What is the market for electric bicycles?
Internationally, electric commuter bikes are one of the fastest growing segments of bicycle sales. In the U.S., electric bicycles are just starting to appear. Here in the U.S., the primary market for these domestic bike sales also includes the recreational rider. People who would like to ride farther, faster, or easier have all expressed an interest in the Charger electric bicycle.
What is so special about the Charger bicycle?
Not only is the Charger bike a comfortable, balanced, high performance vehicle, but the electric assist turns you into a performance cyclist. The power from the electric assist is proportional to the power the rider is exerting. Set the proportionality feature at + 2 and in effect, you double your strength. At + 4 the ordinary rider has more muscle than an Olympic cyclist does (up to 4 times your strength, or 1/2 horsepower). At 1/2 an out of condition husband can keep up with his athletic wife who is riding a regular bike. The proportionality principle also means you don't need to have the complexity of a hand controlled on/off switch for applying power. Stop pedaling and the assist power also immediately drops to zero; start applying leg power and the assist is helping. This is not an electric moped, motor scooter, or motorcycle…instead it is a bike that turns you into an athlete, a bionic human.
How long was the Charger bicycle in development?
One of the founding partners, AeroVironment, Inc., began developing electric bicycles in early 1992. Five years earlier AV had installed electric propulsion to the bicycle wheeled Sunraycer, and ten years earlier had added electric assist to the Bionic Bat human powered airplne that won two Kremer speed prizes. The Charger electric bike is a fourth generation vehicle and has benefited from this extensive research and development.
Will it go too fast?
Above 20 MPH you're on your own. The electric assist is programmed to stop assisting, while a one-way clutch keeps it from appreciably affecting the way you ride. The aim of the Charger bike is not to change your riding habits, but to let you do for a long time, what you would otherwise be able to do on your own for a short time…or take on hills and windy conditions that would normally be unthinkable.
How far will the Charger electric bicycle go?
The Charger hs been designed to travel for 40 miles at up to 20 miles per hour on a single charge when the proportionality is set at level 1. It will go about 18 miles on level ground at level 4. Obviously, terrain, speed, rider weight, the level of assist and amount of pedaling will affect this range. Average riders on relatively flat terrain have been able to easily achieve the 20/18 target in the higher assist levels. In hilly terrain riders have accomplished the same target by using the higher assist levels more selectively.
What is the "Impulse System™"?
The Impulse System™ is a unique, patent pending, human power amplifying system. A microprocessor senses the level of physical effort exerted by the rider over 500 times per second. The system will then add the desired level of electric "boost" to either add one half the amount of your effort, match it on a 1 to 1 basis, or multiply your effort at 2, or even 4 to one! This system makes the riding experience natural and exciting.
What are the differences between the Charger bicycle and its competitors?
The Charger is significantly different from most existing competitive e-bicycles in that it rides like bicycle and not a moped or scooter. The Charger bike is a purpose built vehicle that has been designed by a leading bicycle manufacturer with the electronics and drive train being developed by one of the most respected names in the electric vehicle industry. The proportional power feature described above is based on the Impulse System™ (patent applied for). It is a human power sensor that provides the input to the assist electronics so that electric power is provided proportionately with the rider. The direct drive, two chain system, has been integrated with a seven speed Shimano Nexus internal hub gearing and braking system to give top performance over a wide range, peppy acceleration, hill climbing ability and comfort riding into the wind.
Why is the Charger bike mechanical-electical set up so good?
Most of the competitors either have a direct drive wheel motor or a tire roller motor, neither of which take advantage of the bike's pedal power transmission. Besides the performance advantages of tying motor power with pedal power in an internal hub gearing system unique to the Charger bike, the Charger rider can shift gears while moving or at a standstill! In urban settings especially, it can be hard to anticipate the need to downshift before stopping…something that is never a problem for the Charger rider. Also, the exceptionally smooth shifting and minimal maintenance of the internal hub gearing should not be ignored.
How long will it take to recharge the Charger bicycle?
The two 12-Volt maintenance free lead acid batteries can be completely recharged in four hours using the integrated microprocessor controlled battery charger...or 80% in about 1.5 hrs.
Do the Charger batteries have a "memory" like my cellular phone or cordless drill?
No! Unlike the NiCad batteries found in many computers, phones and tools, the Charger batteries may be partially recharged at any time. If you go for a ride and stop for lunch, feel free to plug in the on-board charger for an opportunity charge. Battery experts recommend charging more rather than less frequently to prolong the life of any lead acid battery, including the Charger's deep discharge gel type. If you can charge up at work, do so rather than let battery drain to a lower level on your way home.
What will it cost to recharge the Charger's power pack?
