Sanyo eneloop e-bike at CES

Commuter, Electric bike 8 8

You have probably seen the Sanyo eneloop bike quite a few times in the past year, both on this blog and at other sites. Though it was making news on the web long before, the pedal assist hybrid e-bike, which offers regenerative braking and coasting, was officially unveiled to the US bike market at Interbike this past September. Well… now the bike is getting more attention at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. At CES, journalists not affiliated with the cycling industry will get a chance to try it out, and I am looking forward to reading some of those impressions as they start trickling onto the web.

I was lucky enough to test ride an eneloop bike while I was in Vegas for Interbike (thanks to Carlton Reid who let me try his loaner eneloop at the BikeHugger Mobile Social). Unlike a typical electric bike, which uses a hand operated throttle to control the power from the motor, the Sanyo motor kicks in as soon as the rider starts pedaling. It takes a little getting used to as you can really feel the extra acceleration when you first start pedaling. After a couple of laps around the interior area of the US Crits Finals though, I was really enjoying the effortless speed provided by the electric pedal assist (as you can tell from the smile on my face in the photo shown here). The motor assist diminishes as you go faster and cuts off completely at a certain speed (around 18mph if I remember correctly). That doesn’t sound fast, but the top speed feels pretty fast when you are pedaling easily on an upright style bike. My first impression of the eneloop was that the initial, almost jerky, acceleration might be off-putting (and potentially dangerous) to those who are new to cycling for transportation (the target market for a bike like this I assume). To me, it seems like the motor assist shouldn’t kick in at all until the rider has pedaled a few feet to get the bike moving. If the system is refined a bit (and maybe it already has been), I think the electric pedal assist technology does have the potential to open the possibility of bike commuting to those who would otherwise never consider it…definitely a good thing in my opinion.

My test ride on the eneloop was pretty limited, but Richard Masoner (Fritz from Cyclelicious) had a chance to try one out longer term. His review appears in the 2010 “Gear Issue” of Momentum Magazine. It sounds like he liked the bike overall. I will be looking forward to reading more about his experience with the bike soon at Cyclelicious. (update 1/10: Richard already posted more of his thoughts about the eneloop here).

Finally, I will mention the carbon version of the eneloop (pictured here) that Sanyo had in their booth at Interbike. That version of the eneloop is for the Japanese market only and is not slated for release in the US. Too bad, the 50-pound weight of the bike is potential issue for people, like Richard, who sometimes carry their commuter bike onto a bus or up stairs for storage. The carbon bike is less than 10 pounds lighter, but after lugging it up a few flights of stairs, that would probably be a pretty noticeable difference. So who is going to be first to market a performance oriented carbon fiber e-bike in the US… Sanyo, Trek, or someone else? I am not sure, but I think it is something we will see pretty soon.

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8 Comments

  1. VeloRep January 10, 2010 at 2:19 pm -  Reply

    I agree with your assessment of the new Eneloop bike, especially that the PAS begin AFTER the bike has picked up a bit of speed. According to Sanyo's marketing info the bike will travel quite a long distance on a relatively small lithium battery. The bike must really conserve energy.

    Beyond the bike, I commend the multi-billion dollar company Panasonic – Sanyo for juicing up the American market with any amount of buzz possible to gain attention to this bambi-on-ice like fledgling market space.

    For more info on electric bikes please visit the VeloChef blog; http://www.velorep.com/velochef

  2. Yokota Fritz January 10, 2010 at 6:22 pm -  Reply

    Terry of Pedego has been having a conversation on my blog about throttle vs assist — he believes Americans strongly prefer throttle control (like his bikes) over assist bikes.

    Regarding range: I plan to test this out this week, maybe tomorrow if I get up early enough :-) The Eneloop bike is difficult to pedal w/o the motor on, so it's an important consideration for me.

    Lightweight and high performance? I've seen BionX wheels on lower end road style bikes, but other than that I'm not aware of any. For performance, it looks like companies like Currie and Optibike focus on extended range and more power instead of lightweight.

  3. James T. January 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm -  Reply

    Fritz, I rode one of the Pedego bikes at Interbike as well, and I definitely can see Terry’s point. The pedal assist system has its merits, but the simple throttle approach does give the rider the feeling that they are in control (because they are). I didn’t ride either bike long enough to do a thorough review, but I do think that new riders might feel a little more comfortable knowing that they can back off the power from the motor if they feel the need to do so.

  4. Cycle Tech January 12, 2010 at 10:34 am -  Reply

    Hey! I like your blog. I have just started a blog for the network of mobile bicycle mechanics. Come on over and have a look, it will interest you. > http://mobilebicyclerepairs.blogspot.com/ Martin

  5. Alex Kelley January 15, 2010 at 9:55 am -  Reply

    Pedal Assist vs throttle? Different strokes for different folks–both have a place. The ultimate goal is to get more people using transportation that doesn't pollute and helps them stay healthy. E-bikes as a whole fit this bill.

    To the controllability of pedal assistance, all you do is pedal less to go less fast and pedal harder to go faster. It is a pretty intutitive process and seems to jive with anyone comfortable on a standard bicycle. I like motorcycles and scooters so throttle assistance is intutitive for me as well but maybe not for everyone.

  6. ChrisLeeRay February 17, 2010 at 6:42 pm -  Reply

    the overall sleekness and unnoticeable electric accessories make this a really slick looking bike.

    Chris
    http://www.ampedbikes.com

  7.  Headboard Light August 16, 2010 at 9:45 am -  Reply

    Lithium batteries offer higher capacity and very light weight compared to conventional batteries;`”

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