Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Political Bicycling

The third bike is almost done, but I thought I'd write a post first about some of the people I've met along the way.  I'm not a political person, I'd much rather design and build projects.  It's been my experience that the things that really matter in life are usually done by people first, and then a couple of years later the politicians figure it out.

However my solar electric cargo bikes have been at 80 or 90 events since 2012, and I also have had two bike blenders since 2007 that have been to even more events than that, so I've met a few politicians along the way.  The bikes have been very public, and I've unwittingly become a bicycle advocate.  The events for the last 4 or 5 years have usually been for my town's energy committee or the Sierra Club Upper Valley group or the SC Vermont Chapter.  Before that it was our regional Farm to School food program, and also our local Transition Towns group.

This post is really about friends I've met along the way.  Vermont is from "vertes montagnes", which means "Green Mountains", and our love for our forests doesn't really have any political boundaries.  The early events were focused on local agriculture, business, and sustainability in general, but lately transportation has become a stronger focus.  Transportation is Vermont's largest source of pollution, responsible for 46% of  our carbon emissions.  I've helped organize a lot of Electric Vehicle actions over this time, but bikes are still my first choice for cleaning up our transportation.

Last summer the Longtail was up in Montpelier at the VT Agency of Transportation for a month long pilot study, and people from VTrans brought the bike over to the capitol building and gave legislators test rides on it.  Vermont Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter took a ride, I recently saw her and her report was: "That was fun!"  (Sue is now running for Governor in this year's elections.)  Here is a short video of the test ride:
This is special to me, as the only other Secretary of Transportation that I've seen on a bike is Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner of  NYC DOT, and she was riding just a regular bike (well OK, a bikeshare bike).  I give Sue a lot of credit for trying out my bike, and of course I hoped this would translate into more bike lanes.  I've had the chance to talk with our current Transportation Secretary Chris Cole twice now, and he understands the need to include bikes in our transportation mix (see our state report "The Decline of Driving: Navigating Vermont without a Car", January 21, 2015), and he supports electric bikes because of our rural and hilly terrain.

Going back a few years to the blender bike days, I have to include Bernie:
We held a series of annual Farmfests that celebrated our local farms, which eventually resulted in their produce being included in school kid's menus around the Upper Valley.  Bernie Sanders attended in 2009.  Eric Dicke and I had built the red blender bike for our Transition Town group, and Nora (in front) was running it for the day.  Bernie came over and talked with the high school students that were hanging around, asking them about their plans for the future.

The Leahys also showed up in 2010:
After giving speeches along with VT Secretary of Agriculture Roger Albee, Senator Patrick Leahy answered questions, (in the group visible in the back of this photo), while his wife Marcelle made smoothies.  We had made the red blender bike that Marcelle is pedaling first, but the 26" tire frame was too big for many elementary school kids so we had to make the smaller blue blender bike.  Both bikes are still being used several times a year at regional events (although they really could use new tires).  Often they are used by elementary schools (kale smoothies from their school garden yum!), community groups, food coops, parks, and other town energy committee events, but this past spring they were also out at the Hypertherm Plasma Cutters green week promotion (for the third time), as well as a Tuck School of Business Sustainability Club Social (one of several times they have been at Dartmouth college).

The blue blender bike premiered at the Dartmouth Hopkins Arts Center on Earth Day 2011

This is Will Allen, co owner of Cedar Circle organic farm in Thetford, author of "The War on Bugs", GMO labeling advocate, and host of many Strawberry festivals that I've brought both the bike blenders and solar electric cargo bikes to, (as well as Solar Hartland solar displays).

Tom Kennedy of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, helping the Springfield High School Students fund raise at a smoothie booth at a Springfield region Energy Expo.

Change The World Kids is a Woodstock High School group where kids explore our natural world and what it means to us.  They've borrowed the bikes for several events, such as this Energy Fair on the town green back in 2010.  The Middlebury college student group was just picking up momentum with the guidance of Bill McKibben at the time, and they helped with this fair.  The blender bike was used as part of an energy awareness display.

My local food coop held a summer celebration at one of the community gardens, and we made smoothies for a treat.  They ended up using a photo of the bike for their listing in the national coop directory.

