December 15, 2008 Countries with a strong bicycle culture such as those in Asia have rapidly embraced bicycles of the motorized variety. Whereas many early motorized bicycles employed internal combustion engines, the tide has shifted in favor of more environmentally friendly electric motors. In line with new standards for power-assisted bicycles that came into effect on December 1 in Japan which state that the ratio of motor power to human power (assist ratio) will become 1:2 in a low-speed area of less than 10 km/h, Sanyo has released an electric hybrid bicycle dubbed the "eneloop".
The eneloop can detect various road conditions such as gradient and automatically adjust power assistance accordingly. In “Power-up Mode” an assist ratio of up to 1:2 is delivered to enable easy pedaling up steep hills and there's also a new “loop charge function” that generates electricity and charges the battery while in use. This system utilizes energy produced while going downhill or when braking to provide an increase in riding distance of up to 1.8 times compared to non-recharge mode (see graph in photo gallery). Auxiliary charging while riding also decreases the number of times the battery needs to be charged with a dedicated charger.
The eneloop’s two-wheel drive system applies power to both wheels in a balanced manner. The amount of assist power transmitted to the front wheel is based on the movement of the chain as pedaling power is applied to the rear wheel as monitored by a highly sensitive torque sensor. Added stability comes courtesy of Sanyo’s ‘smooth assistance control’ technology, which aids with balancing the bicycle when pedaling starts.
Other features include LED lights, a low frame and low saddle design for easy step-through and mounting, adjustable seat height from 24-inch to 26-inch framing and an adjustable saddle range of 18cm to provide flexibility for riders regardless of height. The ‘Kurupita’ handle lock allows convenient parking while one-touch operation prevents the handlebars from wobbling when parking. All cabling for the brake, gear, and electric wiring are hidden away inside the frame to give the bike a finished and neat appearance while three-speed gears with easy hand shifting allow for smooth riding.
With the recent fluctuations in fuel prices and their ability to not only save money, but also emissions the future of power-assisted bicycles definitely looks bright.
The eneloop bicycle sells for JPY136,290 (USD$1,500) and will be in stores in Japan from February 2009. Production plans are for 1000 units per month and Sanyo says it will launch the bike in other markets in the future.