The Elby Is a New E-Bike Designed From the Ground Up

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CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter/ Elby e-bike

Could this be the bike that breaks through the North American market?

EDIT: Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology is full of interesting things, so the new Elby e-bike fits right in. It’s from the people behind Magna, one of the world’s largest auto parts companies, and most definitely is not just a bike with a motor. It’s been thought-out and designed from the ground up.

There is a lot to like about this bike. It is a step-through design (which, as we recently noted, is probably safer). The battery is very low in the frame, giving the bike a low centre of gravity. Especially for the older crowd that is a big part of the e-bike market, these are important design elements.

battery in frame

Lloyd Alter/ removable battery in frame/CC BY 2.0

It’s also removable, so if you don’t have an outlet near where you store the bike, you can just lift it out of the frame.

The bike has a Bionx 500 watt motor in the rear hub, and will go 90 miles on a charge. At 55 pounds, it is not too heavy to pedal. It has a regenerative mode to charge the battery up when going downhill.

Elby and Scott

Lloyd Alter/ Elby and Scott MacWilliam/CC BY 2.0

I had a chat with Director of Marketing Scott MacWilliam about the size of the motor, given that, in Europe, e-bikes are limited to 250 watts. He does not believe 250 watts is enough for steep hills and for merging in and out of traffic like we have in North America. And he points out that just because you have it doesn’t mean you have to use it. So they will sell it in Europe with a 250 watt motor but will give North Americans a little more oomph.

Tom Babin of Shifter tried the Elby out in a Calgary winter and had a lot of good things to say about it.

Elby trumpets the toughness of the bikes, saying it was designed for all weather conditions. I certainly tested those claims, having given the bike a test through several weeks of the harshest winter we’ve faced in years. All in all, the bike held up well. The stable design and wide tires did well on ice roads and the snirt (for you sun-belters, that’s a slippery mixture of snow and dirt), and the pedal-assist certainly came in handy when plowing through small drifts of snow.

Tom wonders if this is the bike that will break through the North American market. He doesn’t think that the US $3,700 price is crazy high,“but it’s a lot to expect in a culture that doesn’t value utility bikes enough. That’s the cultural problem that needs to be overcome.”

It isn’t a lot of money if you think of the e-bike as a replacement for a car, capable of a decent commute or a trip to the grocery store.

Elby parked

Lloyd Alter/ Elby e-bikes/CC BY 2.0

Cycling 8 miles uphill from the EDIT Expo in the 80°F heat, I was thinking about the Elby all the way home -- that more people might be out there on bikes if they could do it comfort and safety. But as Magna's Fred Gingl told Tom Babin, the bike is only half the story.

Elby’s the perfect solution for someone like that. Now all we need is safer commuting infrastructure to keep up with the abundance of electric vehicles that are about to hit the market.

Frank Stronach and Fred Gingl have the money, the experience, and the knowledge (they own Bionx) to have built an electric car, had they wanted to. But they are backing bikes instead; in a future of congested cities and crowded roads, it is probably a better bet.