My Elementary School Principal Judy Callens and Town Manager Bob Stacey make smoothies at the school during National Healthy Eating Week.  The kids were very enthusiastic- teachers had to designate students (i.e. ration biking time) from each class for pedaling.  They made a different color smoothie each day of the week, this day was blueberries.  The bikes have also been at our annual Trek to Taste regional celebration five times, which is about local food and has displays from the kids about their school gardens.

There are several dozen more blender events, but back to the solar electric cargo bikes.  The bike blenders are fun, but at this point I've made enough smoothies to float from here to Montpelier.  If you'd like to know more I wrote a webpage about the blenders (along with a solar panel powered blender) back in 2010, with instructions for making one:

I also decided around 2010 to use my car less, and you can't travel very well on a blender bike.  Since I've been building projects all my life (including a lot of car and motorcycle experience), I started building bikes to use as a car replacement.  I've already written about several of the cargo bike events- here are a few more (that have kept me from keeping my blog up to date).  :-) 

The North American camel meets solar electric cargo bike.
Although not directly political, (artists do have their share of political drama though), this photo from the mists of time is special enough to repost here.  I had curated 4 environment and climate art shows at my town library, and as a result was participating with the bikes in Sculpturefest 2013 over in Woodstock.  This Aepycamelus (tall camel) was widespread in North America about 20 million years ago, and became extinct about a million years ago because of the last ice age.  This sculpture is made entirely of brush and flowers collected from the fields, and the artist did such a good job that the sculpture looked real.

I gave a talk about the bakfiets in 2013 at my Two Rivers Regional Planning Commission, to the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) representatives from area towns.  It was great fun, and I also met Gina Campoli of VTrans for the first time, when she gave her presentation about Vermont Electric Vehicle programs.  I'm now working on EV issues for the Vermont Sierra Club and appreciate the work that she and others in state agencies have done to build EV numbers in the state.  Afterwards we took the bakfiets outside for test rides (aka playing with bikes).

Getting back closer to political biking advocacy, Bike Aficionado Albert Echt and Go!Vermont program consultant Deb Sachs talk bikes at the 2014 Vermont Walk and Bike Summit in Burlington.  This was the beginning of the solar bike discussion at the state level.

Go!Vermont program Director Ross McDonald arranged for the longtail to be in a pilot study last summer at the Vermont Department of Transportation.  It was part of their bike pool, and this is a picture of it in the lobby with a sign out sheet.  During last fall's Vermont legislative session a bill was passed that defined electric bikes as having the same legal standing as regular bikes, and our legislature decided to allow 1000 watts of power (a bit above the federal consumer products safety limit of 750 watts), which was a good step for making both cargo and everyday working bikes more feasible in our terrain.

The longtail also took part in last year's 4th of July parade in Montpelier, ridden by Robert Atchinson, one of the railroad administrators from VTrans.  He put a poster board explaining the bike on the back, and enjoyed passing by the gas pumps.

In addition to events like the Renewable Energy Vermont conference and the Burlington Church Street alternative transportation expo which I've already written about, (see,
I've also brought bikes to the Vermont Toxics Action Center conference at Vermont Technical College, (you can just see one in the back corner of the photo above).  Toxics Action is a New England coalition that works to clean up polluted areas.

The bikes also been at the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network conference a couple of times, the Sports Trails of the Ascutney Basin (STAB, hosts of the Vermont 50 mile race to benefit the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports Association), and the Bellow Falls Community Bike Project for several events:
The Bellows Falls Community Bike Project 1 year anniversary celebration!

Lately I've also enjoyed teaching about the bikes, such as at this SkillShare event last June.  Although this class was about the basics of converting a bike to an eBike, I had brought along a demonstration hub motor that I'd converted to mid mount use (it's now an in runner with the shaft spinning instead of the outside case) to take apart, and everyone was eager to see what was inside.  I don't think the people attending will be getting that involved in their projects, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a few regular eBikes built- there were several members from a nearby Quaker community attending that have been self sufficient and energy efficient for decades that wanted to be able to use their bikes more.

