If there are hybrid cars, why not hybrid bicycles? And they have appeared - although in reality, they represent something quite different from what we usually understand by this term.
What does the word "hybrid" mean in our automotive understanding? Of course, it refers to a vehicle with a special, dual powertrain, combining the advantages of two types of engines. But for some reason, a bicycle that combines the qualities of road and mountain models has been called a hybrid bicycle.
Externally, an electric bicycle can be distinguished by the presence of a battery and a more massive hub on one of the wheels or the bottom bracket.
A driver would call such a transport, combining two purposes, a crossover, but we are talking about something else: bicycles with a hybrid "powertrain" also exist! Sometimes experts call them almost the same - velohybrids, and today we will talk about them. (Note that this issue is further confused by the fact that ordinary cheap electric bicycles are often also called velohybrids).
The Nature of a hybrid bikes
Like a hybrid car, a hybrid bicycle combines traditional drive with electric. And if everything is clear with the electric part, then the traditional part of a velohybrid is not an internal combustion engine, but a pair of ordinary pedals. How do they interact with the electric motor?
Most often, the electric motor is built directly into the wheel hub, but this is only suitable for motors of low power.
The main difference between a bicycle with a hybrid drive and an electric bicycle is that the hybrid does not simply drive one of the bicycle's wheels. The hybrid bike drive helps the person only when they themselves are pedaling. And the more actively they pedal, the more active the assistance from the electricity. Such is the hybrid trickery, not allowing the person to fully relax.
Actually, it's correct: today many of us use bicycles as a sports equipment and a way to train the body, but what kind of workout would it be if the bicycle moves on its own, on electricity alone? Therefore, bicycles with hybrid drives are valued in developed countries, where citizens think a lot about ecology, health, and have the means for expensive equipment to maintain it in proper condition. And a branded velohybrid costs quite a bit - around 4500 cad.
Regarding the design, a velohybrid differs little from a regular bicycle with a factory-installed electric drive. It has the same electric motor connected to the rear wheel, the same battery pack, and a motorcycle-type throttle control handle, but... In addition to two modes of movement – purely muscular and purely electric – there is a third, sometimes called "Assistant." When activated, you still have to pedal, but it's much easier because the electric drive assists you.
Interestingly, the degree of assistance depends on how hard a person pedals. The more actively you pedal, the more actively the electricity helps you. If the force applied to the pedals weakens, the traction force on the driving wheel also weakens. A special sensor hidden in the bottom bracket is responsible for this dosing of effort. The intensity of assistance can sometimes be adjusted by a switch, which offers several levels.
Naturally, in "Assistant" mode, the electric bike travels further on a single charge than in pure electric traction mode. The average range is 30 – 60 km. The range depends on the battery capacity, which is typically around 5 - 10 Ah, and models with a capacity of 25 – 30 Ah can travel up to 80 km. The maximum speed of an electric bike is from 40 to 60 km/h, although there are models that can reach 100 km/h.
On a factory-made hybrid electric bicycle, the electric motor can be placed in different locations: in the wheel hub (front, rear, or both), or near the bottom bracket. The battery is sometimes placed under the luggage rack, sometimes attached to the frame. It's convenient when the battery is removable – then it can be taken home or to the office for charging, and from a security standpoint, it's safer against theft.
Due to its greater mass, lifting a velohybrid onto a curb or up stair steps is significantly more difficult, especially for women.
Perhaps the only serious drawback of an electric bicycle (apart from the high price, of course) is its significant weight, averaging 25 – 30 kg. Yet, such transport, despite its drive, remains a bicycle by purpose: it often needs to be lifted onto a curb, carried up stairs, or rolled over some other obstacle. But there's nothing to be done about it; such is the price for dynamics and comfort of movement.
But we have developed a lightweight model, specifically for people who don't want to carry heavy loads. Its weight is only 18 kg.
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