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Daimler’s Smart division, known for its two-seat vehicles, dwindling sales and heavy financial losses, is now in the electric bike business. (Mercedes-Benz/Mercedes-Benz)
Daimler’s Smart division, known for its two-seat vehicles, dwindling sales and heavy financial losses, is now in the electric bike business. (Mercedes-Benz/Mercedes-Benz)

The Green Highway

Re-cycle this column: Bits and bites from the world of two wheels Add to ...

It's beautiful cycling weather and here's some interesting news for everyone on two wheels.

Wales intends to become the first jurisdiction in the world to make it compulsory to provide safe routes for walking and cycling. The Active Travel Bill, working its way through the Welsh Assembly, will give cycle paths equal priority with road building. The hope is that creating a network of safe bike routes will tempt people to leave their cars at home. Surveys have shown that many people want to cycle more for everyday journeys but are held back by safety concerns.

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Over the last decade or so, the U.K. government has spent £500-million on cycling and walking paths through its Local Sustainable Transport Fund yet only about 2 per cent of journeys in the United Kingdom are made by bike, compared with 27 per cent in the Netherlands. The Welsh Assembly believes that only a joined-up network of segregated bike paths will get people on bikes. As a cyclist who was once nailed in the back by a van's side-view mirror while in a bike lane in bike-friendly Copenhagen, I can attest to the need for separate paths.

Speaking of bicycles, Daimler's Smart division, known for its two-seat vehicles, dwindling sales and heavy financial losses, is now in the electric bike business. It is now shipping its battery-electric bikes with a 250-watt electric motor and about 100 kilometres of range.

Smart believes that total e-bike sales in Europe are now more 700,000 units a year and the company wants in on the action. The stylish-looking Smart e-bike is will be available in white with green trim or grey with orange trim and carries a price tag of just less than $4,000. There's an even more expensive model coming along, which is a special-edition Brabus e-bike that will have a 25-mph top speed and an electric motor delivering 500 watts of power. With more and more unlicensed, uninsured e-bikes turning up on the roads these days, you wonder when the heavy hand of government will be felt.

If you're interested in something faster, you might check out the Empulse Electric Motorcycle from a U.S.-based company called Brammo, which was co-founded by kung fu movie star Jackie Chan. The Brammo Empulse has a six-speed transmission that enables it to accelerate hard from a stop to more than 100 mph. The batteries have been packaged up to look something like a motorcycle engine, even though most motorcycle riders like to make a lot of noise and the Empulse is silent. It's also expensive at $17,000 each.

Electric motorcycles may be farther along than you realize.

In fact, there's a racing series called the TTXGP that calls its eGrandPrix the leading World Championship for Electric Motorsport. At a recent race at the Infineon track in California, the electric bikes were lapping at just less than two minutes, which is only about 18 seconds slower than gasoline-powered superbikes. However, one unfortunate competitor suffered a software glitch on the first turn of the first lap; having to reboot her machine cost her 30 seconds and she finished fourth.

Finally, here's a scooter idea I like.

For years, I've predicted that we'll soon have masses of scooters providing easy and economical transportation through grid-locked Toronto just like in Rome and Barcelona. But the scooter craze never catches on. In San Francisco, there's an electric-scooter-sharing service planning to launch next year.

ScootNetworks will let subscribers rent battery-electric scooters by “unlocking” them with their iPhone devices. The made-in-China scooters will have a top speed of 30 mph with subscription rates likely to be in the $100-$150-a-month range for unlimited scooter access. Bring it to Toronto and you can sign me up.

Happy cycling, everyone.

mvaughan@globeandmail.com

Follow us on Twitter: @Globe_Drive

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