A low-cost, easy-to-install e-bike conversion kit could help get more people out of gas-powered cars and onto climate-friendly bicycles.
The challenge: E-bikes are like regular bicycles, but they have battery-powered motors that can help you pedal or even pedal for you, depending on the model. This means you can get a workout from an e-bike, if you want, but also have the option of traveling up hills or at faster speeds without breaking a sweat.
A quality e-bike typically costs $1,000+, and many e-bike conversion kits are complicated to install.
Because they make it so much easier to bike, many people now opt to use e-bikes for trips they previously made in cars — reducing air pollution, congestion, and greenhouse emissions.
A quality e-bike typically costs $1,000 or more, though. There are cheaper e-bike conversion kits that transform standard bikes into electric ones, but they can be complicated to install, messy looking, and cost between $500 and $2500.
Rubbee X: Lithuanian-based startup Rubbee has developed the Rubbee X, an e-bike conversion kit that’s incredibly simple to install, clean looking, and at the low end of the price range: $580.
The X comes with one battery module, but it can house up to two more, which can be purchased for about $99 each. The extra batteries increase your assisted range from about 10 miles to 30 miles and your top speed from 16 miles per hour to 20 mph.
The system weighs 6.2 pounds with one battery and 8.8 pounds with all three, so even at maximum battery strength, the X doesn’t dramatically increase the weight of your bike — some e-bike conversion kits can add up to 20 pounds.
How it works: The X looks a bit like a handheld vacuum cleaner. To install it, you just attached an aluminum bracket to your bike’s seat post. When you snap the X onto that bracket, it will be suspended over your rear tire.
When you want to use the X to help you pedal, you press a button on the top of the device. It will then drop down so that a motor on its underside is in contact with your tire — when that motor spins, it pushes the tire forward.
Rubbee’s e-bike conversion kit is controlled by a small wireless sensor that attaches to your pedal crank. It tells the X when you’re pedaling, how fast you’re pedaling, and how fast the bike is moving — that controls how quickly its motor spins.
If you’re pedaling fast but the bike is actually moving slowly, for example, the X will assume you’re going up a hill and will provide more power. If you’re barely pedaling but moving fast, the X will provide minimal assistance.
The bottom line: The X has been criticized for being noisier than other converted e-bike systems, as it spins over the tire, but it’s also cheaper than a quality e-bike and about as low-cost and simple as conversion kits get.
That could make it an excellent option for someone who wants to enjoy the benefits of an e-bike without shelling out thousands of dollars, while the simplicity of its design could also appeal to those who don’t want to spend a whole afternoon installing a complicated e-bike conversion kit.
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