When the term was coined, “personal electric vehicle” (PEV) meant almost exclusively electric cars. A decade later, we’re seeing the resurrection of the electric car—almost every major automobile manufacturer has something in development. With the electric car movement behind them, a parade of PEVs—from something you can sling over your shoulder to a 100 mph-plus electric racing motorcycle—is coming down the pike.
The price range for these vehicles is almost as extreme as the vehicles themselves. A few hundred dollars will buy you an around-town scooter. A whole lot more will get you a custom-built, full-on race motorcycle.
Even a year ago, many of these products were pipe dreams—pretty online prototypes, but not in actual production. Today, there are products that are available, affordable, and sitting on a showroom floor for you to see, touch, and ride.
We’ll start the tour with two extremes in the stand-up scooter market: Segway’s Personal Transporter and one of the ubiquitous Razor-type scooters. Both of these can be used for just about the same thing—getting around the city.
At a retail price of about $8,000, the Segway is a premium product, commonly in use by police and security details. It weighs a little more than 100 pounds, and has a top speed of about 12.5 mph with a maximum range of 24 miles. A marvel of gyro-servo robotic technology, the Segway is controlled by the rider’s shifting weight.
On the other end of the scale is the simple, light, and inexpensive electric Razor scooters. Originally a kid’s toy, