Electric Bicycles: A Solution without a Problem?

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?


David herron's picture
David herron on July 1, 2010 - 02:01 Permalink

Electricity is everywhere. It’s just a matter of plugging in and recharging.

gepinniw's picture
gepinniw on August 6, 2010 - 15:45 Permalink

I visited this shop recently. The salesman said they were designed by a Montrealer. The rear wheel-mounted batteries are something new, and I’ve never seen an electric bike with the brushless motor mounted on the front wheel.
They are using lithium batteries in at least some of their bikes. I wonder if 300-400 cycles is accurate. My laptop batteries can get 1000 cycles or more.
As for range/practicality, these bikes aren’t for everyone, but as costs decline I expect more and more people will get them. Having a boost up the hills is a HUGE advantage. I did see quite a few in Montreal during my visit.

dance_vatek's picture
dance_vatek on August 19, 2010 - 00:04 Permalink

I’m the proud owner of a “twins” vespa-style scooter from DYAD — so I felt I had to comment.

Lemme tell ya how the e-scooter fits into my daily routine.

It does city commutes that are too long or tiring to do by bicycle, especially if you’re carrying extra weight (like a bookbag or laptop) or going up hills. I need to go about 20 km a day to my work, from the bottom of Montreal to Parc-Extension and back, tackling some major hills on the way.

It basically fulfills the same function as a gas scooter. But unlike a gas scooter:

It doesn’t pollute. Montreal is hydro-electric powered, so these vehicles put out zero emissions. (The batteries for the scooter are “sealed deep-cell lead-acid” batteries and last 3 years, after which you recycle them).

Also unlike a gas scooter, after paying for the vehicle, driving it is basically free. Charging it costs about 20 cents. If you use it every day that comes to about 4 or 5 bucks a month. I just drive it into my alleyway, and hook it into an extension cord from my apartment.

As you say, e-bikes and e-scooters are not intended for intercity transport, and cannot go on the highway. Rather, they’re meant for city commuting. If you do the same drive everyday, chances are you don’t go more than 10 km. These things go about 4 times that, so they are perfect for everyday transportation.

And as you already know, they’re fun to drive. And I like the sound the horn makes.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on August 19, 2010 - 14:27 Permalink

Thank for the thoughtful commentary, Dance.

Martin's picture
Martin on June 30, 2015 - 11:14 Permalink

Update June 2015
Dyad scooters are fun to ride but to own one you might want to reconsider.
here's my story.
Seen somebody riding one of these Mojitos and had to ask about it. He gave me a phone number of the dealership on Prince Arthur in Montreal which I called. We confirmed the price over the phone which was the same as the rider had stated. When I got to the store the price was elevated by 200$ and he mysteriously didn't remember our conversation! Warning number 1.
Number 2 was when I waited patiently while they would pass other clients before me "how rude."
Number 3 was they tried to get me to buy a beat up piece of crap for the same price as the riders brand new one that I initially met on the bike path.
Number 4 finally got home and 3 days later after parking it the garage, the motor kinda seazed up. Since I don't live close I had to find a ride to bring it back to the shop. When I did, this is when their true colours prevailed. His wife said that I would be covered and her little Asian husband wanted nothing more than for me to go away! How insulted I was and refused to leave until it was taken care of. Made it clear how much I paid for it and how him and his wife have a major communication issue. In the end, he replaced the control box and I was on my way.
Number 4 finally made it home but kinda noticed the horn stopped working on the way back. When I finally got home I removed the battery like I usually do to charge it indoors and realized that the guy swapped my battery. That's right they replaced my battery with another that was clearly on its way out!
over the time that I've had this scooter I've noticed several things that were absalute lies about the bike. They will tell you it does a wopping 45pm limiter unlocked when in fact it will never go faster than 36 kph on a flat surface. The speedometer reading is completly missleading! If locked it will say 32kmph when in fact it's really 27kmph. They know this and straight out lie to your face.
I can truly say after 2 years I now own 4 of them and riding them is a total blast with friends but, their extremely expensive lithium batteries also have issues now and only after a short time of using them. Thier LiPo4 batteries have issues so when they are returned, he simply replaces it with a lithium Ion battery and quickly sends you on your way. Out of 4 lithium batteries I have,2 of them are allready showing signs of struggle.
Long story short...they seem like really nice people but Disception is clearly the appropriate word for Thier establishment.
Moral of the story, should of stayed away. Thier are tones of alternate solutions or other companies around.
Good luck everybody and hope you enjoy your new purchase.
Happy riding.