I've also been attending the Vermont Transportation Efficiency Network (VTEN) meetings, which are all about everything except the Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV).  One of the members is Stagecoach transit in Randolph, and I brought the longtail to their 40th anniversary celebration. Laura Perez organized the event, and although it was about buses, there were some serious bikers there too that kept me busy explaining the longtail.  In this photo I'm doing double duty- the Tee shirt I'm wearing is for Sierra Club's national "Ready for 100" campaign, which is about becoming 100% renewable energy powered by 2050.

Another Sierra Club event was the 100th anniversary of our National Park System celebration at the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Park.  Similar to some of the parks out west, they have a no bikes policy on the trails, but about half the staff were very interested in the longtail.  Tour guide Bonna Wieler (at the table) of Boots to Boats (a hiking and canoeing program) took a test ride, and we ended up talking about the price of eBikes versus cars, (in other words what would it take for her to get an eBike?)

I helped with an Electric Vehicle Forum and Demonstration in New London, NH last month.  They think it was the largest EV event in New England so far, but I think my event at the Montshire museum was bigger (both were around 250 people).  I may have overstepped a little, holding my sign saying "I'm ready for electric cars in NH!" since I'm a Vermont resident.  Oh well, New Hampshire is a bit behind the curve and needs a push.

Last April several state organizations organized a Youth Climate Day at the Vermont capitol building, and close to 500 high school students stood on the capitol building steps and called for climate action.  I brought the bakfiets along with some carbon emissions information that I've been using for Sierra Club and EV work.  This is my legislative representative John Bartholomew, who I hope gets re-elected because I've been training him for months to introduce an incentive bill for working bikes to the legislature during the next session.

By coincidence it turns out that Sierra Club has built a very strong national Electric Vehicle program because of the damage that transportation emissions are doing to our environment. (SC is one of three main sponsors of National Drive Electric Week.)  I have fallen into the role of the EV person for our Vermont Chapter because of my bikes and car knowledge.  It's been great fun.  I've gotten to be part of the state VW Diesel Emissions Settlement comments, as well as part of a federal National Labs study on EV programs, and also sign a state letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), (because California's vehicle standards affect our Vermont vehicles through the Zero Emissions Vehicles Memorandum of Understanding (ZEV MOU) that we are part of).  I've also learned about the Transportation and Climate Initiative in 12 states, which is working along with NESCAUM to implement a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for transportation.  In all honesty though, I have to say that an EV is still a car, (and a self driving car is still a car), and we will continue to have congestion and resource problems with them.  The native mode of transportation for humans is walking, and we have built a system where 4800 pedestrians die each year in the US.  In urban areas our interstate highway system is obsolete.  We need a new vision of transportation.

In the meantime EVs can be extremely impressive cars, and I'm happy to support them during a transition to better transportation.  A summer ago Drive Electric Vermont worked on the "Drive the Dream" campaign, which promoted Work Place Charging (WPC).  This has been shown to be an important step in building EV infrastructure, and there were 22 large businesses that agreed to put in vehicle charging stations for employees.  They held a conference at the end of the program at the Vermont Teddy Bear company, and I got to bring my bike.  In this picture Vermont Teddy Bear CEO Bill Shouldice and Governor Peter Shumlin are talking to the press about the program.  Democratic Governor Shumlin has been strongly supportive of EVs, but it was actually his predecessor Republican Jim Douglas that initiated our state EV work.

And what does all of this mean to the person in the street?
Sometimes you have to wear a suit while Driving the Dream.

Yesterday I took the frame for the third bike over to Sculpturefest.  It is now ready for paint, but the bright shiny metal at this moment looks like one of the sculptures in the show.  There were about 50 elementary school kids visiting, and I got to talk with them about making bikes, bending and welding tubing, cargo boxes, electric motors, and solar.  Two of them even asked for my autograph!  (I signed, but told them it wasn't worth anything.)  It was a blast, and they asked some very good questions- several of the second graders were expert bike riders already, and figured out the electric drive right away.  It's time to put in some more bike lanes.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hannah's Vendor Bike

One of the projects of last summer was helping to finish Hannah's vendor bike.  She had spent time in India and fell in love with the street vendor carts, and wanted to build one of her own.  When I first saw her bike at the Strolling of the Heifers parade in June 2014, a lot of the hard work had already been done:

Hannah had worked with Frank the Welder (Frank Wadelton, an MTB builder in Bellows Falls to design and build a frame that could hold two large vendor boxes (one for hot food prep and one for cold storage) on the back.  Then she had started building one of the vendor boxes with metal sculptor Mark Goodenough (  But the design had gotten stuck and when I talked with her several months later the bike still needed more work done.  I offered to help finish the bike, and she dropped the pieces off at my barn.

