Two-Wheel or Not Two-Wheel?
By Josh Landess
The problem that I have with EVT's Electric Bikes and Scooters is that I want one.
But to paraphrase the Bard, "Two-wheel or not two-wheel? That is the question, or in my case, the problem, because I have many serious reservations as to the safety of riding on bikes and scooters. These reservations are particularly strong as to the mixing of low-speed 2-wheeler operation with urban automobile traffic flow. I voiced these safety concerns to EVT prior to speaking with them at EVS-20, but they said, "Come on by".
They had a good point to make. The high end scooters and electric bikes made by EVT and competitor Wavecrest are intended to be the very best on the market. EVT President Dave Haskell made this claim to me: "Our design is the premier electric bike that's out there right now." He may be right.
Standard components of the EVT Electric Bike include NiMH batteries, a Cruise Control and a mid-bike battery location designed for good overall balanced weighting of the vehicle. (One EVS-20 attendee told me this chassis balance is the first thing he looks for in any EV).
There is a digital display, designed by Mr. Haskell, that provides such features as a security lockout intended to prevent thieves from ever using the electric part of the bike. There is a 750 watt (one horsepower) brushless DC rear hub motor designed by experienced aerospace engineers to be efficient, quiet, low-maintenance and to have few moving parts. There is a 20 watt halogen hjeadlight and an LED taillight, both designed to provide high-visibility. The list of standard quality features goes on, as it should when you're claiming to be the best-in-class.
I call the EVT electric bike possibly a new "Bluesmobile" because, as in The Blues Brothers movie, it is a chance for the little guy to get components that are deemed worthy of sale to police departments. So, yes, the consumer models (the Elite model) have the same "cop shocks" and the "cop motor" as the Police (Advantage RX70) and EMT (Survivor MD70) models. The government models can do 25 mph, while the consumer Models can do 19 mph, on electric power only, not including pedal power. Mr. Haskell told me, "Simply by design, we can program different characteristics into the motor to make it operate faster at higher speeds for government entities, for Police and EMT."
The Right And Wrong Niches For The EVT Government Bikes
The Police Model was the first EV-enabled bike to pass through the IPMBA (International Police Mountain Bike Association) Advanced Course. This didn't sound like a big deal to me, until I thought about the difficulties encountered by a Police Officer in pursuit. Any EV Bike will be at a disadvantage against a Mountain Bike in that type of use because of its weight. I spoke to a police officer on bike who said that, with all the gear they already had to carry around, his department tended never to use the EV bikes that a different manufacturer had sold his department.
An EVT marketing representative responded to this:
"One thing that I feel is really important is that when we talked to police, that we helped them understand the real applications of the product. We’re not selling them a 25 pound bike, and as such it’s going to have certain limitations. It has a one horsepower motor on there, a nickel metal hydride battery that’s roughly 18, 20 pounds and there’s going to be weight in the vehicle. Thus, it’s not suitable for every kind of patrol and there are some cases - we worked a lot with LAPD - where they’re throwing bikes over fences and running down flights of stairs and carrying. So, our bike is not going necessarily to be the perfect application for that.
"But where it can serve as an advantage is in situations where you have more rolling terrain, areas that are a lot more spread out, parking garages, event security where people want to have good visibility and they want the ability to carry a lot of weight. The racks that we have included on both the EMT and the POLICE bike have over 100 pound load capacity. In one case we found, for example, for bike EMTs, that they carry a pretty big load ... a portable defibrillator and a lot of other equipment.
"EMTs on bikes: A lot of times it’s really that they’re providing support for an event. For example, we had EMTs riding our bikes at the New York State Fair. A lot of ground to cover. You’re not necessarily moving around at high rates of speed. You’re moving in and out of traffic. However if you get a call you need to be in a certain location, you could accelerate to 25 miles an hour in about five seconds so when you get there you’re fresh, you’re not exhausted, you’re not out of breath. And the same thing goes for police. There are certain applications that it works very well for. I would say maybe not for the real hardcore police riding where there is a lot of varied terrain, where they need the ability to be able to throw the bikes around, lift them over their heads, those types of things."
A point that seemed impressive to me is the way the cruise control is implemented. There is an Economy Mode, which can help you save electric energy. There is also the ability to set the vehicle to help you divide up your energy between electricity and pedal power. You can set the cruise control at, say, ten miles per hour, and then this determines the speed the electricity gives you without pedaling, and hen if you are at anything higher than that, you can know it was your own exercise which bought you the extra miles per hour.
Clearing Up Some Corporation and Product Naming Confusion
Illinois-based EVT does sell another product, a $2800 5 hp 30 mph , battery-powered scooter is imported from a company in Taiwan that also goes by the name "EVT" (Electric Vehicle Transportation Company). This identical naming is purely coincidental. The Taiwan-based EVT is a subsidiary of a much larger Taiwanese company called Chroma.
While they may share similar names, EVT's bike and scooter seem to fall under the general name heading of, simply, "EVT Electric Bike" and "EVT Electric Scooter" (or something along those lines), but they each have different variants, with different model names. The Scooter models were called "Equinox" and "Ion" when I first test-rode them, but are now referred to on the web page as the 168 and the 4000-E.
Editor's Note: EVT's web page, EVTWorld.com is only one consonant different from this publication's EVWorld.Com doman name. There is no significance to this similarity, we are told.
