If range were not a constraint, where would you go?
I accepted a challenge posed by Maurice from Electric Bicycle Hub who has an eZee 34Ah (1224Wh) battery – could I even go far enough in a day to deplete this battery? The question has been answered, read on to find out what happened…
I picked up the eZee Forza with the legendary 34Ah battery as Maurice opened his shop at 10am and headed off around 10:15. Along the NW Cycleway, onto the newly opened bit of shared path off Blockhouse Bay Rd. My adventure quickly turned into a fail as the path is far from complete, and I had to backtrack through construction sites and eventually go on the not-so-bike-friendly road.
From here my nose took me to Portage Rd, New Lynn, and the Tannery Cafe. We’re not far from Kohu Rd here, and guess what? They have Kohu Rd Ice Cream. All I had though was a good coffee and a delicious cheese scone. It’s a funky place, even with an old caravan for kids to play in. I felt quite welcome arriving by bike.
From here I started to hit my first real hills, powering up with ease, though a little bit with the jitters after the coffee. I tended to power down a bit to 3 up steep hill to avoid over-taxing the battery – there isn’t much difference in actual speed. Even though my challenge was to deplate the battery, I really didn’t fancy having to ride without power. I’ve had to once on a test where I overestimated the battery range, but that was on a bike more suited to pedalling than the Forza with giant battery. Over the top at Titirangi with it’s cool cafes and through to Huia, which is a truly beautiful spot, and a great surprise with blue skies and shimmering seas, not bad for mid-winter.
After Huia, the road starts to head steeply up and runs out of seal. Most ebikes I’ve ridden are completely at home on gravel with their more voluminous tyres. If I were to do a lot of gravel on this very stiff bike (or any) I think I would want a suspension seat post.
At the turn off to Mt Donald Maclean I thought ‘why not?’ and headed further up. This is one of those climbs spoken of in hallowed tones, but I cruised up with relative ease. The Hillary Trail comes past here so had a chat to some trampers who were surprised to see me. A 5 min walk gets you to the top – according to the Park Ranger, earlier on you could see Mt Taranaki but it had got a bit hazier at this time. It is a magnificent 360° view, and all the better because I rode there!
From here the road is windy and goes down steeply to Whatipu. Unfortunately the cars were slowing me down, I wish they’d pull over and let bikes through (irony intended). I had thought twice about heading down into Whatipu, worried about what it might do to the battery as t was down to 3/5, but I noticed that with some rest for the battery it went briefly up to 4/5 again! As it turned out, there was still plenty of juice. One thing I would like to see on batteries is an accurate level gauge. My Specialized Turbo does this really well with a 0-100% reading in 2% increments that seems quite accurate. With the Mission Control app you can set a desired course and let the battery automatically manage itself to get you there. Even without the app it allows me to compute how much speed and assist I can use with confidence. Range anxiety is a real thing with ebikes, even with the world’s biggest battery.
Whatipu itself is a bit unmemorable, and the sort of place that I avoid in the car because of how far away it is, and the windy gravel road that is often not wide enough for two cars to pass. On a bike, it becomes a fun place to visit, but I’d probably never go there on my road bike or mountain bike, it’s just too far and too hard. I didn’t see anyone else beyond Huia.
It’s a long and windy ride back up on the gravel, but by now I was trusting the battery and eZee motor to simply dig in and wind up. I reckoned I had earned a Thickshake back at Huia Store. Once again, I felt completely happy and welcome arriving by bike, even a bit smug…
In a car, I tend to whizz past things, but on a bike you see stuff and are free to look around. The Lower Nihotupu Reservoir at Parau outlet is quick spectacular and worth a stop. Take a look down the other side too where fresh water meets sea.
Grinding up again past Laingholm to Titirangi I found myself dropping to 1/5 on the battery gauge, but not worried because it was mostly down from there. I was wrong, there were still a number of hills to come… Would the battery hold out…
Through Green Bay, hills!, back down Blockhouse Bay, NW Cycleway and (spoiler alert) back to where I started on Te Ara Whiti, Lightpath aka the Pink Path.
Did I achieve the goal? I had one job, and I failed to deplete the battery despite 90km and nearly 2000m. I arrived back just before Maurice was packing up the shop at 4pm — so a whole trading day! Maurice then took the battery and rode home with it, still not depleted!
Now back to the question – if battery capacity wasn’t a constraint, what could you do with an ebike? It would most certainly change the way you look at range and the sorts of things you can do on an ebike, which tend to be limited to flattish rides up to 60km out hilly rides up to 40km. Most bikes come with 400-500Wh of capacity – this one is over 1200Wh allowing me to do a very hilly ride over 90km. Is this a game-changer? Perhaps. Do we want more range from batteries? Yes, we want the option to expand our horizons.
A large capacity battery is heavy and expensive, so we don’t want to be using this every day. Personally I think the solution ultimately is in modular batteries, so you only buy or carry only what you actually need. I reckon the eMTB industry should drive this change.
Imagine a set of standardised and commoditised battery pods of maybe 8-10Ah each, stackable in the down tube with space for up to three (and a fourth and fifth in the panniers for really long rides). You could just use one on your daily commute or technical eMTB ride to reduce weight, saving the others for longer rides. Each one would have its own battery management system (BMS) on board, communicating through a standard bus that lets the bike know exactly how much juice you have left. The bike would use them sequentially – ie drain each battery in turn rather than all at the same rate – leaving say 20% in each as a ‘reserve’ and to protect the cells.
Can a manufacturer please build this? Thanks.
[Apparently ebike electrical innovators GrinTech have made a modular battery pack called LiGo at 98Wh each to avoid travel bans. Great start, I’d like to see this taken further with something more standards-based and in a form factor that would work on most bikes]
[I have also seen the Focus Jam2 bike with Shimano Steps E8000 has a two-part battery, the second being an optional extra]
Footnote: According to Strava before tagging it as an ebike ride, I got KOM on the Huia and Donald Maclean climbs 😉
Other stats include 2080m elevation gained, max speed 65.9km/h, 24.3km/h average speed, 3hrs:39m riding time.