I remember when hybrid cars first started appearing as prototypes, and while the idea was promising it seemed like every manufacturer was trying to make the cars look like ugly space shuttles on wheels. The development of electric bikes has been similar in that initially everyone focused their efforts on getting one to market, but now the next logical steps are to make them perform and look much better.
Frankly electric bikes aren’t too hideous, but it’s hard to do much with the massive battery packs most of them carry. By going with a simpler, lower powered unit California’s Vela Bikes has managed to create a bicycle that hardly looks any different from a standard cruiser, yet has electric pedal assist power, an alarm system, GPS tracking and a charge port for your mobile devices, all at an introductory price well under $1000 for Kickstarter supporters…
This classy cruiser is simply called the Vela, and it’s built on a chromoly frame with a fat seat tube and a leather front triangle compartment to house its electronic components. All of the bike’s connectors, wires, circuits and the battery are protected from the elements, as everything is contained within the frame or the waterproof compartment.
A control panel on the backside of the frame compartment features a USB port for your devices, an LED battery life indicator, and another port for charging the bike’s battery without needing to remove it.
The Vela operates only as a pedal assist bike, so there are no switches or throttle to control. It has a single speed drivetrain connected to a hub motor that puts out 350w, but is also available with a 250w version for countries with such regulations. The Pure Pedal Assist System does not offer the ability to select different levels of assist.
The Vela’s range is at least 15-20 miles, and its battery takes three hours to fully charge. The removable lithium ion battery produces 370wh of power… this might sound a bit lacking compared to other electric bikes that output 600 or more, but the Vela weighs 42lbs versus some models that get close to 60lbs. The battery is held in place by a strong magnet to ensure it doesn’t clunk around in the frame while you ride, and its estimated life span is 1000-1500 cycles.
The integrated alarm is a 100db motion sensitive unit that is armed or disarmed with a remote control and sounds when your bike is moved. If the thief makes it out of your reach, users can easily GPS track their bike by using the Google Maps app (iOS or Android compatible). The bike’s GPS tracking device has an independent battery that will run for two months, and it charges itself from the main battery.
Swoopy aluminum handlebar puts riders in a comfortable upright position with your body weight in the wide, well sprung seat, and it rolls on city-appropriate 700x35mm tires mounted to aluminum rims. It also has brakes with motor shut-off sensors, LED head and tail lights that run from the main battery, and unlike many cruiser bikes they actually put a threadless headset on it! Production models will also come with color-matched metal fenders and chain guards.
The frame comes in either a straight double-diamond shape or a low-step model with a downsloped top tube, and will be available in red wine, vanilla, blue and Brazilian green colors. All models come with brown leather grips, seats and frame compartments. Vela offers a 12 month warranty on all components and a 5 year warranty on the frame.
The Vela’s Kickstarter campaign began May 26th (check it out here) and will run until June 30th. Pre-order buyers can take home a Vela for $799, but the price will eventually settle at $1349.00 USD. The first deliveries are expected for November.