Pedelec ponderings

March 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Vauxhall/Opel RAD e pedelec (electric bicycle) revealed in Geneva yesterday is, like the Smart and BMW e-bikes, a carefully-designed and high-tech product positioned as more than just a means of economy transport for those who can’t afford a car. E-bikes are nothing new, of course, and are particularly popular in developing countries as a low-cost mobility solution, but it looks as if they’re going to get rebranded here as green machines for affluent urban commuters.

The RAD e will do 12.5mph and has a range of 40-90 miles (depending on terrain); it can be slotted on to the company’s FlexFit bike carriers to be transported by car, and recharged in the process. Helpful if you’re planning to drive to your ride, I suppose, though I can’t quite help but think that this is missing the point somehow… (I’m just about to cycle across town to fetch my car from a mechanic – think I may have things the wrong way round).

From a cyclist’s point of view, I can’t see the hipster fixie brigade being convinced, though a few sweaty Brompton-pedallers may be converted. But could these tip the balance for people looking to give up their short-distance car journeys (with attendant parking problems/prices, congestion charging etc also an issue)? Much will, no doubt, depend on the final-production pricing, as well as access to safe places to lock ’em up.

Still, these things do, in theory, make a lot of sense – especially if you live in a hilly city like Brighton and could do with a bit of extra oomph at times. A bit of battery-powered assistance would be good for fighting against headwinds along the seafront, too. I’ll look forward to road-testing some of these bikes when they make it to the UK; in the meantime, I’ll continue to build up my calf muscles on my push-bike.

Pic below on a similar theme: petrol engine-enhanced bike, one of many I spotted put-putting around Buenos Aires over Christmas. There’s a certain retro charm to this one – I’d rather be seen on something like this than the RAD e, it has to be said – and given that it was snapped in the trendy Palermo district, I suspect it’s used as a deliberate style statement. The climate there is more conducive to cycling, too – if not the road behaviour.

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