A four hour recharge before the recent rise in electric rates, was between 3 and 4 cents. Now it may be as high as 5 to 6 cents in places like California… still a bargain considering Charger riders can log up to 40 miles per charge. Though the average range may be between 20 and 30 miles per charge, compare the 5 to 6 cents cost with over $2.00 per gallon of gasoline for the same distance traveled in a compact car! The power is about forty times less costly and even more times less polluting considering the amount of solar, wind, and hydro-electric power generated today. If you figure in other automobile costs like insurance, registration, upkeep, parking…the cost of operating a Charger bike is quite small even if you have to replace a $75 battery set every one, two, or three years. (Longer distance "power" riders replace more frequently).
How much does the Charger bicycle weigh?
The complete Charger bicycle weighs about 65 lbs. Including a 23-lb. easily removable battery box, electronics and charging system and a 42-lb. frame and motor drive.
Can the brakes safely stop the Charger bicycle?
To compensate for the increased weight of the electric drive system that ads a mere 15 to 20% to the total weight of the bike and rider, a Shimano roller brake was included in the rear wheel. The rear roller brake with the standard front cantilever brake stops the Charger bicycle within the Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines.
Is this a bicycle or a moped?
The US Department of Transportation has issued an opinion that the Charger design is a bicycle, not a motor vehicle. The fact that the Charger bike does not have a throttle and cannot be ridden without the rider pedaling has eliminated all of the federal motor vehicle regulations affiliated with other electric motor vehicles. Your state or community may have specific rules for electric bikes as well as electric motor vehicles.
Can I ride the Charger bicycle without assist?
Absolutely! The Charger bike offers four levels of assist or you may turn off the system entirely. Because of the unique drive train, you will feel no added friction or drag when pedaling without the assist. The battery box can be quickly removed (less than 5 seconds) allowing rides without the added battery weight.
How do I turn the unit on and off?
A five button membrane switch allows you to enter a user defined personal identification number (PIN) to turn on the system. Select Standby mode (no assist) or levels 1 through 4. At any time use this keypad to check the state of charge of the battery pack. Should you forget to turn off the system, don't worry. The system will automatically turn itself off after a period of idle time.
Are there special motor vehicle or insurance requirements?
The US Dept. of Transportation has ruled that the Charger design does not fall into the category of a motor vehicle. However, various states view electric bicycles differently. In California, for example, the electric bicycle has a unique status with the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. No special driver's license or license plate is required. You must be 16 years or older to ride and a standard bicycle helmet is required. Check your local community for any special regulations. The Charger bicycle may be covered under your current insurance policy. To determine coverage, check with your insurance company or agent.
Is the Charger bicycle considered a zero emission vehicle?
Yes. While some communities only define ZEV's as car replacements, others are looking for alternative ways to reduce sources of mobile pollution. The Charge electric bike has qualified for electric vehicle credits in some communities. Check with your local environmental management group for clarification. Every time you take a short trip on your Charger rather than a car, you delete a cold start that would have added a significant pollution contribution.
Can I configure the Charger bicycle any way I want?
The Charger bicycle was designed to conform to an industry standard geometry. The one size fits all "uni-sex" frame size was designed for riders 5'3" to 6'3" tall. Your independent bicycle dealer can offer an array of bicycle accessories and upgrades from lights and racks to suspension forks. The Charger is unlike many electric bikes that cannot take standard bicycle accessories and require special mounting hardware to attach to car bike racks.
How many horsepower is the electric motor?
The 24-volt electric motor is designed to provide up to 375 Watts of shaft power. This translates into approximately 1/2 (sustained) Horsepower...with up to 36 Amps of peak power.
Does the Charger bike recharge the batteries when braking or going downhill?
While regenerative braking in average terrain could generate a small amount of excess energy that could be put back into the batteries, the original designers' studies showed that the benefits were very small and were counter balanced by increased friction and drag in designs that included this feature. Therefore, they did not include regenerative braking in the Charger system. The Charger bicycle drive sysem has been designed so that the motor stops turning when the bike is coasting. This reduces losses associated with spinning up the motor and makes for a more pleasant riding.
What type of drive system is used on the Charger bicycle?
Charger bike engineers integrated a second motorized chain into the rear hub of the bicycle. By utilizing two chains they were able to keep the traditional bicycle "feel" when pedaling without assist. Since the motor chain connects also to a multiple gear hub, this makes the motor power more effective than if it were connected directly to a single geared drive shaft…as most other direct drive electric bike competitors have done.
What is the benefit of Charger's two-chain system?