The first thing that I did was to prop the box up on the frame and stare at it for a month, while we talked about what needed to fit on and in the box, and how it would be connected.  Once we had an idea of what was necessary, we started finishing up the boxes.

Photo credit: Mark Goodenough

The first box needed to be double walled, as it was for cold storage and needed a layer of insulation.  Mark had built the box using thin wall aluminum square tubing to reinforce the corners, and then he stuffed rigid insulation in the sides before putting on the outside sheet metal skin.  The second box was for cooking, and needed only single wall construction, so we decided to bend it out of one large piece of sheet metal.  I was only too happy to do this, as all my life I've been bending sheet metal with either hand tongs or clamped onto a couple pieces of angle iron, and this gave me a perfect excuse to finally go buy a small 36" sheet metal brake.  It turned out that Hannah loved working on the brake too, often taking a piece of sheetmetal to it and returning later with a door or other piece bent very nicely.

The hot box carcase is single wall prepainted aluminum, with a face glued and riveted onto a sides, bottom, and back assembly that was bent from one piece of sheetmetal to minimize the number of joints.  There are two burners that fit into the top compartment, and a small propane cylinder in the bottom.

Hannah had designed the bike frame to be modular, so that she could easily put different size and shape boxes on it depending on vending needs.  We figured out a simple hoop adapter that would connect the sockets on the bike frame to aluminum angle ell attached to the back of the boxes.  The center part of the hoop was also covered with wood to form a small counter for holding condiments between the boxes.  

To hold the hoop up, a tube had to run from the frame sockets which are for 1 1/8" tubing to the hoop which is 3/4" tubing.  Instead of squishing the end of a larger piece of tubing down to the diameter of the hoop, I used the tapered ends from a front fork.  First I bent an old fork straight.

Next cut it to a length that fit well inside the sockets.

And then because the fork OD and the socket ID were both 1 1/8", I slit the fork, bent it smaller, and then welded it closed to gain some clearance for sliding the tube in the socket:

With the boxes assembled and hoop pieces made, we tied the boxes on the bike with a piece of wire for centering and adjusting the fit, and then tack welded the hoop in place;

Finishing up the welds on the hoop.  Photo credit: Hannah Regier

I've been using a MIG welder on the bikes, but since we already had the gas torch out for bending the curves on the end of the hoop, I used the torch.

Photo credit: Hannah Regier

Once the boxes were firmly attached to the bike, we each took first rides to check on the balance and ease of riding the bike.  It rode surprisingly well, although we knew it might be harder to ride when the boxes were full of food.  (It would be possible to fit a bottom bracket electric motor like a BBS02 if necessary.)  With the frame work done, we took the bike apart down to the bare frame and sent it out to be powder coated.

A lovely pumpkin orange.

Here is a closeup of the box attachment, with feet that locate the bottom edges on the support rails, and upper aluminum ells on the boxes that slide under the hoop and are held in place with pins.  You can also see the new kickstand.  We decided that the original version was too hard to use, because it required walking around to the back while balancing the bike.  After removing it I added a U channel to the frame that would fit a standard bike stand, so that we could easily add and modify a ready made stand.  This stand's feet are only 8" wide, and after testing the bike assembled, we found that with only one box mounted on the bike (i.e. unbalanced while loading) a width of 14" was necessary to hold the bike up, and it would be even wider with an unbalanced load of food.  The kickstand does give the bike a nice dual exhaust pipe look though.

We used a second brake lever (the black one) with a cable running back to the kickstand to pull it down when parking.  In addition to Hannah's choice of Pumpkin orange paint, you'll note her corn style handgrips.

