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It’s a Great Day for a Faraday

It’s a Great Day for a Faraday

Porteur Electric Bike Review: Crowdfunded bike delivers — on a basket
rack?

Bruising encounter with an uncouth electric MTB? Barked your shin on an ungainly battery pack? Gaze upon the Faraday Porteur, and soothe that fevered brow. This might just be the sweetest-looking electric bike you’ve ever seen. It’s up to you to decide whether it has the necessary oomph to handle life outside the bike lane.

Faraday, another electric vehicle company named for another pioneering scientist, is quartered in Palo Alto — just a klick or two from the Stanford alma mater of founder and lead designer Adam Vollmer. But the Porteur’s spiritual home is surely Oregon, the tree-hugging, decaf-quaffing US epicentre of all things right on. Oregon begat the Oregon Manifest, a utility bike competition, and in due course the Manifest begat the Porteur. But not until Vollmer and team had put his prize-winning design before the people. The project was crowdfunded via Kickstarter, where it received $177,268 of startup money from 368 backers.

What-er?

The Manifest judging panel challenged competitors to ‘Build the ultimate modern utility bike’. In many respects, Vollmer’s vision aligns rather well with theirs. They like innovative design, and they prefer hand-built to high-tech. Well, the Porteur is part-handcrafted, uses natural materials where possible, and substitutes builder-friendly steel tubes for big-industry aluminium.

It’s a fair bet that those judges weren’t expecting power-assist entries – but, then, the Porteur works hard to conceal its electrics. The batteries stash neatly away inside standard-diameter frame tubes, and there are no unsightly cables. With the sub-40lb weight and simple, elegant colour scheme, you can forget it’s an e-bike. Almost.

Aside from neat detailing and excellent colour co-ordination, another characteristic of US handbuilt bikes is high price. The Porteur fits right in here, too, weighing in at $3800 for the standard model and — ouch! – $10,000 for the Collector’s Edition Porteur.

If that isn’t enough to put you off, let’s take a closer look.

Retro looks

Faraday claim that the Porteur was “inspired by the classic European delivery bikes of the 1940s and 50s”. It would be truer to say that it borrows heavily from the pastiche bikes of the past decade — but ‘retro’ styling is a bubble that no-one wants to prick, and a young designer could find worse role models than Matthew Grimm of Kogswell or Grant Petersen of Rivendell.

What you get for your money is a steel frame built in Paul Sadoff’s much-loved Rock Lobster shop and equipped with the kind of double toptube you’ll sometimes find on a period Whitworth or Rudge. That extra tube is a crucial design element, communicating a steady, reliable delivery-bike ethos while also providing a hidey-hole for batteries and some of the electrics. Wheels are 26″ — the popular MTB spec, not the hard-to-find Old English Roadster — and shod with relatively slender 35c tyres.

Only one colour is available, a pristine, delicate white, accessorized with tan leather and light wood. On the other hand, there are three different frame sizes, which is a really good thing. (You’d be surprised how many expensive e-bikes are one-size-fits-all.)

And there’s no suspension. Our experience with a venerable Raleigh three-speed suggests that you won’t need it. (You won’t try bunnyhopping any manhole covers, will you?)

Motor, Gears and Brakes

Let’s pass quickly over the rather conventional rear end with its eight-speed Shimano Alfine gearhub, the crank with its attractive
custom-designed chainring, and the solid Avid mechanical disk brakes. These are the kind of good-to-excellent parts that you will find on most upmarket roadsters, and they aren’t in any way specific to an electric bike. Um, hint, hint? That’s right… the Porteur bucks current trends by putting the motor in the front wheel. The motor in question is a modest 250W job, in no way remarkable. But Vollmer’s deployment of this standard component is very interesting indeed.

Look at the handlebar. No speed selection. The Porteur expects you to do most of the work. If the going gets tough — a big hill, or a headwind – you can hit the thumbswitch. The bike will then release a precisely-calculated dripfeed of extra power to the motor, just enough to keep you on the move. Keep your thumb down, make the bike do all the work, and you’ll find yourself proceeding at a sedate 17mph or so while the battery lasts. Most folks, however, settle into the expected pattern of self-propulsion relieved by occasional boosts.

The ‘brain’ which handles the necessary power calculations tucks into a neat waterproof package under the saddle. A few riders have commented that it can be a bit temperamental, leaving nothing to push against when it unexpectedly revs up the motor. But, hey — this is v1.0!

Batteries and Charging

As you’d expect at this pricepoint, the batteries are high-end lithium-ion types. They’ve been slimmed right down to fit into the frame tubes, so their capacity is limited to an underwhelming 195Wh. If you run the bike flat-out, this meagre reserve will translate into a range of 15 miles or so. You’ll get further if you exercise restraint, but we still reckon that the Porteur is a little underpowered for a big-city commute. (Faraday ship it with two chargers as standard, which you might interpret either as practical commonsense or an acknowledgment of defeat.)

The batteries don’t demount, so you’ll have to take the bike indoors for its charge. But it will look great in the office, and you can get it to full capacity in an impressive 45 minutes.

Gadgets and Options

Gadgets first. Check out those lights! These are gorgeous LED units that fit neatly inside the frame ends and switch themselves on automatically when it gets dark. They won’t cut it on a pitch-black backroad, but they’d be just the ticket for navigating a dimly-lit bike lane. Thumbs up, Mr. Vollmer.

