Electric vehicles don't have to be stratospherically priced products from Silicon Valley, or boring range-limited economy-focused cars, either. No, some of the most fun, innovative, and affordable ways to experience electric propulsion come in far smaller packages designed for play, for practicality, or both.
Icon E-Flyer II
Icon's line of meticulously restored and reimagined classic cars and trucks are the benchmarks for small-batch, high-end automotive manufacturing. Recently, with the help of e-bike builder Vintage Electric, the company has turned its talent toward bikes.
The new 57-pound Icon E-Flyer II (the E-Flyer I already sold out) is based on Vintage Electric's E-Tracker bike, which can cruise at 20 mph or hit up to 36 mph in Race mode. The bike comes with beautiful leatherwork and an LED headlight. Icon will deliver it in one of nine powder-coat finishes. The E-Flyer II can recharge in just 2 hours and has a range of around 35 miles. It starts at a cool $5,695, though options including racks, additional lights, and storage trays can ratchet up the price.
The Specialized Turbo S is one of the slickest e-bikes we've ridden, and one of the best at integrating the electric power boost into a bike. At $6,000 it's pricey. But after taking it for a test ride, we had to have one.
The Turbo hits a top speed of 27 mph in full Turbo assist mode. It also has an adjustable Eco mode so that you can vary the amount of juice you draw from the battery. On our best trip with the bike in the default Eco mode, we averaged 16.1 mph and sucked just half the battery life over a 21-mile ride.
Specialized has expanded the line recently with two new variants (Turbo and Turbo X), both with slightly smaller battery packs and less expensive components.
The Urb-E is one smart and eccentric electric scooter. It will charge in 3 hours, and despite its small stature, it has a range of 20 miles. So, if you live in the city, this $900 scooter could be the only vehicle you need.
The top speed of 15 mph means you won't be outpacing serious e-bikes while riding the Urb-E. But electric bicycles can be cumbersome to park inside; plus, you have to, you know, pedal them. The Urb-E folds up—you can pull it behind you like rollaway luggage, and let it sit at your feet while you ride the train or sit in your cubicle. You can get the Urb-E with two wheels or as a more stable three-wheeler. It even has a cup holder.
Back in 2007, Zero Motorcycles was a groundbreaker in two-wheeled electric mobility, and PM was one of the first to sample Zero's debut off-road dirt bike. Today the company has four electric motorcycles in its stable, including the hot Zero S. This $12,995 bike can run to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 95 mph. More importantly, the Zero S has a range of about 100 miles in the city or 60 on the highway. And with upgraded (and more expensive) optional batteries, the S can deliver 171 miles of city riding or just over 100 miles at a sustained 55 mph.
Need more power? The Zero SR will zip to 60 mph in just 3.3 seconds. That's nearly as quick as a gasoline sport bike.
Boosted Boards Skateboards
Crafty mechanics have been adding small gasoline engines and chain drives to skateboards since the 1970s. The resulting boards were cool, but they were also heavy and cumbersome. And they stank.
Boosted Boards offers a ride that can cruise up to 20 mph for 6 miles and recharge in 90 minutes. The lithium phosphate battery pack rides behind the front trucks and sends power to dual electric motors at the rear. The rider controls the level of thrust and the regenerative brakes with a wireless remote. The $1,995 board weighs just 15 pounds and looks far sleeker and stealthier than any powered skateboard before it—so you'll probably drop a few jaws when you power up really steep hills.
Want the quickest and lightest electric skateboard? Marbel's board promises to climb a 15 percent grade and reach a top speed of 25 mph but weighs just 9.9 pounds, thanks in part to its carbon-fiber-and-Kevlar deck. The Marbel can cover more than 10 miles on a charge.
A powerful and lightweight electric skateboard like the Marbel is not only cool for weekend fun but also makes a lot of sense for short commutes. After a successful Kickstarter campaign that ended in June and raised more than $365,000, Marbel says it will begin shipping the new electric skateboards in early 2015. The Marbel is available to preorder for $1,299.
The world's fastest production electric motorcycle, the Lightning Superbike, reached an insane 218.637 mph at Bonneville Speed Week. The limited-edition Lightning LS-218 motorcycles—just 45 will be produced—are built to order and use top sportbike components including the full Ohlins suspension, Marchesini magnesium wheels, and Brembo brakes. The electric motor pumps out 200 hp, and the bike can travel up to 100 miles on a charge. Upgraded battery packs can bring that range up to 180 miles but add more heft to the bike's 495-pound weight. Lightning says the bike can charge in about 2 hours on a 240-volt Level 2 charger.
Yes, at nearly $40,000 this motorcycle is incredibly expensive. But few bikes—electric or otherwise—can touch this one's wild performance.
Leiftech Technologies Snowboard
Say hi to one of the coolest, and strangest, new e-vehicles. The Leiftech board is a little like a skateboard that rides like a snowboard, allowing you to carve your way down a city street instead of a mountain trail. The board has two centrally mounted wheels that are raised slightly above the four outer wheels. These electrically powered skate wheels in the center move the board, and the outer skateboard wheels act as the "edges" of the snowboard, allowing you to carve corners.
Leif says its boards will hit 20 mph, run for 8 miles on a charge, and weigh 15 pounds. The speed is controlled through a wireless remote like with other electric boards. It's just a Kickstarter project for now, but Leif hopes their innovative electric snowboard will be shipping by spring 2015 at a price of $1,300.
Brammo Empulse R
The $18,995 Brammo Empulse R is the first e-bike to have a six-speed transmission. That, in theory, allows you to have both snappy off-the-line acceleration and a blistering top speed of 110 mph. And unlike some electric motorcycles, the Empusle R has a full sportbike suspension and powerful Brembo brakes.
Brammo says the bike will run for about 130 miles in the city and about 60 miles on the highway before depleting the pack. And the 460-pound Brammo does have integrated J1772 rapid-charging capability built in. So you can charge it at the same public EV charging spots that cars use.
Acton Rocket Skates
Rocket skates: The very name suggests weird James Bond (or perhaps Inspector Gadget) toys, or perhaps future pining from Popular Mechanics editors of the 1950s. But Acton has made them a reality—sort of.
Rather than rocket thrusters, the startup company uses electric motors to scoot you along the boulevard or bike path. The top $699 R-10 model slides over your shoes and can run up to 10 miles on a charge of its lithium-ion battery packs while hitting a top speed of 12 mph. The R-10 skates take about 2-1/2 hours to recharge and weigh in at 7 pounds each. We can't wait to try a pair of these.
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New electric car revealed, classic design meets modern tech