Sorry for the shaded parts of this photo, you can just see the cable from the brake lever coming in at the upper left and ending in a brake adjuster nut fit into a black nylon frame tube clamp.  Then the center wire runs back to a loop I welded onto the kickstand.  It took a lot of fussing to get the length of the pull to match the hand lever travel, but with care spent adjusting the angle of pull, the force to pull the stand down turned out easier than expected.  Besides the stand being too narrow, I also don't like this one because the riveted pivots needed to be aligned to work smoothly, and it snapped shut and gave me a wicked blood blister.  We'll use a different stand next time.

Left side view of the almost completed bike, while testing for fit and last minute changes.

Right side view  (click on all the pictures to enlarge)

The lid on the cold box opens to form the serving counter.

At the beginning of October 2015 the Bellows Falls Community Bike Project ( held a fund raiser with cookies and cakes.  The Welcome Center on Interstate 91 has a small pavilion that non profit groups are allowed to use, and Hannah brought her bike to help catch the attention of travelers as they walked by into the Center.  In the future she is thinking of using the bike at local farmers markets or other similar events, and learning how well it works and what might be improved.  It might turn out to be nice to have a motor, and we already know the kickstand could be wider.  (Hannah is thinking that drop down legs at the corners of the boxes might be the best solution for a stand because they would work on uneven ground, but a season of use will give her a better evaluation.)  This was a fun project, thanks Hannah!

Monday, June 15, 2015

eCargo Bikes 101

Three months ago I put together a general introduction to my bikes for Drive Electric Vermont, the state agency responsible for implementing electric vehicle infrastructure and getting EV info out to people.  It was an overall view, with just a small amount of tech details to help people put the ideas into context.  Last month I repeated it for the Norman Williams public library in Woodstock, so I've decided to post a written version here for people to refer to.  These slides have a lot of info (you can click on them to expand them for reading), but I've added captions to help explain them.

Around 2010 I decided that I seriously wanted to use my car less, and in my rural area a bike seemed like the best alternative.  However I needed to cover distance while carrying loads, there are many hills, and I am only in average physical shape.  I built the first two solar electric cargo bikes shown above, and it became a large experiment that I shared with people around me as I participated in my town energy committee and Sierra Club activities.  Building is relatively easy for me as I've been doing it all my life- I grew up on an apple orchard and when I was nine I put a lawn mower engine on my sister's bike using scrap equipment parts.  Fortunately electric drives have become very good since then.

The first two bikes have worked quite well, and since the presentation 3 months ago have traveled several hundred miles and a few dozen test rides more than shown in the slide above.  I'm now building a third bike with a mid cargo box and mid motor, which should arrange the motor and battery layout nicely.  It will also be able to shift down for hill climbing, and it will have a lower seating position.  A fourth bike is being planned with more bodywork for both weather protection and fitting more solar power.

This slide shows some examples of  electric cargo bikes in use.  My Longtail is shown in the upper left with a 92 pound load, that I rode 11 miles to home using 4 cents worth of electricity.  I've also often ridden 45 to 50 miles (round trip) in street clothes to meetings on it without sweating.  In the upper center, the German utility company E.ON has a fleet of 6 eBikes for use, and they came out with a couple of Bakfiets with solar panels on the top a month or two after mine, so I like to joke that they copied me.  Upper right- I loaned the Bakfiets to the Bellows Falls Community Bike Project for a couple weeks last summer, and Bonnie took a day trip picking blueberries and visiting local farms, she simply put a large foam cooler inside the cargo box for keeping the food cool.  The lower left shows a mailman for the German postal service- they have several versions of eBikes.  UPS, Fedex, and DHL also all have cargo trikes for delivery in urban European locations, which are often faster than a delivery van driving through traffic.  In the lower middle is a family with kid's stuff in the pannier bags, and lower right is a vending bike for a craft beer company.

The rider on the E.ON Bakfiets is probably in good condition, but for all the rest of the riders the electric assist makes the difference between using a bike to carry heavy loads or not.

