When I was in Montreal earlier in the month I took a Dyad-brand electric bicycle for a test drive. It wasn’t something I went looking for: on a stroll down St. Laurent with my family we stumbled across the dealership, which had just opened the week before, and I went back the next day to take one of their bikes for a ride.
As near as I can tell, Dyad is the local branding for a line of electric bicycles made in China, and the Montreal dealer – they’re on St. Laurent just south of Rachel – is buying direct from the factory. Or maybe he is the factory: the owner suggested that if there was anything I didn’t like, I just tell him and he’d have it changed.
There were three models to choose from.
At the bottom end there was what amounted to a mountain bike with an electric motor strapped on. I took this for a brief spin and it was immediately obvious that while the motor might give an extra kick up a hill, it was more “power assisted” than a motor-powered bicycle.
At the top end was something very Vespa-like in design – to see it you’d think “that’s a cool scooter” and not “wow, an electric bicycle” – and test-driving it I found it weighed as much as a scooter too, and was just too ungainly to imagine as part of my everyday life.
Which left me with the middle of the pack, a model they call the Mojito. I had the option of a quick 15-minute ride for free or a longer drive at $15/hour and I decided to really get a feel needed more time, so I opted for the rental. Here’s a brief tour of the Mojito (not my finest work, but it will give you a taste):
I’d planned to shoot some video of the bike in action too, but I was uneasy enough about remembering which control did which that I decided that it was best to devote all my attention to the driving.
After riding the Mojito around for 45 minutes, I left it impressed with what an electric bicycle could do: I was reaching top speeds of 50 km/h on a hill, going up hills without too much struggle, and the bike handled very nicely, with the nimbleness of a regular bicycle with some of the power of a scooter.
The battery statistics I was promised were a range of about 50 km, a top speed of about 45 km/h and a recharge time, from drained, of 6-7 hours (with a regular household plug). I didn’t ask about the battery life, but I’ve seen similar cycles quoted with a limit of 300-400 recharging cycles per battery, which could mean the battery could need to be replaced as much as once a year.
These limitation means that, unlike an electric scooter, which you can, in theory, drive forever as long as you have a gasoline station in range, you’re limited to a 50 km distance from an electric outlet that you can use to recharge and a 6-7 hour window of time to wait for the recharge to happen. This means, for example, that I’d be lucky if I reached Summerside from Charlottetown on a single charge (about 62 km).
So these bikes are obviously not suited for intercity transit, but rather for quick trips around the city.
All of which makes me wonder, at least in the Charlottetown context, where the electric bicycle fits into the transportation landscape: you can, in theory, take a moped-style bicycle like this anywhere you can take a regular bicycle, and Charlottetown is of the scale that, unless I had to make regular trips to Winsloe and back, I can’t see why a regular bicycle wouldn’t be the better option: no charging or batteries to worry about, no maintenance worries (or at least maintenance worries that I can’t solve myself with a screwdriver and a wrench) and I get exercise in the process.
Don’t get me wrong: driving the Mojito around Montreal was loads of fun – I felt like a gasoline-free Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday – but in the end riding electric bicycle felt a lot like using an electric can-opener: something I could do “manually” without much additional effort and with a lot less complexity.
Am I missing something? Would an electric scooter of this sort work well into your daily routine?