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Decisions Frequently Asked Questions
Why would I buy an e-bike?
General View
At one time electric bicycles were perceived as an alternative to a conventional bike for the elderly, but the purpose and reasons for ownership have changed considerably in recent years.

Most e-bike customers, young or old, super fit or otherwise, are looking for a way to maximise the enjoyment of cycling without the sweat of tackling steep hills or headwinds unaided.

Some of the following comments and decisions will no doubt be controversial, but I spent over one month in China visiting over 20 factories with the remit of creating a range of bicycles to suit most tastes. With that task in mind you can imagine that I had to put considerable thought into the specification & quality profile of each cycle - my decision must be worthy of consideration. Understand that these comments/decisions are solely the opinion of the author & must be interpreted as such.

Running Costs
Kudos cycles are such good value for money that the purchase costs are now only marginally more expensive than a mid quality normal bike. The electricity to charge is minimal and a kindly boss will often allow recharge at work for free. Probably the largest additional expense is battery replacement costs, but Kudos have secured such good prices from a battery supplier that this cost is now considerably reduced (average £200.00 inc. VAT 36v/10AH LiFePO4 battery) - also the cycle life of LiFePO4 is now so long that the battery replacement could be 5 years ahead.  

Fitness
Sure a conventional bike must keep you fitter, but only if you use it. Nearly half of conventional bikes are used only once per week and many never at all. Whereas the e-bike can be considered as a reliable means of getting to work and often used every day. The Kudos cycle has a PAS selector allowing you to 'dial in' the amount of electric power assist you choose or the amount of rider power you choose.

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Why are electric bikes not more popular?
We think they are too expensive. Kudos Cycles is determined to reduce the cost of a quality bike - the cost of the components, especially motor and batteries, is falling but this does not seem to be reflected in the retail price.

The Dutch have realised that mountain style e-bikes whilst great for a Sunday morning blast round the lanes, is not necessarily the ideal bike to ride everyday to work - our 'commuter' bike is Dutch inspired, unisex styled and very comfortable and easy to mount and ride, an ideal ride to work machine, not expensive. It is just this sort of bike that will make electric bikes more popular - why take a Porsche to work when a VW Golf will do the job better and cheaper!

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British Electric Bike Association
There are certain initiatives and codes of practice that this organisation forces members to agree to that is sensible and I am supportive of. But like all those organisations, they wish to control and regulate how we run our business and if anyone understands the Rally Design (our parent company - see www.rallydesign.co.uk) business model, that is not the way we run our business, Rally Design has been established 38 years. The first line of the BEBA agreement schedule states 'only make sales through dealers/retailers or directly to the end user through flagship stores and not exclusively online'. This is completely the opposite of our business model and Kudos is a free trading company who buys direct in considerable volumes from some of the largest e-bike manufacturers in the world and sells direct to the consumer at fair profit margins, that is why you receive a top quality bike at a mid range price level, that is true value for money, at this time we have no wish to join BEBA.

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Buying The Bike
Absolutely 'do nots':
  1. Do not buy an e-bike on price alone. Check carefully the quality & specification. A cheap bike may not be cheap in the long term. Ask carefully the cost & availability & cycle life of replacement batteries.

  2. Do not pay for a bike off the internet if the seller does not have stock to view and take away that day - so many are collating orders then ordering a 20ft container every few months - you may wait a long time for your bike or forever, demand an honest delivery date.

  3. Do not buy a bike off the internet if the seller has no credit card facilities - it is not common knowledge that retailers are thoroughly checked by credit card providers as self protection against fraud - it is some reassurance that you can always use the claim back system if the company fails to provide the bike. Never pay for a bike with cash, cheque, debit card or bank transfer, you have no protection, unless you 100% trust the seller.

  4. Do not buy a bike if the retailer is not prepared to give a detailed specification of the parts used in the bike - zinc plated steel spokes look just like stainless when new, but look awful rusty 12 months later!

  5. Do not buy a bike that has no EN15194 certificate (usually issued by SGS or TUV) - this is your surety that the bike has been tested and meets the rigorous standards of these respected organisations. Be careful, many companies forge the certificates.


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Legals

The official standard for electric bikes is EN15194. All bikes tested and complying with EN15194 are safe and fit for purpose. All Kudos Cycles conform to this standard, using the prestigious TUV or SGS testing organisations.

Pedelecs must comply with the following:

  1. Maximum motor power 250w.

  2. Maximum speed under power 15.5mph (25kph).

  3. Power only available when pedals are rotating - throttles operating independently of the pedals (twist and go!) are still legal in the UK under 1982 EAPC Regulations, they are illegal in Europe. However, we will inevitably come into line with Europe, so probably better to buy a European legal bicycle now.

  4. Maximum weight 40kgs (60kgs for tandem or tricycle).

  5. Legal age - must be minimum 14 years old to ride an electric bicycle.

  6. Power to motor must cut automatically when operating brakes.


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Clean & Green
Electric bikes have the lowest fuel consumption of every popular form of motorised transport. Even the minimal electricity usage could come from renewable sources. The latest LiFePO4 batteries are the most green of the lithium types - their longer cycle life also means the battery will be disposed of less often.

