More and more electric bicycles are being developed in Japan to give riders a little help when commuting or going grocery shopping. They're a common sight on the hilly streets of Tokyo, where "mamachari" bikes with baskets and kid seats over the wheels are the norm.
Sanyo recently unveiled a new series of two-wheel drive eneloop electric hybrid bicycles whose lithium ion batteries can recharge while the bike is being pedaled on level terrain. Previous models relied on braking or downhill energy to re-power.
The Eco Charge Mode featured on the SPL series gives you more recharging opportunities while the bike is in use. It reads foot pressure on the pedals, as well as pedal torque and the revolution speed of the dynamotor on the front wheel, and charges the battery along flat roads, on downhills, and during braking. When the rider comes to an uphill gradient, the motor assist function kicks in automatically.
The Eco Charge Mode increases driving distance per charge by 53 percent compared with just biking in a high power-assist mode; Sanyo says the new SPL bikes can travel about 34 miles per charge.
By traveling 1 kilometer (1,093 yards) on flat ground in Eco Charge Mode, you can generate enough electricity to go about 300 meters (328 yards) in Power Mode, which provides lots of power assist. A power reserve function stores an extra bit of juice for those times when the battery runs out before you arrive at your destination.
To be released in Japan in April, the 26-inch CY-SPL226 and the 24-inch CY-SPL224 will have a price tag of about $1,700.