Folding Electric Bikes: which bikes work for city commutes?

Electric bikes can be a little contentious. We are not talking helmet debate levels, but they still generate surprisingly strong feelings among the people on bikes population.

I like the existence of electric bikes, but have no desire to have one myself – yet. If you wish to cycle further, or tackle that next hill a little easier or just arrive to work with less of a workout, I can see the appeal.

Mechanical doping aside, the main downsides to current electric bikes are the excessive weight of the batteries and often a prohibitive cost.

As technology progresses and trickles through to the bike industry from other sectors, the downsides of weight and cost will become less significant. However, for now it dictates who might benefit from an electric bike, and what kind of uses it’s best for.

Best uses of an electric folding bike

These are not going to be quite as portable as a regular folding bike is. The ones I have found average around 18-19kg, with some being over 20kg, so they are not really easy to carry around. I live on the second floor of a block and I am not sure I would want to carry a bike that heavy up the stairs. The weight is therefore limiting to people who may not be especially physically fit but still enjoy cycling.

The range they can travel on one charge varies greatly from 20km- 50 miles. The upper end makes such a bike useable for a long commute on a daily basis. However, the lower end means you are likely to have to charge the battery every day. With charge cycles of 350ish, that means you wouldn’t quite get two years use out of a battery before you have to replace it. Fine if you can get hold of it and have the budget.

Therefore, currently, it seems like folding electric bikes are great for people with limited space who ride occasionally. If you want an electric bike but can’t quite figure out how to store it (some of the non-folding ones are huge), then this might be for you. Alternatively, if you have the budget for a top end one then you could use it regularly to commute further.

Some examples

A2B Kuo + – £1299-£999

This bike has an OK range at 25 miles per charge, which will serve for most days of extended commuting. It’s design does not scream electric bike  – it looks rather like a Tern or Dahon, so it’s a good stealth option if you don’t want everyone to immediately know you are on an electric bike.

A2B Kuo + bike

The battery is mounted between the seat tube and the rear wheel. This means that stability should be enhanced as it will lengthen the wheelbase. Stability on small wheeled folding bikes is a big deal and if you are going faster due to power assistance, this should help even more.

It is in no way light, but for an electric bike it is relatively light at just under 20kg. The fold is pretty efficient in terms of compactness. Therefore, if you want to use a bike for a regular multi-modal commute and use stations with few to no stairs, then this is a great option.

GoCycle G3 – £3299

This is unreservedly the high end option (until Brompton bring out their version, if they ever actually get round to it). Its a very smart bike, and owners seem to love it. I think it looks pretty awesome, like something that would have been in Tron if they were going to include bicycles as well!

It is a very sleek bike with integrated lights and battery – it doesn’t resemble a frankenbike in any way, meaning it was clearly designed from the ground up to be an electric folding bike. The folding aspect is more for storage than regular transportation. It does go quite small and you can even buy a little trolly to pack all on to, but it is more a case of disassembling it it seems.

GoCycle G3

The range is excellent at 50 miles, and the power can be controlled by an app. It weighs in at just over 16kg, svelte for a folding electric bike and something you could actually think about carrying up stairs. This is an executive style option for sure, and if you can get over the sticker shock, is sure to be a good ride.

B’Twin 500 Hoptown – £599

Definitely the value option and probably aimed at those who want an electric bike for occasional use and don’t want it taking up valuable flat/garage/shed space. It has a range of 25km max and weighs in at just over 18kg, so could also be used for commuting. Therefore it seems to be pretty comparable to the A2B Kuo+ but half the price.

b'twin 500 Hoptown

In terms of design, it looks pretty good as it has its battery built into the main frame (it is removable though) making the whole bike look a lot neater than some. It has built in lights which are also powered by the battery – therefore as with many of the options available, you would want to carry a spare set incase you run the battery down on the way home.

This bike seems like pretty good value and certainly a great entry into electric bikes.

Brompton conversion kit – £1000+ (excluding bike)

Brompton are working on their own electric option, but until they finally release it into the wild (it has been in development for nearly a decade). However, until that time, if you are a die hard Brompton fan you can get a Brompton converted to electric if you wish. I must point out that doing so invalidates all warranties on your bike, but if your bike is over 5 years old, those will have expired anyway.

The kit involves replacing the front wheel with a motor driven one. the range is pretty comparable to others listed above at 40km.

As it is front wheel drive it is not the most stable option, and the battery is carried in the front luggage so  all in all it is a very front heave ride. Its not a terrible option and is certainly the neatest option if storage space is a concern. There are a couple of options, but the lightest one adds 4kg to the bike weight, meaning if you have a Brompton at the lighter end of the range (a 2 speed with no rear rack, for example) then you can have a very compact 14kg electric bike.

If you want to try out some bikes before committing, or at least talk to some experts about your options then Fully Charged down in London Bridge are great, as are Electric Bike Sales up in Kentish Town.

What are your experiences with folding electric bikes? Do you have any tips for others looking to get on the power assist train? Share the knowledge below!

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5 Responses to Folding Electric Bikes: which bikes work for city commutes?

  1. cako 02/09/2016 at 10:35 am #

    I am intrigued by the Ahooga e-bike, especially because of the low weight. Has anybody any experience with that one?

  2. Bodicea 02/09/2016 at 5:00 pm #

    Having not cycled for many years, I thought of getting an electric bike mainly to help going up hills. I actually bought one (the ride was fantastic) but when I got home, I found my lift was out of order. Though I only live on the 1st floor, for a slight (but not so weak) female I found carrying it up the stairs staggering. Luckily I could return it. I then bought a ‘normal’ hybrid bike, around 9kg. I haven’t found going up hills difficult at all. It seems to me that the reason e-bikes are so heavy is that it’s simply not possibly to engage them up hills without using the motor – so that’s how they are sold, whereas, even a 52 year old like me can cycle most hills in low gear on my hybrid bike. Until they start making really light e-bikes that weigh no more than 12 kg, with battery, I really wouldn’t advise anyone to get one. A low-weight is really not low when compared to a hybrid or racer (the difference for me between the two was also over £1000)

    • Vincent 04/09/2016 at 10:33 pm #

      Bodicea > I then bought a ‘normal’ hybrid bike, around 9kg. I haven’t found going up hills difficult at all.

      +1. Before spending good money on an expensive + heavy e-bike, people should first make sure a light, well geared regular bike wouldn’t do the job. And learn how to use gears properly.

      Incidently, I wonder how many e-bikes are bought by ex-drivers, ie. people who consider cycling = Tour de France.

      Considering how cyclists dress up in London, I don’t blame them for the confusion :-/
      https://s12.postimg.io/uf4xapubh/Bicycle_London_vs_Netherlands.jpg

  3. Duncan 03/09/2016 at 2:35 pm #

    Although a dyed in the wool pedal cyclist I often use my wife’s electric bike for local errands and it’s great fun to use. It’s like experiencing the freedom of being on a bike with extra zip thrown in for free. Whenever friends try it out the reaction is always the same – a huge grin on their faces. I’m hopefully a few years off wanting an electric bike but will happily buy one in due course. I see them as an energy management tool. I’m saving my energy for other things like playing tennis or swimming etc.

  4. paulc 06/09/2016 at 11:27 am #

    Personally, having owned one and ridden it to work and back for 16 months (7 miles each way), I would not recommend the A2B Kuo…

    towards the end, the battery had very little range even charging it at work and at home… I could not guarantee being able to ride it the entire distance when I gave up on it and bought a Free-Go with a much bigger battery instead…

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