Friday, September 8, 2017

Fossil Free Friday: $500 Simple DIY Electric Bike Formula (Intro)

Here at Mesquite Hugger, the goal is pretty simple - to encourage people to make more earth-friendly choices without going bankrupt. When it comes to low-carbon transportation, almost nothing beats the efficiency and affordability of an electric bike, but not everyone has the money in their budget to run out and buy a $1000-$4000 e-bike.

Inexpensive electric bikes get a lot of web traffic around here. Anything under $1000 starts a feeding frenzy. The least expensive complete bikes I've found that I am comfortable recommending are the two bottom-of-the-line Sondors bikes -  the Original and the Thin. They both go for $499 + $150-ish shipping. And they are pretty basic:
  • single speed (can be upgraded for $100)
  • 350 watt powertrain (rear, geared hub motor)
  • no suspension (can be upgraded for $100)
  • no pedal assist (PAS) or LCD screen (can be upgraded together for $100)
  • medium sized 36 volt battery (can be upgraded for $100)
It's pretty easy to end up with $1000 in a Sondors bike.

By the way, if you are less than 5'6" tall, the Sondors bikes are too tall for you (and there is no step-through version available so far.)

So, what's a cheap budget-minded e-bike customer to do?

Build your own e-bike!
The challenge - to build a very capable e-bike with more features than a bottom-of-the-line Sondors for $500 or less.
We'll use the Sondors Thin as our measuring stick.
Before you get intimidated by the thought of building your own, answer one question - do you (or someone you are close to) have the skills necessary to change a rear bicycle tube? If the answer is yes, then YOU CAN DO IT!!!

So, let's lay out the parameters we'll need (and want) to build a solid e-bike in the projected price range. We'll start with a simple and inexpensive bike. It will need to have:
  • a steel frame
  • 26" wheels/tires
  • multi-gear capability - preferably seven-speed
  • cable-operated brakes
  • it needs to be comfortable (for you)
Now, let's lay out the electric components/abilities you will need to match or exceed what the Sondors Thin offers:
  • 500 watt, 26" rear hub motor (more powerful than the Sondors)
  • pedal assist (not included on the base Sondors)
  • an LCD panel (not included on the base Sondors)
  • a throttle (matches the Sondors)
  • brake levers with a motor cut-out switch (matches the Sondors)
  • a 36 volt, 8.8 amp-hour battery (matches the Sondors)
  • a 36 volt, 2 amp charger (matches the Sondors)
  • a bag, box, or basket to house the electrical components (It'll be hard to match the Sondors on this one, but it can be done with a little creativity.)
So there's the plan. In the next two posts, we'll cover more detail and see if we can create an electric bike worth having for less than $500.
Please stay tuned!
May you be encouraged to make more earth-friendly choices without going bankrupt, and may you have a great time doing it!