PEVs Taking Hills in a Single Glide
nbsp;just turn the key," said Kevin Penrose, pointing to the L.E.D. controls on a flat-black, well-wired mountain bike outside Electric Cyclery, his tiny, nondescript shop on the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, Calif. "The thumb lever is the throttle, and this button is for turbo mode. If you go downhill, the blue light will show when the regenerative charging kicks in."
These days, a visit to Costco, Wal-Mart, a local auto-parts store or even eBay will present you with what may seem a baffling array of two-wheel electric vehicles that promise to make commuting a breeze, or serve as the best toy a kid ever had. Aside from having two wheels, the common thread among these personal electric vehicles, or P.E.V.'s, is a 24- or 36-volt lead-acid or nickel metal hydride battery, a 250- to 1,500-watt electric motor and the ability to go as fast as 40 miles per hour and as far as 40 miles on a single charge.
Sales of P.E.V.'s, have increased anywhere from 40 to 200 percent annually over the last three or four years in the United States, said Seth Leitman, an alternative transportation consultant for New York State and, more recently, a P.E.V. retailer. And even though much of the market is made up of inexpensive imports that can be unreliable (in September, Target stores announced the recall of nearly 75,000 of its $200 Chinese-made Red Dragon and E-Scooters), a significant portion of it is composed of more expensive, powerful machines that offer the range, sturdiness and reliability to serve as genuine transportation aids. Mr. Penrose said that at his store he was having no trouble finding customers for his two-wheel stand-up electric scooters, larger, sit-down electric motorcycles and the wired-up mountain bike he was showing, the WaveCrest Tidal Force.
With the exception of its wires and a pair of foot-diameter black disks at the center of each wheel, the Tidal Force is a high-end, front-suspension mountain bike whose folding frame was designed for military use. The front disk holds a 36-volt nickel metal hydride battery, and the rear contains a 750-watt direct-drive motor that runs at 89 percent efficiency.
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