Options? Well, there’s always that Collector’s Edition. Then again, who needs options when the standard Porteur ships with such an appealing kit-out? Best of the bunch is surely the demountable basket rack, fully integrated with the frame and capable of carrying up to 30lbs. (So positively no passengers — whoa there, Butch.) The cutaway Brooks saddle and matching tan leather handgrips and framebag are nice enough, if a little over-familiar. The wooden fenders are a damp squib, trick-looking but expensive and impractical.

Last but definitely not least, why has no-one commented on that colour-coordinated white stem? We’re guessing it’s an original Rock Lobster creation. If so, it’s worth a couple of hundred all on its own.

Yoicks and away?

Faraday are to be praised for building an elegant machine that’s perfectly suited to its smalltown/suburban niche. If your daily route features long, tree-lined avenues bordered by white picket fences — and your paycheque features lots of zeroes — here’s the electric bike for you. Remember to always keep some organic tofu in that basket. You never know when you might need it.

The Faraday Porteur, now available on Kickstarter. from Faraday Bikes on Vimeo.

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PSU Engineering School Hosted E-bike Display

PSU Engineering School Hosted E-bike Display

On Sunday, Dec 5, 2010, there was an event for e-bike fans from 1-4 at PSU Engineering Building atrium (1930 SW 4th).

“Local builders of electric vehicles will be displaying their creations to showcase the present state of electric vehicle engineering and technology and to allow local electric vehicle builders to meet. Open to the public, especially those interested in “green” transportation and recent developments in electric bicycle engineering and small electric vehicles.”

It was only a one day event.

View the complete article at:
PSU Engineering school to host e-bike display

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Eneloop Ebike Debuts in Portland, Oregon

Eneloop Ebike Debuts in Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon – There was a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a while ago, and the Eneloop, a new hybrid electric bike from Sanyo, was extremley popular there.

Treehugger called the Eneloop a “game-changer” and it even made its way into the Business section of the New York Times).

Given that bike product trends often start in Portaland (dutch city and cargo bikes and Electra’s Ticino to name a few), it will be interesting to see if Portland becomes the first U.S. city to embrace e-bikes.

Read complete article at Bike Portland: Is Portland (and America) ready for e-bikes?

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Introducing Portland’s eBike Store

Introducing Portland’s eBike Store

portland

{Portland, Oregon — Wake Gregg has recently opened Portland’s first all-electric bicycle store, The eBike Store (201 N. Alberta).

“There are a lot of people who would commute by bike…they just need a little boost.”
– Wake Gregg, owner of The eBike Store

According to his wife Ivy (who works at Columbia Sportswear but also helps run the new store), Wake has always had a passion for bicycles, and he’s an, “entrepreneur to his toes”. Those two things combined in a lightbulb moment for Wake during a 12 week trip to Beijing, China last year. As part of an international business course at George Fox University (where he’s working toward an MBA), Wake fell in love with electric bikes..

But when he returned to the states, Wake realized that Americans haven’t caught the e-bike wave. Why not? One big reason, he says, is that they haven’t been marketed properly. The bikes themselves are not readily available.

According to Wake, the idea of going 15-35 miles on about 3 cents of electricity, while also getting a bit of exercise, seemed like a no-brainer. Wake also believes there are a lot of people who would commute by bike but who choose not to because of just one big hill, a health issue, or they just “need a little boost”.

Convinced that he wanted to create a business, his first idea was to import the bikes from China. When that didn’t pan out, he thought he’d become a sales rep. But as he continued to research he realized the market was still only in its infancy. “These bikes are a completely new concept to consumers,” he said, “and at most traditional bike shops they’re mocked.”

Wake was referring to a problem with e-bikes that might be similar to that of recumbents — they’re not considered “real” bikes by most enthusiasts and bike shops employees, so anyone inquiring about them might not get the warmest, or most knowledgeable, reception.

Wake thus saw a major opportunity to create an all e-bike store, carrying a wide selection of models from top brands, in a comfortable and supportive retail environment.

Thanks to a partnership with the oldest e-bike store in the U.S. — Seattle-based Electric Bikes Northwest — Wake was able to open The eBike Store. Currently, his shop features a range of models from the eZee brand (others will be arriving soon), an assortment of accessories and — in order to give customers as much time to learn about the bikes as possible — plush leather coaches and complimentary coffee drinks.

Globally, electric bike sales are growing at a rapid pace. In the U.S., only 20,000 were sold last year. Despite that small number of U.S. sales, there’s definitely momentum in the market. The May 2009 issue of Bicycling Magazine has a feature article about e-bikes. They reported that e-bike sales are up 60% in the U.S. and concluded that, “maybe it’s time to stop hating on e-bikes…for better or for worse, the e-bike is on the rise.”

How do Oregon statutes treat electric bikes? There are four main laws to keep in mind:

  • You can’t go above 20 mph unassisted;
  • they are illegal on sidewalks;
  • operators must be over 16 years of age;
  • and they are legal on bike lanes and bike paths.

– The eBike Store is located at 201 N. Alberta and is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 – 6:30, Saturdays from 10-5:00 and by appointment on Tuesdays (they’re closed Sunday and Monday).

Read more about the bikes they carry on ElectricBikesNW.com

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