Peace have the answers.

Electric Bicycles: The Complete Guide, £12.95, is published by Excellent Books

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