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Malcolm Currie & E-Bicycle
Malcolm Currie - - who is an EV World reader, it turns out - - pictured with one of his company's products, an electric bicycle.

Currie: The Man and the Machines

Contributing correspondent evaluates two popular Currie EVs

By A. R. Salvador

Dr. Malcolm Currie is a remarkable man. After he retired as CEO of Hughes Aircraft, Dr. Currie turned put his considerable talent into building Currie Cruisers, which I view as the "cruise missile" of electric bicycles. Perhaps more than any other American, Dr. Currie elevated electric bikes and scooters from "fragile toys" to "daily-usable vehicles."

Electric bikes have been around for decades, but their need has never been more necessary, due to rising deadly smog and the looming oil shortage. In Canada, 3,000 people die yearly from diesel exhaust alone. Foul air can also trigger heart attacks. However, in Shanghai, the use of human and electric bicycles has resulted in clearing that city's chronic smog problem.

I've been riding Dr. Currie's electric bikes and scooters, and have also been able to compare them with other 'personal electric vehicles'. In total, I've owned 5 electric scooters and 2 electric bikes. Here's are my user comments and owner reviews:

2001 CURRIE CRUISER BICYCLE

The 2001 Currie Cruiser is marketed under the "EV Global" brand. It's a large-framed bike that goes 15MPH with a 10-mile range. The ergonomics are superb for long-range riding. I've used this bike uphill, upwind and have found it comfortable, reliable, and practical to the extreme. Although bikes are usually stolen within 18 months, bike thieves rarely steal cruiser-type bikes. Furthermore, the Currie Cruiser does not look like a powered bicycle.

On the downside, I could not locate any 22mm. after-market shockpost for this bike, although the wide seat is comfortable. (Using padded bike pants made the ride much more comfortable, and I found the need for the shock seatpost unnecessary.) The short "silver can" motor can get very hot under uphill, full-power conditions which can shorten its life. I have found that blipping the throttle instead of a full-on use nearly doubles the range, and keeps the motor slightly cooler.

A Cruiser owner in Florida, Jay Ward, reported that the Cruiser's motor gets hotter after a stop; hence, 2-minute a no-motor, pedal-only {7-speeds} cool down period is recommended. Jay also crafted a clever heat sink made from aluminum pie pans and posted the photo on his website. The 2002 Currie Cruiser has a motor with built-in heat sink.

The Cruiser's battery is locked with a unique, keyed system that needs a second look to make sure it is tight. I've secured the battery further with two metal twist-ties. Be aware that cruising bikes are large and not easy to pop in and out of elevators, or up and down stairwells; the Cruiser's large frame is why some EV-riders choose electric scooters, instead. Be advised that all sealed lead acid batteries will last much longer if discharges are kept to within 50% of capacity, as deep discharges will shorten battery life due to sulfation.

Drawbacks to the Currie Cruiser? It's nice looking enough, but it's no chick-magnet.

2001 PHAT FLYER

The 2001 Phat Flyer is marketed under the "Currie Technologies Inc." label: I found this to be a fun machine to ride on bike paths and park trails. Doing full-bank "carves" on Flyer is fun, fun, fun. The knobby tires grip well on all surfaces, but the rear tire needed replacement after six months of daily use. I plan to get a semi-slick replacement tire as I ride mainly on streets. Replacement tires are available everywhere, as the Flyer's wheels are the same size as those found on children's bicycles.

In my opinion, the Flyer's ergonomics are very good compared to the Skootr-X and Mini Street Jammer scooters. The Flyers leaves the Zappy, the Skootr-X, and the Mini Street Jammer scooters in the dust! In my opinion, the Flyer's emergency handling characteristics are far safer than the Badsey Zip and Badsey Custom scooters. Badsey's unfortunate choice of square-profile tires results in wheelbarrow-like turns. For night riding, I mounted two lights on the Flyer' s handlebars. The only Flyer problem I encountered was minor: The spade-type electrical battery connectors loosened from vibration and had to be re-tightened, using pliers. The Flyers, with my weight, went 4 miles on mildly uphill terrain, almost daily, with full-on throttle. Later, I discovered that using intermittent power-blips results in a doubling of miles traveled per charge with only a minor speed loss.

The 2001 Flyer's motor never overheated, even on "killer hills." With my 150 lb. weight, full-throttle speed was 15MPH. The ride on uneven sidewalks can be harsh, so I reduced the rear tire pressure to 35 PSI, based on my own weight and riding preference, i.e. - comfort vs. speed. Later, I glued a rubber mat on the riding deck that eliminated 80% of the bumps felt. Safety is an important issue to electric scootists. The Flyer has a short, narrow profile and is not readily visible in traffic. To be more visible to cars and pedestrians, I added three Emerson model RP005 blinking LED lights and a friendly, ding-ding bell. The daylight-visible RP005 'blinky light' made a sparkling difference, as cars now stopped when they saw me. However, in my opinion, the Flyer may be too fast for teenagers who may want to show off or leap off ramps.

Drawbacks? The Flyer attracts attention and constant questions (e.g. - "How Fast Does It Go?") from people, and teenagers wanting to steal it off the bike rack. I purchased a sensor-alarm {$10}, after one locked scooter was nearly de-constructed by teenagers.

Note: The 2001 model Phat Flyer has been superceded by the "Phat Flyer SE" with a new, hotter, faster motor. Oxygen-brand "NRG" scooters are identical to the Flyer SE except that the NRG has a much less-powerful motor. My NRG's motor's thermal overload breaker tripped during uphill runs.

Other Currie scooter models are widely sold, but the Scoot-E models have less-powerful motors. Unlike the Currie Flyer, the Currie Scoot-E cannot climb hills with panache. I've carried groceries on the Flyer (watermelon on a backpack) and saw another scootist ferrying groceries in a brown carton at his feet. An optional seat for the Flyer is available; and, you can still ride the Flyer standing up with the seat installed. The Flyer fits nicely in the car trunks and elevators.

BATTERY CHARGER:

I carry an advanced "Soneil" battery charger ($55) everywhere, and recharge the Flyer in 50 minutes. Any discussion on the amazing features of Soneil chargers would be a story by itself, so I won't get into that. Suffice to say that the Soneil is the Einstein of battery chargers. However, with the Soneil charger in my backpack, my Flyer's range is 'infinite', as I recharge it everywhere! One Starbucks manager even kept watch over my plugged-in Flyer while I wandered around a nearby Chapters bookstore.

BATTERY LIFE:

Battery capacity diminishes over time. After 150 discharges, the Flyer's range was diminished by 20 percent. Had I limited discharges to only 50%, my Flyer's battery life would have been greatly extended, to perhaps over 1,000 recharges. However, surplus electronics supply houses sell suitable replacements for $50 or less.

'FREE' BIKES AND SCOOTERS:

The third-most frequent question I'm asked is, "How much does it cost"? My tongue-in-cheek answer is "Nothing, that's because, my personal electric vehicle saves me at least $1,000 a year, compared to my gas-gobbler!" Coming from a bean-counting background, I did a per-mile cost-comparison and concluded that I was reducing my per-mile travel cost by at least 90% by using personal electric vehicles instead of the car. That's not counting any bonus for Planet Earth and its earthlings by reducing deadly smog.

Times Article Viewed: 6293
Published: 24-Nov-2001

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