Corn Belt Energy Electric Vehicle (EV) Project

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Another trend in electric travel: electric bicycles


Mechanical bicycles have been a part of American culture since the 1800's, and electric bicycles (e-bikes) were not far behind. The first US patent for a battery-powered bicycle was filed in 1895, and its design was actually not far off from the e-bikes on the road today.

As technology has evolved in the world of electric transportation, batteries have become smaller, lighter and more efficient, and electric bikes are gaining popularity worldwide. For someone who may be looking for an efficient transportation alternative but isn't quite ready to invest in an electric vehicle, an e-bike can be a great choice.

How electric bicycles work

E-bikes have pedals, and still function like a regular bicycle. The electric motor acts as a supplement, to help riders accelerate over hills and through traffic. Speed varies by model, but most e-bikes can reach speeds of 20 mph, with some models reaching peak speeds of up to 28 mph. It's important to note that e-bikes with maximum speeds over 20 mph may be subject to certain restrictions, such as where you are permitted to ride. E-bikes are generally not permitted on sidewalks.

Electric bicycle laws

In the state of Illinois, any one over the age of 16 years old is permitted to operate an e-bike. No license, registration or insurance is required, making it an inexpensive method of transportation. Cities have the option to prohibit use of e-bikes in certain areas, so it is important to check with your local authority about rules and regulations surrounding e-bikes.

Availability & Cost

Like many things, e-bikes come in a variety of prices, depending on what bells and whistles you wish to pay for. Basic models can be found online for as low as $600. A higher price will buy a longer battery range, a sleeker look. Other available options include headlights, LCD speed displays, cargo compartments, and lightweight and/or foldable frames.

We spoke with Bloomington Cycle and Fitness, located in Bloomington, Illinois, who sells Specialized brand e-bikes. They said interest has increased over the last few years, with a variety of reasons including environmental benefits, hobby, commuting, and even grandparents looking for a less physically demanding way to keep up with their cycling grandchildren. Bloomington Cycle and Fitness sells e-bikes starting at around $3,000.

Trek Bicycle, located in Peoria, Illinois, tells us that purchases of e-bikes has risen steadily over the last year. They stock several models, ranging in price from $1,500 up to $10,000. Decatur Bicycle Shoppe, located in Decatur, Illinois, also stocks a few Trek e-bike options, priced around $2,200.

If you're interested in trying before you buy, Utica Electric Bike Rental, located in Utica, Illinois, offers e-bike rental. Featuring Aventon brand e-bikes, which are American made, rental at Utica Electric Bike Rental is available for $17.50/hour (there is a 2-3 hour minimum). Located near Starved Rock State Park, several scenic options are offered for guided or self-guided tours. Aventon e-bikes are also available for purchase at Utica Electric Bike Rental, and are very reasonably priced, as low as $1,400.

Utica Electric Bike Rental is currently offering 10% off sales and rental of e-bikes to Corn Belt Energy members with our Co-op Connections program. Download the Co-op Connections app to access this offer, valid through December 31st, 2020.

Maintenance and other expenses

The electrical components of an e-bike require very little maintenance. Manufacturers' instructions should be followed to ensure maximum battery life. The mechanical maintenance of an e-bike is similar to that of a regular bicycle, though you may find the parts are subject to a little more wear, since the brakes are braking from a higher speed, for example. Bloomington Cycle and Fitness does offer in house bicycle repair and tune up services.

Charging an e-bike can be done with a regular wall outlet, and typically takes anywhere from 4-8 hours. A full charge will last 20-60 miles, depending on how much pedaling the rider does along with the electric assistance. The cost of charging is dependent on many variables, but in most cases a full charge can be reached for around 10 cents.

Bicycling is a hobby that can be very rewarding. Among the many other benefits, spending time outdoors while enjoying fresh air is rejuvenating for the mind and body. Whether you're looking for exercise, efficiency, or just a fun toy, consider checking out all that e-bikes have to offer.

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