The table across the top of this slide shows the basic types of motors.  From left to right-  my Longtail has a direct drive hub motor (the motor case is the wheel hub), which is best suited for faster speeds and can regenerate electricity for recharging the battery when braking.  My Bakfiets has a geared hub, (with a smaller motor inside the hub that spins fast and uses gears to slow down the speed to connect to the wheel), which is slightly better (10% - 20%) for hill climbing than the direct drive hub, but can not do regeneration because of the slip clutch necessary for the gears.  All in one or add on wheels like the Flykly and Copenhagen wheel are geared hubs, and in general are weaker versions because the motor and batteries are all packed in the hub so they have to be smaller.  Their motor strength and heat dissipation will most likely be a problem on hills in my area, the all in one hubs are better suited for commuter runs in flatter terrain.  The last type of motor is connected to the chain, not the wheel, and this allows down shifting the bike for climbing hills, as well as getting by with a smaller motor (many European countries have a 250W motor limit).  It also allows fitting outrageously big motors for racing, but these usually have to be connected to the rear wheel with a separate left side chain, because the standard bicycle chain and derailleurs can handle only 500W to 1000W before they start to wear out quickly.

Having said that direct drive hubs are better for speed and geared hubs are better for hill climbing, I'll contradict that by saying I've ridden my longtail with direct drive up Mt Washington- but it wasn't easy! (left lower picture).  A direct drive was also the fastest bike up Pikes Peak a year ago  In this instance they dumped a lot of energy through the motor, and since the motor case is the hub it could dissipate the heat and not burn up, which is more of a problem with a geared hub motor that is sealed inside the hub.

The solar panel output on the bikes varies widely depending on weather, trees along the route, how long I park in sunny parking lots while stopped, etc, but it has generally been running from 25% to 40% of the energy needed during a trip.  In contrast I've been getting 1% to 6% back from regen.  I also sometimes leave the bike out in the driveway for the rest of the day when I get home, and find the battery is often fully charged when I bring it in.

The lower right photo is around the fourth version of Luke "Live for Physics" "Death Bike", which can run through a standing start quarter mile in 11.5 seconds at 110.6 mph.  Speed is not a problem for an eBike, but there is a trade off between speed and range.  Luke's bike is fast, but probably cannot travel more than a mile or two at speed.  This is a mid motor setup, and has the separate chain for connecting the motor to the rear wheel.  A mid motor can allow special gearing, unusual motor sizes (Luke is probably feeding 100 kW through this motor for a few seconds), and better cooling than a hub.  The name "Death Bike" is from the earlier versions, which had a tendency to launch unwary riders air born.  The rider in the photo is actually Stephane Melancon, who rode his electric motorcycle from Montreal to Mt Washington, where I had the chance to talk with him a bit.

On the left in this slide are the two types of controls used on eBikes.  Some bikes use a hand control such as a thumb switch or grip that twists to turn on the motor, others are connected to pedal switches, known as Pedelec systems.  The Pedelec comes in two varieties- a sensor that looks for rotation of the pedals (cadence or motion sensor), or a sensor that monitors the pressure on the pedals.  I slightly prefer the hand control because it makes starting with a load much easier to balance, but the Pedelec is legally required by most European countries. The pedelec pressure system is almost as good as a hand control, but the rotation sensor method often takes one half to two pedal rotations before it will turn on.

On the right of this slide- often times dealers will list a battery as "7 Amp hours", but Ah isn't the whole story for battery capacity.  You are looking for Watt hours when comparing systems, which is Amp hours times the battery Voltage.  For current eBikes a small battery is around 7 Ah x 36 V = 252 Wh, or about 1/4 of a kiloWatt hour (the same unit as on your home electric bill).  A large battery might be 20 Ah x 48 V = 960 Wh, or about one kWh.  Batteries are made of many smaller cells, with the round 18650 cell (18 mm diameter by 65 mm long) being more common because they are made by the billions for laptops and power tools, and are less expensive ($290 per kWh average price in 2014).  I'm using the flat pouch prismatic (rectangular form) cells in my bikes because they pack better, I'm not concerned about cooling because the battery is oversized (to allow me long distance riding), and the safer LiFePO4 chemistry that I like is common in pouch cells.  However each time I've ordered a battery (from China), it's been about $475 per kWh, and it disappears into China post for about 15 weeks and then shows up looking like the box was rolled and crushed,  The batteries have worked fine, but if Tesla makes their cells from the new Nevada factory available to builders like me, I'd gladly switch to paying $185 per kWh less and a 2 week delivery.