Upon disposal, the LiFePO4 battery is the least toxic of all the lithium battery types - the phosphate based material is a natural product which can be easily and safely disposed of.

For more information, please visit www.iloveebikes.com/batteries.html.

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Depreciation
Some claim that the depreciation of an electric bike is relatively lower than that of a conventional bike, l have no evidence to support that claim. However, the old adage 'lf you don’t pay it, you can't lose it'!

There is a regular contributor on the forum www.pedelecs.co.uk who has attempted to put a depreciation percentage against the cost price of e-bikes, the replacement cost of the battery is a dominant factory. He has an example of an e-bike costing £1100.00, with LiMn02 replacement battery cost £500.00. His calculations - example 1.

Example 1 - £1100.00 e-bike, LiMn02 battery £500.00 (2 year cycle life)
One year old
 
Purchase price
1,100.00
Battery value(500.00)
Bike value600.00
25% depreciation(150.00)
Bike value, after 1 year450.00
Residual value of battery, 50%250.00
Value of bicycle after 1 year 700.00
  
Two year old 
Purchase price600.00
35% depreciation(210.00)
Bike value390.00
Residual value of battery, 0%000.00
Value of bicycle after 2 years390.00

Loss over 2 years £710.00 and you are about to face another £500 replacement battery cost.

Using the same formula, the calculation based upon a typical Kudos cycle, purchase cost £745.00, fitted with LiFePO4 battery cost £237.00 - example 2.
       
Example 2 - £745.00 e-bike, LiFePO4 battery £237.00 (5 year cycle life)
One year old
 
Purchase price
745.00
Battery value(237.00)
Bike value508.00
25% depreciation(127.00)
Bike value, after 1 year381.00
Residual value of battery, 50%189.60
Value of bicycle after 1 year 570.60
  
Two year old 
Purchase price508.00
35% depreciation(177.80)
Bike value330.20
Residual value of battery, 0%142.20
Value of bicycle after 2 years472.40

Loss over 2 years £272.60 and you still have 3 years left of battery life with a final battery replacement cost of only £237.00.

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Battery Position
One of the most popular positions for the battery is between the seat tube and back wheel. But this extends the wheelbase of the bike considerably, to my eyes it upsets the aesthetics of the bike and in testing also adversely affects the virage handling of the bike. The current trend is to mount the battery over the rear wheel, usually on a luggage carrier, in this position access is easier, wheelbase is standard bike length and the aesthetics of the bike is maintained. The luggage carrier is also useful to carry small parcels/briefcase, etc., panniers easily hide the battery if you require the bike to appear as non electric as possible.

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Batteries
Lead acid is yesterday's technology. A 36v/10AH lead acid battery (360w), average weight 12kgs, range max 30 miles, cycle life 100-300 recharges, realistic service life 12 months, not environmentally friendly on disposal. The weight makes the bicycle unpleasant to ride and, without power assist, almost unrideable. Old technology to be rejected.

Lithium-ion is now the most common battery type used in electric vehicles, especially bicycles. There are three types of different cathode materials used in the current generation of this battery type.

Lithium cobalt - LiCoO2
This has the highest power/weight density but the cobalt element is very unstable. The batteries are normally protected by safety devices to protect the cells from disturbance, but any contaminant inside the cell can defeat these safety devices. Very difficult to dispose of safely. Average cycle life 500-600 recharges, realistic service life 2-3 years.

Lithium manganese oxide - LiMnO4 (normally referred to as lithium-ion)
Currently the most popular battery utilised on e-bikes. Overcomes the safety concerns of LiCoO2, it does, however, need care in storage, particularly at temperatures above 40°C (above 50°C would destroy) so would not suit hot climes, average cycle life 500-600 recharges, realistic service life 2-3 years, moderate weight.

Lithium iron phosphate - LiFePO4
Have the best safety characteristics of all the batteries. They are the most environmentally friendly and easy to safely dispose, they are stable in operation and do not need protection safety devices. Have a working temperature range minus 20°C to plus 70°C, if stored below 25°C for 12 months they maintain 98% of their recharge capacity, has no 'memory effect' and, most importantly, a long cycle life possibly 1500-1800 recharges, realistically plus 5 years' usage - they are heavier, but not unacceptably so, competitively priced.

Compound Cathode Polymer Batteries
Increasingly used in the E-Bike industry as an alternative to LiMnO4, customers report an increased cycle life, estimated 800-1100 recharges, realistic service life 3-5 years, moderate weight, medium/high cost.

Polymer Lithium Sulphur 
A New system still under development which claims the highest energy density, said to be ok for 100% depth of discharge, highly thermally stable, indefinite shelf life.  However early examples reported very low cycle life, manufacturers claim this has been overcome.  A very lightweight battery of the future potentially low cost.