These quick, good-looking machines are the ones that really tempt me, except that it seems almost decadent to buy a short-trip vehicle that doesn't give me the exercise that the bikes might. I could buy one of the scooters and power it with the solar panels I'm buying and ride to the grocery store at roughly the flow-of-traffic speed on the local 35 mph rural road, and be able to say that the entire trip was solar powered and exercise-free.
At EVS-20, I and a fellow attendee took extra rides on these Sealed-Lead-Acid machines, which didn't run short on energy, and we had a few drag races in the parking lot. We both agreed that it was outrageously fun, and, at the same time, disturbingly dangerous. He said that even though he had loved the ride, he would not be buying one for safety reasons for both himself and his child. I am still considering a purchase.
The story behind the scooters is that they were established products in Asia and Europe, and were starting to trickle into the U.S. EVT of Skokie seized the opportunity to become the sole U.S. Distributor. A big challenge was to make the scooters compliant with the Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) so they could be licensed and titled in every state.
EVT's marketing rep. said, "We spent a lot of time working with the Department of Transportation helping them define what are the characteristics for electric vehicles, because they only know combustion engines in terms of sizes. So, essentially we spent a significant amount of time educating them because they know there are a lot of vehicles being somewhat illegally imported or misrepresented on importation documents in the United States." Modifications to make the EVT Scooter compliant included DOT approved light lenses and brake hoses, full-time daytime-running-light capability and a kill-switch.
I asked Dave Haskell why there were no advanced batteries yet in the scooters, even though the EVT bikes come standard with NiMH. He said that EVT has worked very closely with Evercell and has verified that the Nickel-Zinc product will work well in the scooter, but that the Chinese manufacturer is not quite ready for a mass-marketed product. He mentioned very long-established contacts at Evercell. This made me think to watch the EVT scooters for evidence that Evercell had decided they were ready to bring the NiZn product to market on a larger scale.
Who is EVT ?
There is a company in Illinois called MPC products with 700+ employees and 40 years of history in the Aerospace business. Two brothers, engineers and owners of the company, developed a particularly efficient Brushless DC Hub motor they saw as outstanding. Its only moving parts were sealed bearings. In consultation with Mr. Haskell, they decided it would be worthwhile to seek out a sellable commercial or consumer product in which to feature the motor. This is how Mr. Haskell came to design the EVT bike and its unique digital display, to come up with the EVT name, and eventually to import the Scooter to go with the home-designed bike line. A holding corporation, Technicore, is also nominally the parent company of EVT's sister company, MPC Products.
As to any further products, Mr. Haskell said, "We're actually developing electric hub motors for a wide range of four wheel off-road products such as ATVs or golf-carts. And we're also developing a smart controller to operate those hub motors." I have only seen one other outfit go after the EV-ATV concept, but theirs was a ground-up approach. EVT is talking about retrofitting someone else's design.
I stand by all of my safety reservations about two-wheeled vehicles, though I recognize there is a wide variety of individual opinion on this matter, and it can be a matter not only of personal preference but also of location and circumstances. This safety concern is not only my own, but is evidenced in some recent headlines. Some cities are writing new laws to take into account increased accident problems pertaining to increased bike and scooter use. I would not presume to understand all the nuances and causes of this problem, so I do not simplistically 'blame' this on 2-wheelers or traffic engineering. I just know that there seem to be some dangers which lead to injuries, and in my view this shouldn't be ignored in a personal buying decision. I am reluctant to pass on discussion of a high end desirable EV Bike without at least mentioning this.
While the major manufacturers have made their antipathy to high-speed Highway BEVs completely clear for the moment, this has left open the question of the low-speed vehicle market, and on that end, I wonder whether there is a trend toward the EV approach. Counting bikes and scooters, it is commonplace to see EVs for sale. I see them for sale at Truck Stops and on TV Infomercials.
So, while there is a safety concern (in my view) of bringing more 2-wheelers onto the road and into our traffic, there also seem to be factors at work (such as superior quietness and smoothness) which are leading to some of those 2-wheelers being EVs. These trends (if I have perceived them accurately, which I may not have done) are a sort of a coming-together or clashing of different issues.
An important legal issue discussed at EVS-20 was the lack, in the U.S., of a middle-speed (City-Car-Level) classification of vehicles. Apparently, we have laws which do a good job of defining Low Speed Vehicles and Highway-Capable vehicles, but not so for Middle-Speeders. This is one of the reasons, I was told by REVA representatives and others, that other countries such as India or Britain are ahead of us in making mid-speed City-Cars available to consumers: their laws are more able to account for such vehicles. Why should hundreds of REVAs be on the road in India and not here? Why should GEMs (to take another example) be selling reasonably well as Low-Speed vehicles in the U.S., but face legal disincentive to ramping up to a more ambitious mid-speed vehicle that some customers might want?
As to EVT's claim to the throne of Best-In-Class, I am not an experienced rider of powered 2 wheel vehicles, and so it was difficult for me to provide an in-depth evaluation of EVT's products. Sure, I really liked riding them, but how do I compare the nuances to other competing products after a a brief test-ride?
I think EVWorld.Com readers who are considering purchase of this or other competing vehicles, such as the Wavecrest should not take the information I am passing on as being an in-depth product evaluation, but should further investigate which bike or scooter they think might be right for them (if any), and at what price. One method of research I've found valuable is to seek out some of the people whose livelihood depends on maintaining two-wheelers, the owners of bike and scooter rental and sales agencies that one finds in some cities. You tend to hear them mention certain brand and product names as consistently good or bad.
So, while I am sorely tempted to buy an EVT scooter, like Hamlet, I am still haunted by my fears.
Two-wheel or not two-wheel? That is the question!
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