I’m an electric bicycle guy through and through. You’ve probably seen me riding and testing any number of dozens of electric bicycles in the last few months – hundreds in the last year or two. So I’ve seen just about everything the e-bike industry has to offer, or at least I thought I had. That was until this strange-looking contraption rolled across my screen in my latest hunt through the Chinese shopping giant Alibaba’s electric vehicle section. With five different shock absorbers, moped seats and wheels the size of teacup saucers, I knew this apparatus was destined to become my next Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week.
First of all, we need a little context here.
The thing to know about most electric bicycles designed for the Asian market is that they don’t look quite like what we’re used to in the West.
Unlike our big-wheeled, big-motored electric bicycles, Asian e-bikes often feature smaller wheels, lower power and are designed for utility above all else.
Sure, we have folding e-bikes in the West. But even they can’t compare to just how much utility gets designed into domestic market Asian e-bikes, which often entirely replace cars for many people and serve as the family minivan of sorts.
Case in point is our new Alibaba e-bike here. It’s a fraction of the size of a typical e-bike, and yet is designed to carry twice the number of riders.
Somehow this little e-bike is designed to support up to 200 kg (440 lb) – or if the graphics are to be believed, two baby elephants.
Those 12″ wheels might not look like the most comfortable option for hauling around both you and your kid, but fear not!
The designers already thought about that, and made sure to install the latest in e-bike comfort technology.
They figured if one shock is good, why not go with five?!
So between the front fork, rear shock (which somehow becomes a mid-shock now) and the dual rear coilovers, we’ve got quintuple suspension on this e-bike.
Now the design of the suspension isn’t the most elegant, mind you.
The dual rear coilover shocks, which seem to be the best quality parts of the design, only support the rear kid’s seat. I guess like a true doting parent, the kids always get the best stuff.
Then the entire rear of the bike, seats and all, appear to be one massive swingarm supported by that mystery middle shock.
I have no idea what kind of spring that plastic tube is housing – it could be crumpled up newspaper for all I know.
But the design of the entire half of the bike pivoting like a swingarm worries me that if I hit the right bump at the wrong speed, all those springs might just catapult me into low earth orbit.
Putting the less-than-elegant suspension design aside for a moment, there are a number of other impressive features about this little e-bike.
Not only does it come with dual-wheel disc brakes, front and rear lights and a built-in folding mechanism, but it’s also got a pretty awesome battery system.
The battery is hidden away inside the seat tube, which is usually the smallest tube on a normal bike but somehow became half of the frame in this thing.
It appears to be housed inside of a pleather carry bag that is accessed by lifting the seat. That’s a new one for me, and I don’t see new things very often in the e-bike industry.
The e-bike even comes with foot pegs for the rear passenger, which is more than I can say for some other rear-seat Asian-style e-bikes I’ve tested out previously.
As awesome as the e-bike looks, the best part is likely the price. It starts at a mere $705 with free shipping! Granted that’s for the relatively small battery option with just a 48V 8Ah battery with a mere 384 Wh of capacity. But there are options for 11Ah, 15Ah, 20Ah and even a massive 30Ah battery. That’s 1.44 kWh of capacity!
With just a 400W motor and a top speed of 30 km/h (18 mph), that 30Ah battery sounds like it should last weeks.
It may not look like the electric bikes we’re used to seeing in the West, but this thing has the character and spunk of a plucky underdog in an 90’s made for TV movie. It’s poised to roll into the hearts and minds of riders all over the world – as long as you don’t go hitting any pot holes too fast. Slingshot: engaged!
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