Ebike Motors: A Political and Historical View

Discussion in 'Electric Bicycles' started by safe, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. safe

    safe Active Member

    Ebike Motors: A Political and Historical View

    This thread is to be an attempt to record the highlights of ebike motor selection and development over the last few years including the political (legal) aspects that they introduce. The goal is to try to make some sense of the divergent views that exist and hopefully either accept our differences or create a group consensus about what people think should happen in the future.

    Caution: Just because there is a historical angle on this thread do NOT feel free to make it a place to flame away. We are still bound by the rules of infractions so keep it civil at all times.

  2. safe

    safe Active Member

    Europe Leads The Way

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but to my knowledge the first ebike laws were passed in Europe and most of those laws required that the maximum power output of an ebike was to be limited to 250 watts. Some places even went lower and dropped it to 200 watts and in some cases you had to pedal to make the machine operate. (pedal first)
  3. safe

    safe Active Member

    America Declares It's Independence

    As is pretty typical for America, the Federal Law that applies to the manufacture of an ebike sets a limit of 750 watts of output power which is three times the limit that Europe is granted.
  4. safe

    safe Active Member

    Hub Motor vs Fixed Gear Bike Attached Motor

    The next level of controversy was whether to place the motor in the hub of the wheel or to connect it separately with a chain or belt. The power limitations still applied (250 watt or 750 watt) but the weight was located differently. Currie drives were motors that were stuck off the back and side of the bike and these were common as WalMart ebikes.

    Hub motors came in either low budget or high priced models.
  5. safe

    safe Active Member

    Big Power

    One of the natural things to take place is that people would find ways of tricking out their rides with motors that significantly exceeded the laws. Big Power has become a new "arms race" where more and more power is being chased after.

    Preferred options for "Big Power" are:

    :D The original "Big Iron" the Crystalyte hub motors can be overvolted and can produce lot's of power.

    :D Motors that are normally used for electric motorcycles like the PMG132 or the Etek can be strapped to an ebike and deliver a powerful ride.

    :D The latest and most sophisticated example of "Big Power" is the use of RC brushless motors (sometimes in pairs) to deliver very high power levels while keeping the weight very low.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  6. safe

    safe Active Member

    Multiple Speed Gearing

    Running in parallel to the concept of "Big Power" is the idea of using the natural gearing that many multispeed bikes already possess to apply the power. Examples of this include the Optibike and the Cyclone motor kits.

    These ebikes can often still sneak under the radar of legal ebikes since their power ratings are still low near the 750 watt range most of the time. The extra gearing allows permanent magnet motors to gain better efficiency because you can select the right gear for the load you are dealing with.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  7. safe

    safe Active Member

    The Future

    The future is yet to be written. (or discussed)

    My own personal "advocacy" is to somehow try to unify all the ebikes under one single power limit (1000 watts input and 750 watts output "on average") and to eventually develop ebike motors so that they will work optimally under this somewhat arbitrary rule. There is no innate reason to pick 1000 watts of input power except that it's a nice round number that fits well with the existing 750 watt (output) law in America.

    I know it's hard for people that want a sort of "ebike anarchy" to exist to accept the idea of limits... it's like with children being told they can't do something, so that's the thing they want to do the most just to be defiant. :chris:

    Anyway... I'd be glad to discuss the wisdom of this train of thought with fellow ebikers if anyone is interested. The reason I started this thread is so that I can keep the political discussions out of my technical threads.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  8. Hawaii_Ed

    Hawaii_Ed Member

    All power assist bikes are illegal in Hawaii. Makes no sense :(
  9. safe

    safe Active Member

    That's what I'm afraid of with the "arms race" of ebike power. All it will take is one death or serious injury on an ebike with excessive power and the law will come crashing down on ebikes in general.

    I've been pondering a metaphor...

    Ebikes should be thought of as like sailboats... you are allowed a moderate level of power, but you need to use it wisely.

    Emotorcycles should be thought of like motorboats in that they are the ones with unlimited power at their disposal.

    ...we need to (collectively) seek peak performance, but within a constrained power environment.

