It looks like a bike but can schlep a family.
Consumer choice in e-bikes is exploding, and it is really hard to know what to buy, but in TreeHugger’s coverage of the e-bike scene we have been pretty consistent in saying that they should play nice in the bike lanes. I have suggested that they should really be light bikes with a boost, like the AM1 we recently showed, or a version of the Maxwell e-bike that I have been considering.
But then I see something like the new Capacita from Pure Cycles, and wonder if I should be less doctrinaire. Because having that motor lets bike designers do things a little differently. The Capacita is an affordable (at least at its Indiegogo $1399 price) cargo bike that can carry up to 350 pounds including rider. It’s got a built-in cargo rack on the rear and a solid basket on the front.
We hear all the time that “you can’t go shopping on a bike” or replace a car or go long distances, or take the kids to soccer practice, but is this really true?
If you are going to replace car trips with your electric bike shouldn’t it contain the same basic safety and convenience features as a car? We thought so too and that is why Capacita comes standard with integrated lights, space for cargo and storage, an integrated lock, and has power assist so you never arrive anywhere sweaty. The Capacita cargo bike rides just like a regular sized bike yet can handle big cargo loads with ease. Smart, safe, stylish, and comfortable, Capacita finally lets you leave your car in the garage.
Watch the hilarious video and see the bike carrying a serious load of babies and their assorted gear, and a Mary Poppins endless bag scene that made me laugh out loud.
Having a motor means you can do a lot of things that you might not put into a regular bike. So it has fat tires so “you'll cruise off bumps, and cracks like they're not even there. It'll be like riding on a cloud.” Less likely to get caught up in streetcar tracks too.
The Capacita is from Pure Cycles, the same people who produced the Volta, which Derek noted came “not from a startup, but from a conventional bike company that started out building the ultimate in hip urban transport -- fixed gear bikes.” And now they have experience with e-bikes under their belt too. Knowing bikes as well as they do, they have really thought this one out.
For instance, it is a Class 1 e-bike, which is pedal-assist and the motor won’t push it faster than 20 MPH. Class-1 bikes can have motors up to 750 Watts but the motor on the Capacita is a moderate 350 watts, not that big for a cargo bike designed for the American market. I have no doubt that readers will complain that it is underpowered, but when I tested the Boar Surface 604 Fatbike I found 350 watts to be more than enough to push a heavy bike faster than I ought to be going. A smaller motor means greater range on a given battery size, and this bike can go from Palo Alto to San Francisco.
There are lots of other things to like about this bike, including the integrated lights, the thoughtful design of a place to park your U-lock, and the GPS anti-theft tracking. The step-through design is safer, particularly for older riders who are a big part of the market for e-bikes.
But most importantly for me, this bike is making me reconsider what e-bikes can do. It has a lot of design features that make it easier to use. It has the capacity to do some serious schlepping. But it is still a bike.
Say you want a revolution
For there really to be an e-bike revolution that gets people using bikes instead of cars, we need two things: decent e-bikes, and decent separated bike infrastructure where people feel safe to ride. For e-bikes to co-exist in that bike infrastructure, they can’t be too big or too fast or too agressive. The Capacita is none of these. It is a great mix of smart design and appropriate technologies. Check it out on their Indiegogo site.