Thursday, June 28, 2012

Electric Bicycles on the move

The concept of electric bicycles, whose riders can cruise up hills on battery power when they are tired of pedaling, is slowly catching on in cities around the world. The bicycles resemble their conventional counterparts but have a heavier frame and carry a battery pack, which is usually either behind the rider or integrated in the frame. The motor transmits energy to the rear wheel, and the battery can be detached for recharging. China is far and away the world leader in the technology, with over 100 million e-bikes on the road already. Demand is growing in Europe, where Germany and the Netherlands are the largest markets and Paris has a program to provide subsidies of up to €400, or nearly $500, to electric bike purchasers. In the United States, electric bike shops have recently sprouted in car-dependent cities like Austin and Houston, and an electric bike-sharing project is getting under way in hilly San Francisco. Safety is challenge in China, with e-bikes zipping down sidewalks. Lead-acid batteries are not adequately recycled, creating an environmental problem, and a proliferation of small e-bike makers in China makes crafting effective safety rules a challenge. NYT

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