Gareth Huw Davies

Business / Green Technology

Electric bikes reach a Stark junction with the mass market

Update, October 13th, 2017

Electric bike company Stark, which says it has developed “the most affordable electric bike in the world, bar none” has raised $489,619 in a Kickstarter crowd-funding project to finance the launch of its range, exceeding its original target by almost 10 times.

Its Stark Drive City will have a limited launch price of $399 ($999 retail price); the + version of the same bike is $599 (instead of $1,599); and the Advance model is $799 ($2,199). 

In 2018 Stark plans to launch a mini version of Stark Drive for an starting price of $299. “This bike will mainly be geared towards the public transit commuter with a much lighter total weight and a much smaller frame enabling one to easily carry it around.”

I wrote this on March 7th, 2017.

Swedish manufacturer Stark Drive about to launch $399 electric bike.

It is almost 7 years since the first all electric car was unveiled in the UK, and six years since the first owners drove them off the forecourts – although there were already some lower specification electric cars on the road – it is now not difficult to see them. (They still make only a tiny proportion of new cars sold.)

For rarity value, they’ve been superseded by the electric bike (e-bike), even though these machines cost far less, and, with such considerations as embedded carbon – the environmental cost of building them in the first place – are far more eco-friendly.

E-bikes are still hard to spot. And, in one sense, literally so, because the battery and motor are quite small, and you might think you’re looking at a conventional bike.

Apart from their very low energy use – the removable lithium ion battery has a range of about 30 miles, and is recharged in about 4.5 hours – they could be a tempting option for people reluctant to take up conventional cycling. Different levels of electric support are available, with a top speed of around 25 mph. A display on a control hub between the handlebars gives the essential data: distance, speed and battery life.

Electric bikes have a potential appeal to a range of different people, from the downright unfit, and older people who don’t think they’re up to a pedal bike any more, up to people who want a boost for a commute of quite a few miles.

And now the argument that e-bikes don’t provide exercise in any meaningful sense has been weakened. Some interesting research from Colorado University in 2016 showed that electric bikes have a fitness benefit even when you use the auxiliary motor.

As with electric cars, the price will have to come down considerably before there is a significant public interest. At the moment a good electric bike will cost anything up to several thousand pounds, and there’s not much for choice in the sub- £1000 sector, although there are some very good bikes available.

One Swedish manufacturer, Stark Drive, is said to be about to launch a range of electric bikes, of varying specifications, for around $399. The Stark bike comes with a horn and light as standard, as well as a USB port to charge a phone. Close to it in this price bracket is the Sondors bike, on sale for $598.

Meanwhile, the city of Oslo has started an incentive scheme to encourage citizens to chose electric bikes. In 2016 it offered residents up to $600 to buy standard e-bikes. The successful take up of that offer inspired Oslo to extend the programme, with grants of up to $1,2000 to local people who want to buy electric cargo bikes — sturdier machines which carry things in trailers or baskets. All residents are eligible to apply for the funds.

My earlier piece on electric bikes here.

Bike to the future – the electric cycling revolution