Darryl Steane is a Business Development Consultant who lives and works in Vancouver BC.
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The Electrom – A utility e-bike… and then some.
I have been commuting to Downtown Vancouver, from North Vancouver, a distance of about 15km, for several years using all available transport options (car, bus, walk, bicycle, ride share etc) selecting my mode of transport based on the given circumstances (schedule, weather, daylight, required meeting attire post arrival) as no one solution covered all circumstances. I had been on the lookout for a mobility solution that offered weather protection, storage, and comfort all whilst maintaining the ability to avoid traffic by taking advantage of bicycle infrastructure.
I knew I was not looking for a traditional e-bike, as fun as they are, they don’t quite cover the breadth of applications I was looking for. As a former mountain biker, I looked into my network and was pointed toward the Electrom as being an emerging solution to what I may be looking for.
“What is it?” A unique design; a foot-forward recumbent; long, to provide stability; narrow, to provide versatility; futuristic-looking, yet practical. At first glance I was taken aback by the aesthetic, however when I worked through the features incorporated into the Electrom, and the utility I was looking for, the Electrom either completely, or almost completely , meets the requirements that I was after.
A deeper look under the hood (fairing?)
The Electrom has incorporated a number of technologies into a well-designed package creating a unique platform that is efficient, comfortable and practical, and fits the description and versatility of an e-bike.
- Lift-away front faring, ease of access and egress
- Right height, ease of getting into, and out of, the riding position as well as being at the right height for visibility to car drivers
- Recumbent design offers a high degree of comfort for long and short rides
- Smooth steering, proprietary steering mechanism produces low friction, and high confidence, steering action with minimal feedback
- Regenerative braking, common in hybrid vehicles, why not bikes?
- On-board generator, programmable to direct excess pedal generated power into charging the batteries under defined conditions
- 100L + waterproof storage, a necessity in the Pacific Northwest
- High-visibility, running lights, turn signals (front and rear), rider position at car level, horn and bell
Now this was a new experience for me. Having had a lot of time in the saddle of traditional mountain bikes, I approach this ride with a higher degree of experience and skill than the average person. That said, it is a recumbent so one does need to adapt to the unique riding experience that comes with recumbents.
Riding the Electrom in well designed, clearly designated bike lanes and roadways is very impressive, the top speed for e-bikes is 32 km/h and the Electrom reaches this speed quickly and is very stable when at speed. Cornering, stopping and parking are all very intuitive and easy tasks to preform. Rider comfort is not compromised as the ride duration extends. My longest ride was over 70km and about 3 hours in duration, I stepped away at the end without any discomfort to speak of. The combination of regenerative braking and the on-board generator reliably contributed ~25 – 30% of the overall power consumed, this is on quite hilly terrain.
Learning curve ahead!!!
Slow speed and tight maneuverability are less intuitive, the rider needs to allow time to become familiar with the bike. The longer wheelbase and recumbent position did take some getting used to, however, once I was comfortable and confident I did find that it used the same learned balance required to ride a conventional bicycle. Similar to standing up on a bicycle, the rider can lean forward to lift their upper body off of the seat-back which provides for greater control and maneuverability in specific situations. For me, riding the Electrom was also my first experience riding a recumbent; any future rider should be mindful of their own skills and abilities as they learn to operate the Electrom. At the time of writing this, I have approximately 25 – 30 hours of in-seat riding time.
What can I say, not only is the Electrom fun to ride, it also turns heads. A quick run to the bakery and grocery store can result in the rider feeling like a busker fielding questions about the Electrom. This is great because it is a great story, but if you are in a hurry it can be a challenge to break from the conversations with bystanders.
Timing and purpose:
The world is consciously making efforts to reduce our overall environmental footprint, and the next phase of sustainable transport will play a critical role in achieving this objective. The confluence of improved (and improving) battery technology, a greater social and environmental conscience, and increasing investment in bicycle infrastructure to alleviate traffic congestion, all point to a solution like the Electrom. Additionally, when one considers the cost of vehicle ownership; the initial capital outlay (for a vehicle that is typically used at only a fraction of its capability), and ongoing operating and maintenance costs (the Electrom is ~$0.07/km); traditional vehicle ownership is ripe to be reimagined and more transport solutions need to be made available to the end user. The Electrom, in my opinion, has the potential to be one such solution.