Human Power Augmented, a.k.a. the Ebike
You may have noticed elsewhere on this web site (our from other articles by Eric Sundin) references to 'augmenting, not replacing human power', 'human power augmentation, 'designed as if human power matters', 'hybrid electric bikes' or 'blending human and electric power?
What are we talking about?
We begin by wondering whether one actually always needs to take the step from 100% human power, as in walking or pedaling a regular bicycle, to 0% as in driving a motor vehicle?
We are not aware of any means of adding power to walking. And were we to add a human's fractional HP to even a small infernal combustion engine motor vehicle the overall effect would be insignificant.
The efficient and light bicycle, on the other hand, is ideally suited for hybrid propulsion—as in woman or man and motor together.
Amazingly a mere 80 Watt or 1/9th of a horse power (746W=1HP) of pedaling is required to maintain a bicycle at around 14 mph on level ground, a task considered agreeable by many a cyclist.
Were the course always level, head winds never stirring, temperatures pleasantly cool, and as riders we'd stay forever young, fit, motivated and without ailments this whole discussion might be superfluous.
But as those ideal conditions are only fleeting enjoyed we realize resoundingly that up to several times 80 Watt shall be needed to e.g. ride up a steep hill and we must still accept cresting at a modest pace. The agreeable pedaling that propels us with such elating ease on level ground thus quickly becomes woefully inadequate riding up hill.
In no way, however, do we need to despair on the human power component. Keep pedaling concurrently and comfortably with a stoic electric motor (of typically 250 to 500 Watt) and you shall be riding as if with, at least, a perpetually strong tail wind and even as if your hills have been leveled.
We may now ride at the heart rate our trainer recommends or pedal no harder than our recalcitrant knee may allow. We can keep up with stronger riders (and leaving some of them in the dust). We can haul 70 lb of groceries without getting in behind the wheel. We have the option of arriving at our destination after (on a continuum) a serious workout or crisp and presentable with perhaps only a solitary bead of perspiration on our brow.
No words (at least not ours) can fully convey the feeling of ease and elation as we blend human and electric power. We are jolted, but gently, under way and quietly we surge down the road…
Our customers talk about the sense of joy, excitement and fun the actual riding offers, about their fascination with the electric bike's unique ability to blend human and motor power, and that it offers most of the advantages of the regular bicycle and fewer of its shortcomings.