Kudos Cycles has selected LiFePO4 or LiMnO4 technology for use in most bicycles. We rejected lithium polymer (cobalt) on safety and environmental issues. . Although the LiFePO4 battery is slightly heavier, the safety and environmental advantages combined with the long service life made this the current obvious choice for long term ownership.

However we have currently (November 2012) selected LiMnO4 batteries for use in our Secret, Cobra, Tornado & Arriba bikes.  The lightweight of these batteries when considered with recent price falls has made them attractive for performance E-Bike applications, however the reduced cycle life has to be considered.

For more information, please visit:
www.iloveebikes.com/batteries.html
www.byd.com - health hazard info - lithium cobalt oxide
www.theaureport.com - lithium, hot now, soon to sizzle
www.environmentalgraffiti.com - lithium iron batteries



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The Motor Position

When I first looked at the electric bikes, I made the decision that the motor should be in the rear wheel on the basis that is where the maximum weight is loaded and therefore best traction, but our testing has revealed that the front wheel is also a good location.

Advantages:

  1. It balances the weight of the bike, this is noticeable when riding.
  2. The balance makes the bike easier to pick up.
  3. It allows the fitment of the Nexus internal hub system in the rear wheel.
  4. It makes the bike 2WD, this is particularly noticeable riding through slippery conditions, especially ice and snow.
The exception may be on a serious mountain bike where lifting the front wheel would lose traction.

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Motor Types
  1. Brushless and gearless
    This is the older motor type found commonly in Asia, the motor tends to be heavier (plus 3kgs) and of large diameter. The motor is completely maintenance free and can take a lot of abuse, is normally preferred by Asians who think a good bike is one that works, subtleties like weight are usually ignored - the weight of mum plus three kids on the bike makes it irrelevant!

  2. Brushless and geared
    A much smaller and lighter motor, the gearing providing the necessary torque. The gears may require some maintenance after several years' usage, however, Kudos Cycles use the respected Bafang motor in most bikes - this motor has become the industry standard and is used by many of the higher quality manufacturers.


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Gears
The market leader is clearly Shimano who offer both internal Nexus hubs and external derailleur gears. We consider that the internal hub, especially 8-speed, is ideal for city usage - the freedom to change gear whilst stationary being particularly useful. The derailleur gear allows considerably more choice of ratio, 21-speed or 24-speed being economically available and the system is generally lighter making it more suited to steep hill climb usage.

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Delivery
Every Kudos cycle is supplied 98% assembled, all that is necessary is to assemble the handlebars and complete the obvious safety checks, your battery will be part charged, in 10 minutes you can be off riding.

I cannot believe that I am viewing a competitor's website and the bicycle is very expensive, it appears to be delivered as a giant Meccano set with front wheel, handlebars, seat post, rear rack, etc all needing assembly - Kudos does not expect its customers to be bicycle mechanics. We fully build the bicycle, complete live testing and then disassemble the handlebars, the bikes are supplied almost ready to ride.

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Warranty

The bicycle is warranted for (1) year, excluding consumable parts. 

The LiFePo4 battery is warranted for (2) years.

the LiMnO4 battery is warranted for (1) year.

Please refer to the warranty under terms and conditions for more detail.

Warranty

- LiMnO4 Battery - 1 year


- LiFePO4 Battery- 2 years

 - Bike (Excluding consumables & wear & tear) - 1 year


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Replacement Batteries
Note it is not our intention to 'rip off' our customers with the cost of replacement batteries - for example, as of going to press a LiFePO4 36v/10AH will be priced at an average of £200.00 inc. VAT. Assuming we have good stocks, we are also prepared to sell replacement batteries to service our competitors' products.

I have seen replacement batteries priced at over £500.00. That is very expensive - if I was aware when purchasing a bike that I would face this high battery replacement cost, I would not have purchased that bike. Kudos Cycles will always be responsible in ensuring that replacement batteries are always priced fairly.

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The Future
Electric bike sales in Holland have quadrupled in 4 years, from 40,000 in 2006 to 153,000 in 2009. This is in contrast to regular cycles which have seen a gradual decline. Germany is also seeing a boom in the sales of e-bikes. The UK has yet to grasp the idea, but e-bike sales in 2009 were 21,000, up from 15,000 in 2008. In the People's Republic of China over 20 million e-bikes were sold every year in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The loser is the humble bicycle, despite being able to buy a cheap folder for less than £100.00, the e-bike is becoming the favoured means of transport.

In some Chinese cities, notably Guangzhou, the electric bicycle has become so popular that it is favoured over the new metro system and the shear volume on the road is causing its own traffic problems, especially as the speed restriction is generally disabled. The city has banned electric bikes completely; Shenzhen and Zhuhai have restricted their use.

The problem is the bikes are so cheap (a lead acid bike can be bought for 1,850 RMB, about £185.00) and so unregulated, however we are a long way from that situation and for once our governments have been intelligent in insisting on certain quality standards (EN15194) and restrictions on power and speed. The Chinese may yet adopt our EN15194 standard.

As petrol becomes increasingly more expensive, the popularity of e-bikes will undoubtedly increase.


Dave Elderfield
Senior Buyer
Kudos Cycles

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