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Commuters big fans of e-bike revolution

What's more economical than an electric car? An electric bicycle, of course. With prices starting at $1,995, e-bicycles have become a popular choice for a number of Victorians. Like an EV, the bicycles have a battery.

What's more economical than an electric car? An electric bicycle, of course. With prices starting at $1,995, e-bicycles have become a popular choice for a number of Victorians.

Like an EV, the bicycles have a battery. The 10-amp battery is good for 15 to 20 kilometres on full-electric operation (how much range depends on the weight of the operator, weather and terrain). But if the operator does some of the pedalling, an e-bike can last as much as 60 kilometres between charges.

"They are extremely popular for commuting," says Sean Voigt, general manager of Scooter Underground, which has been selling e-bikes since the business started in 2007. "They are cost-effective and appeal to environmentally conscious people."

Although the company also sells gas scooters, Voigt says e-bikes are more popular because they don't require the added cost of licensing, insurance, gas and parking. The last point is important for in-town users, as there are properties with free parking for bicycles.

E-bike riders can also use their vehicles on the popular Galloping Goose trail, which is closed to other forms of powered transportation.

Bicycles with newer lithiumpolymer batteries typically take five to seven hours to fully charge. They simply plug in to a regular household outlet.

The eZee brand of e-bike that Voigt sells even has a removable battery so owners can bring the battery into a house to charge. This is also an advantage when the battery needs to be eventually replaced, which he estimates is after 800 to 1,000 charging cycles, or about four years of use.

The replacement cost is currently $599.

The eZee is only one of many electric bikes on the market. Consumers also have another option - they can build their own.

"We had a pair of custom e-bikes built for us last year," says Gary Kangas. "We use them to go to the mall in the West Shore to shop. My wife Sybil and I have ridden them over 700 kilometres since last spring."

There are conversion kits (about $1,280) that will convert a regular bicycle into an electric bicycle. People can do their own work or have a company do it for them. Voigt warns that people should pick a bicycle with a sturdy frame, as the kit adds 7.35 kg to a regular bike.

Although there are many different bikes to choose from, Voigt has a word of advice against choosing bikes with older lead-acid batteries.

"Although they are cheaper, you just end up pulling extra weight with those older batteries."

parrais@timescolonist.com