Understanding Electric-Assist Bicycles

Background Reading

Electric assisted bicycles are becoming more popular. And evidently the Urban Cycling Movement is a bit foggy on the nature of this method of transport. One of the better examples is the Organic Cycles – Elf.

Coming to Portland

Coming to Portland


To understand where it fits in the pantheon of cycling think of it as a electrified recumbent trike designed to haul cargo bike loads. Know too that when the bike is parked it has solar panels on top that help recharged the onboard battery.

Now the important thing to note about these kinds of vehicles is that they often are equipped with infinite speed transmissions like the NuVinci.

These drives are very smooth in operation. They allow the rider to choose an assist level that is provided by the battery. When the effort being ‘put in‘ by the rider is insufficient to maintain the predetermined speed the battery power makes up the difference. That of course means that the battery power is drained off a bit and before you can have the full quota of power back you will need to recharge the battery.


Most e-assist vehicles will allow you to ride them without having to actually pedal. But in the event you do pedal you increase the distance (i.e. range) of the vehicle. Also choosing to put in more power than usual also means that you have to work a bit harder but the battery charge lasts that much longer.

This makes an e-assist vehicle capable of functioning as if it were a motor scooter or motorcycle but only for shorter distances than would be possible if the rider added his/her own effort.