Our culture is built around the car, and our highway budgets are mostly car dollars.  Besides the general public test rides and talks I've been giving, I think it's important to reach out to planners and government people also.  Dave Cohen in Brattleboro has been trying to build a fleet of Cargo eBikes that can be loaned out to energy committees and bike shops around the state, (see, but establishing the need for them, planning for biking systems, and funding are the usual problems.  To prepare for this my Longtail is currently (June 2015) up in Montpelier in a 30 day pilot study for the VT AOT program Go!Vermont.  This slide is a screenshot of data from a test ride I took through the capitol on February 4 for the study, (during very bad weather with 3" of snow on the road- the bike was a slush ball at the end).  My bikes have Cycle Analyst data recorders that measure electrical use and GPS location so that it can be analyzed.  You can see the trip was 4.27 miles and took 16 minutes and 45 seconds, or basically just like a car.  It had an unusually high energy consumption of 20.8 Watt hours (Wh) per mile, (which I think was primarily due to the snow and slush, and second to the temperature of 14 F), which gives a total of 89 Wh (or 1.5 cents) of electricity for the trip.  (Using a plug in charger that is 85% efficient instead of the built in solar panel, the electricity needed is about 110 Wh, or 1.8 cents.)  I've positioned the cursor at one of the peak speeds on the graph for reading the other selected measurements at that moment.  You can see that my average speed was 15.29 mph, and peak was 27.5 mph.

I've found 99% of Vermont drivers to be considerate of me on the road, with some of them going way out of their way to give me space on the road.  (I think this is because after a few winters here, you learn that if you think of the road as a race track you can get in big trouble.)  However the way our roads were built was meant for cars, and it is hard to create new traffic flow habits.  In all the major cities in Vermont I've found it easier to ride in the car lane at the 25 mph speed limit, then to try to ride slower next to parked cars and causing a traffic block.  Burlington is a special case because they have installed some bike lanes, and using them (even going uphill) I found biking to be faster than the cars.  Despite these results, the general reaction by a car driver to my bike is to try to pass.  (One example that stands out was a pathetic small sedan in Brattleboro going uphill, the driver was flogging the car for all it was worth.)  Rutland also tried to install bike lanes along Route 4 going east, but the merchant push back grew into a nasty political battle and they had to be removed, despite several studies that have shown increased business volume resulting from bike lanes.

In the lower left in this slide I snuck in my off topic wish list of projects for general biking safety in Vermont, in order of priority:
-Training- riders and drivers need to know their space on the road and how to act, as it is a public commons.
-We really need to spend more dollars on bike (and pedestrian) infrastructure and less on cars, such as wider road shoulders in rural areas, and Intermodal transportation systems that can carry bikes easily.
-Appropriate speed, since just like cars, bikes can travel too fast and get in trouble.
-Critical mass is when enough bikes are on the road that they are common and drivers expect them.
-Riders should stay aware, since riding a bike is so much fun that it is easy to get blissed out.
-Other programs- two of the main supporters of the Complete Streets legislation during it's passage into VT law a few years ago were AARP and parts of the VT Department of Health, but not so much transportation people.  There are known health benefits to biking and walking- it has been shown that the benefit of biking to a person's health is about 20 times greater than the risk.  These benefits should be promoted, as well as programs that enable people to bike or walk.
-Vision Zero is a program that started in Sweden, and has been taken up by NYC and California.  It is about using the design of roads to prevent accidents, with the goal that no one should get hurt just from traveling from point A to point B.

Since eBikes can be built to travel at motorcycle speeds, it's necessary to artificially set the maximum speed.  Some of the guidelines I'm using to build my bikes are shown in this slide.  For context I would like to point out that in real life it is difficult to enforce these rules, not just because many bikes lack speedometers, but also because regular bikes are capable of 25 to 30 mph with only human power (the human powered bike record is 83 mph), and I've reached 46 mph coasting downhill (with no motor power) on both of my bikes.

