50 miles/no pedaling: The MS-1 electric bike

MS1.JPG Matras announced the MS-1 this week in Paris – a high capacity/high speed electric bike. The specs are more inline with electric motorcycle/scooters – around 30 mph/45kph speed wise and more than 50 miles on a charge (100km). The styling looks a bit like the Sach’s Mad Ass scooter, which I’ve admired from afar many times. Also noted: Hugger Green. The interesting thing here is that this one actually comes with pedals, make it more like an electric moped.

I actually ran an electric bike on my short commute for a couple of years: A crappy old mountain bike with a Currie electric motor (can’t even find this on the web anymore!) hooked up. I really gave it the old college try since it was about the easiest way to get into a electric vehicle, but there were several serious problems with it not including the fact that it was underpowered.

It was heavy – probably 50 lbs total, which made it not only very difficult to move around (lift up stairs, etc), but also very difficult to handle when stopped on the road. No lifting and scooting left or right, needed to keep it balanced more or right upright, etc. This a no brainer for motorcycles, but the high standover hight/saddle of a bike makes this a bit more of a problem.

I’d suspect the MS-1 suffers from the same problem, compounded by what looks like a high-center-of-gravity battery pack.

The electric mountain bike was near the limits of it’s wheel strength. With me (big guy, 200 and some lbs), plus the motor and battery the poor thing probably had most of those 250 lbs right over the rear wheel. I was constantly flatting, and the wheel never even approached true. I eventually got a full-rubber tire for the thing, which was it’s own kind of disaster. I bet the MS has better engineered wheels for the more substantial load, but they do look suspiciously like hub mounted motors on standard 26 inch wheels. Nice fat tires though (Big Apples?).

Maintenance was a pain. The Currie system used a belt to drive the spokes of the rear wheel (I’m not kidding!), which meant one more thing to try and disconnect from the rear wheel to fix flats. Given the heavy weight of the frame and wheel doing even basic jobs were a major chore. The MS-1 will definitely have some relative of this problem: big hub motors = heavy hub motors). I’m not sure how they’re routing electricity to the motors, there are some interesting ways you could get the juice in there but I bet they’re using a cable which means more futzing around.

I suspect the pedals are not going to be very effective in the real world. This really looks to me like an electric vehicle rather than the electric-assist bikes you typically see. Regardless it’s still blurring the lines of electric vehicles and human powered vehicles, and probably in a direction that would get more folks out on two wheels.

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