A two-chain drive train provides the Charger bicycle increased torque from the electric assist for peppy acceleration and more effective hill climbing. By integrating the drive-train with Shimano's Nexus seven speed gear system, the motor, as well as the pedals, may take advantage of the bicycle gear shifting. This design will not limit your choice of tires, slip in wet conditions, or generate excessive tire wear. Compared with hub motors and direct drive motors geared directly to the front or rear wheel shaft (not connected to the pedal gearing), the advantage is most pronounced while using assist in the lowest and the highest gears.
How many levels of assist are available on the Charge bicycle?
You can select four levels of assist to be combined with your own effort. At level one, the drive train will match your effort on a 1/2 to one basis. At two through four, your effort will be multiplied up to four times (or 1/2 HP). You also have the option to ride in an all human "standby" mode and quickly revert back to an assisted mode with the touch of a button. The maximum amount of assist is limited by the maximum torque output of the motor. At peak torque, the motor alone is providing a driving force to the rear wheel equivalent to 80 pounds of force applied at the pedals.
What type of warranty is offered on the batteries, motor, bicycle frame?
The Charger bicycle frame and non-suspension cro-moly front fork are warranted for five years. Bicycle parts, system electronics and the motor drive are warranted for six months from date of purchase, unless an extended warranty is purchased. The batteries are warranted for six months directly from the manufacturer, though should last significantly longer with proper care.
Are there any security features designed into the Charger bike?
The Charger system can only be activated upon your entry of a PIN (Personal Identification Number). By locking the electronics, you discourage 'joy rides'. You can further discourage theft by running a "u" lock or cable lock through the power pack handle, frame, and front wheel. Since the batteries and electronics pack is easily removable, you can pop the pack off and leave the bike locked to a street post or bike rack.
How do I know how much battery energy I have left in the pack?
The Charger system incorporates a sophisticated battery management system. At any time, press a button on the membrane switch panel and a tree of LED lights will display the battery pack's current state-of-charge.
What frame sizes are available?
The Charger bicycle is offered in one standard 18-inch "unisex" frame size. By bending the top tube of the frame, the designers were able to reduce the stand-over height of the bike. The industry standard geometry allows bike shops to adapt alternate handlebar stem and seat post heights to comfortably accommodate riders between 5'3" and 6'3" tall.
Who is behind the Charger bicycle?
"Charger, LLC" was formed as a joint venture between AeroVironment, Inc., and a prominent American bicycle manufacturer known as a worldwide leader in the development of both juvenile and adult cycle designs. AeroVironment is a leader in electric vehicle technology as the designer and builder of the solar powered GM Sunraycer and the GM Impact electric car that went on to influence current GM electric car models. The mechanical and electrical engineering teams from both firms combined to design the Charger Electric Bicycle Drivetrain as a completely integrated, purpose-built, high performance electric bicycle power amplifier.
Unfortunately, less than two years after the Charger was introduced, one of the bike firm's main Principals passed on in a tragic accident, soon leaving the company to be taken over by creditors such as Shimano, the world reknown Japanese bicycle component company. Since the Charger bikes were slightly ahead of their time and built with such quality and sophistication, they required a market price exceeding the acceptance of the targeted consumer group in the U.S. It was ultimately determined that "Charger LLC" discontinue production and cease to be a business entity. One rumor also suggests General Motors pressured the closure after they purchased a significant portion of Aerovironment.
Is there a future for the Charger bicycle?
The Charger LLC inventory of over a thousand bikes and pallets of spare parts, was purchased by "Electroportal™, LLC", a sustainable energy/product development and marketing firm. Electroportal's intention is to manufacture a "second generation Charger", with a name worthy of it's trail blazing predecessor and design sufficiently compatible to allow the original bikes to remain operable for many years to come. In the mean time, Electroportal is developing power assist systems for a number of bikes and trikes, and looks forward to using the same technology for larger vehicles too.
Charger bike enthusiasts in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa have expressed optimism their bikes (several clocking well over 15K miles) will remain highlighted as the finest and best designed e-bike on the roads for quite some time to come! Those who know the "fun-functionality" of these remarkable "bionic bikes", are quietly spreading the word to the fortunate few who might yet have the opportunity to purchase an original, legendary Charger bike!
How much does the Charger bicycle cost?
The STANDARD and COMFORT Charger bike models originally retailed for $1499. The STANDARD (mountain bike handle-bar style) was also available with RockShox™ front suspension for $1699. The same factory boxed non-suspension bikes are now shipping with new batteries for only $799 (plus shipping and final out of carton assembly). Plans for a new "LX" version with front suspension is in the works...perhaps as early as this Summer.
Where can I buy a Charger electric bicycle?
The bikes are currently available through Electroportal, LLC in San Francisco, or at their warehouse facility in Burlingame, CA. Prospective customers may visit the Electroportal web site for Internet orders, or contact them directly for bike shops that carry the Charger.