The most universal rule is the Federal limit of 20 mph under test conditions, but it is a Consumer Product Safety Act, and applies only to the first sale, i.e. from a manufacturer to first purchaser.  The state laws are a little more explicit, with a maximum speed around 20 to 30 mph, but some details such as motor only, or motor and pedaling together, are often missing.  Sometimes the vehicle classification is vague too, for example the NYC bike messengers did such a bad job of using electric bikes that they got them banned (although vendors and delivery bikes still seem to be using them), and this spilled over to a legal quandary for the rest of the state that needs an act of the legislature to assign a vehicle category to eBikes.  Vermont is generous with a 30 mph and 2 HP limit, but it is my guess that this law is from the 1960's when putting a small 2 cycle gas engine on your bike was popular.  Some interpretations of VT law use this rule to find that a license is required, others treat eBikes as bikes and it is not.  My bikes are set up for the Federal 20 mph under motor power only rule, but they do not turn the motor off when pedaling above that speed (such as California requires).  I think this is a good compromise, because I can fairly easily reach 25 mph to make it practical to travel between towns, or flow with downtown traffic.  Justin Lemire-Elmore (eBike innovator) has also stated that 40 kph (24.9 mph) is a comfortable cruising speed.

At the bottom is a typical graph of the physical limits I've also considered, the bike/ped curve is on the left in red.  This is of fatality risk versus collision speed, and you can see that up to about 15 mph the human body survives well, (which makes sense because we can run that fast).  Between 20 to 25 mph is a threshold where the risk starts to increase sharply, and I've set my design line just above that.  This keeps the eBike speeds mostly within normal bike range for infrastructure compatibility, and combined with bike component strength limits, car driver expectations, the practical need to cover distance, and enough power for hill climbing, seems a reasonable limit.

The League of American Bicyclists commissioned a survey to find out what most people think of eBikes.  In some areas, such as residential communities with bike paths, or National Parks with mountain bike single track trails, the speed of an eBike has shown up as a conflict between different users.  The first four bikes on this chart look normal and have lower power, and most people felt they were a bike.  (As Luke "Live for Physics" has said, "If it looks like a bike and it acts like a bike, then it is a bike.")  However starting with the large enclosed trike, and including a 40 mph and 50 mph bike (i.e. motor power only on level road), as well as the eScooter with minimally functioning pedals, most people felt they were not bicycles.  These opinions fit well with most bicycle infrastructure goals, however there is an obvious problem with urban delivery bicycles and trikes.

While there is a fairly vocal faction of bicycle purists that have been calling for eBikes to be banned from paths or MTB trails, this does not represent a larger group of people with physical impairments, for whom eBikes would make the path or trail accessible.

To sum up the benefits of an electric cargo bike, the main benefits would be better health, connection to the world around you, saving money, and much better for the environment than a car.  The graph shown above is from a Drive Electric Vermont presentation by Dave Roberts, and illustrates the amount of energy used by different vehicles, bicycles are the tiny bar at the bottom.

Using my energy use figures in the center of this slide to figure out range:
-If you have a small battery, don't pedal, and drive fast, it would be 250 Wh divided by 25 Wh/m, or 10 miles.
-If you have a large battery and pedal along slowly, it would be 960 Wh divided by 10.5 Wh/m, or 90 miles.

I know many people can not imagine biking in the winter, so I've added the pictures on the right.  At the top is Eric Larsen riding around the Artic, next is a Bakfiets being used to haul ski boards around a ski area for classes, then another Bakfiets pulling the kids along a snow covered street, and at the bottom is Maria Leijerstam on her trike at the South Pole.  Vermont has a very strong winter sports culture, and it is only a small step to include biking.

This last slide is from the Bicycling Without Ages program, which is in many cities around the world.  This is from Oslo, Norway, a climate known more for cold than being tropical, but where biking is still common.  If you look close at the four trikes that are carrying seniors, you can see battery packs under the rear racks and a motor in the rear wheel.  (There are also perhaps 20 other bike riders following them.)   Bicycles are very valid solution for many purposes, and the main problem we have with them here in the U.S. car culture is that we have forgotten how to use them.  Electric bikes with better bike infrastructure are a serious car substitute.