    Sailing is about catching very subtle advantages in wind and directional control and this is the same kind of mindset that should apply to ebikes.
  10. safe

    safe Active Member

    Okay... you have to separate my old bike and my new bike. The old bike is illegal outside of Missouri, but fully legal here. And my riding behavior is sometimes illegal, but that's a separate issue than the question of legal ebikes.

    Speed is an issue... ideally I'd prefer to build a bike with some kind of speed limiter built in that people could remove and violate the law themselves.

    The main point about laws is that "I" don't break them. If other break them that's their problem.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2009
  11. safe

    safe Active Member

    Ebike Manufacturer vs Ebike User

    I want to make this point clear...

    You have to separate out my own actions as a private citizen riding my ebike around verses my business intentions. I might personally do things that are wild and crazy, but the other half of what I'm into is the potential of a business side to all of this.

    Don't define my product by my own behavior as a citizen, they are not the same.


    Scenerio One : Product is a Success

    Okay, let's say that "someone" gets into the ebike parts or complete bike building business. The product that they sell is not compliant with the Federal Ebike Law and it also does not comply with any state laws. However, due to the low volumes of initial sales the law doesn't take much notice initially. The business starts to turn a profit and you decide to ramp up production to expand your profits. Eventually the law DOES catch up with you and sees that your product is not legal anywhere and shuts down your operation. You have now lost all your investment and what looked like success is now failure.

    Scenario Two : Product causes Injury

    In this scenario you are building and selling your product and the law hasn't noticed you directly. But instead of the law coming to you, you end up being forced into the arms of lawyers as someone who purchased your product is now paralyzed in a nasty accident. The grieving mother of the 16 year old boy has filed a lawsuit that claims that since your product is completely illegal and has no legal protection whatsoever that it's worth at least a million dollars "to set an example" to others that so flagrantly defy the laws. In this scenario you thought things were going great until you are completely busted. (and you lose your house too)

    ...one way or the other the business has a bad end.

    Scenario Three : Keep It Legal

    In this scenario you satisfy the letter of the law, but take enough liberties so that people still find your product attractive. You choose a motor that maximizes the 750 watts allowed in the optimal way. You create a bike that the user can modify if they so choose. The result is that if you win you win or if you lose you lose, but there is no legal worry hanging over your operation. You even sleep well at night.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2009
  12. johnrobholmes

    johnrobholmes Member

    Why the big deal about intentions? Matt has never claimed to sell anything that fits the ebike laws, he has never given guidance that his bikes are for legal road use, and you are completely focused on what he builds for sale.

    And then you say this?!?!?


    So you are going to build a legal product that is INTENTIONALLY built so that it can be make illegal by the user?

    Hello kettle, this is pot!!
  13. safe

    safe Active Member

    Yes... that's the whole idea...

    You sell something that is somehow crippled so that it just barely satisfies the laws, then let people go about modifying it afterwards. Maybe someone like Recumpence wants to be the guy that does the "drug dealing", but I'm going to do everything possible to be legitimate if I actually am going to place money into it.

    Aftermarket products tend to have low volumes and the law just doesn't crack down on everything... they can't... they have limited resources.

    In some ways it's a good thing to have brave people like Recumpence out there willing to take the chances. But when it comes to advocacy I have to say that "we" collectively need to have some realization of the illegality of what is going on.

    Drug dealers might be "cool" in some crowds, but they are still peddling an illegal product...

    (it's a rough metaphor, but it fits pretty well)
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2009
  14. johnrobholmes

    johnrobholmes Member

    Since you are not aware, I will let you in on it. Matt has amp limiting boxes that can turn the power down as much as is wanted. I am also producing a RC style controller with built in amp limiting functions, so all is not lost in legal bike land.

    But show me where he is selling these as street legal kits or builds? I know the buyer of the bmx project is well aware of the legality of his new toy.

    So using your own drug dealer analogy:

    Matt is selling paint, and does not check how his customers use it. It is only illegal when improperly used, right?

    You are selling paint and telling your clients how to huff it. You will provide the gold paint, the bag, and handy instructions on how to best get your high. Sure you don't HAVE to huff it, but at least the customer knows they can.
  15. safe

    safe Active Member

    Like I said in the previous posting... it's probably okay if there's a little aftermarket mischief going on. The problem arises when you want to be in business doing this stuff and you are faced with the fact that if you get too big the government is going to crack down on you.

    I'm just saying that we need to remind ourselves that "a little bit illegal" is okay, but sometimes it's going too far.

    18 hp on a bicycle is too far. (in my opinion)

    This is true whether it's using an Etek, PMG132 or a set of RC motors.
  16. arceeguy

    arceeguy Active Member

    I had a moped when I was a kid, and the dealer that sold me the bike told me how to "de-restrict" the engine for more power. It seems that our government had limitied the power output of the engine, but the engine was capable of quite a bit more in its domestic market in Europe. The bike was sure a lot more fun, and more safe (IMO) because of the extra speed and power.
  17. recumpence

    recumpence Member

    I have to make a few things abundantly clear;

    #1 At what point are you EVER going to market anything? I have been listening to you whine for a year and a half and nothing has yet materialized.

    #2 At what point are you going to get it through your head that no-one is marching to your drum? You have been banging this "EBRR" garbage at every possible point as far as I can remember and VERY few people even think its cool, let alone are building one to somehow compete in your racing class that will ever be.

    #3 I am not trying to market anything in mass quantities. However, I have been approached by 6 bicycle manufacturers about marketting a system based on my designs. We discussed adhering to laws and what-not. No problem. How many manufacturers have approached YOU for a design?

    #4 You, yourself, said you purposely break the law with your ebikes "What I do as a private citizen is not the same as what my business intentions are." So, who's the crack dealer? Show me where I am trying to get others to break the law?

    Safe, I have defended you, I have followed your builds, and I have put up with your strangeness. However, at this point, you are on my last nerve. You will not ever realize how hoplessly rude and misguided you are.

    You used to whine about certain individuals who would post on your threads and give you a hard time. At this point, I am telling you to stay off my threads, PERIOD. I can take constructive criticism about some technical aspect of my builds. However, I will NOT take garbage from you about my intentions (like you have any clue what they are anyway).


  18. safe

    safe Active Member

    Well this is why I created this thread to specifically deal with the issue of illegal ebike motors.

    As far as my own efforts... production of anything requires that I've actually completed the thinking about what market the product is supposed to fill and how to do it. I'm nowhere near even getting a prototype completed. I'm hoping that over the years my hobby can continue to evolve and at some point I actually get something worth the risk of producing... but then again it might never happen and remain as a hobby.


    You are free to sell you product... it's not like I'm going to narc on you now and call up the police to get you shut down. However, if I WAS your competitor and if I WAS selling an actual product and my money was on the line, then you better believe I'd get the police on your case. Not doing so would not be smart on my part.

    Competition in the marketplace means that if I can get my competitor arrested or shut down for being illegal then I'm naturally going to do it.

    In business they use the law to their advantage whenever possible. Lawyers and business are pretty much inseparable these days... just the reality that's all... "word to the wise" so to speak...

    Last edited: Aug 29, 2009
  19. recumpence

    recumpence Member


    It is completely useless talking to you.

    What a freakin waste of time.............
  20. safe

    safe Active Member

    Your product undermines my efforts to try to get a 1000 watt racing class started. You have to figure that I'm going to object... I mean be realistic... if my whole project revolves around 1000 watt racing and you come along with something that allows someone to take an ordinary bike with no fairing, no performance oriented handling for high speed or anything like that and by adding your product it makes something of legal power levels look boring then I'm naturally going to object.

    What are my choices?

    :D I can abandon the legal concept I've been working towards for the last three years and go along with the "arms race" by building a Road Racer bike that would not be allowed anywhere because of excessive power.


    :D I can stick to my guns and stay legal and do my best to deter people from getting into the illegal stuff.


    What I'm thinking for the Induction motor is that the power input level is set at a constant of 1000 watts and then the speed limit is set by the frequency that is permitted at full throttle. It's a natural built in speed limiting mechanism. For the racing version you swap out the chip that limits the frequency and allow the motor to rev higher. If someone tries to simply change the gearing to higher gearing they lose their bottom end power, so there would be a big advantage to properly upgrading to the racing chip.

    Anyway... that's my line of thinking... it's not "raw power", but subtle improvements on legal power.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2009