June 16, 2009

Schwinn's Electric Bikes


Do not attempt to adjust your monitor, this is really a picture of an electric bike. Schwinn’s new electric bikes are probably the slickest and most smoothly integrated set of power-assisted velocipedes we’ve yet seen. Schwinn teamed up with Protanium Inc. to develop a whole series of rides in different configurations (the Streamline pictured above), all of which employ lithium polymer batteries and in-hub motors, both well concealed.

They claim their Plug’n Drive system delivers approx. 40 miles of range and charges fully in four hours. They also claim their batteries deliver full power until completely drained (rather than slowly dwindling). Total bike weight ranges from 40-45 lbs., the electric system alone weighs around ten, the battery is stashed on the cargo rack behind the seat, and electric components live inside the frame tubes. To read more about Schwinn’s 2007 electric bike line and other trends in the electric cycling, check out Forbes Bagatelle-Black’s great review of the North American Bike Show at EV World.


No word on price yet for the Schwinn’s, but they could be looking at a corner on the market. The company has offered electric bikes and scooters in the past, but the vast majority of motor-assisted bikes on the market come out looking freakish (like this electric bike from Aprilia or this electric bike from eZee). Beautiful as they may be to the more deeply appreciating ecological citizen, electric bikes won’t go big time until they can blend in the with rest of the pack.

After many delays, Schwinn's new electric bikes are now available in certain bike stores. The range includes the Campus, the least expensive model at $1,900, the World GSE, which sells for $2,200, and the Continental priced at $2,500. These bikes look just like regular bikes -- the electric motors and batteries are integrated seamlessly into the design.


Schwinn claims that the four pound Protanium lithium polymer battery included with these bikes is the lightest and most durable on the market. One charge will last 40-60 miles. You detach the batteries to charge them, so there are no wires on the bike itself. The bikes use a 250 watts max electric hub motor in the front wheel, controlled by a throttle on the handlebar which can propel the bike up to 18 mph. The batteries have a lifespan of about 3 years.

A word of caution: the electric bike review magazine, A To B, warns that the Schwinns they tested had battery problems when going uphill.

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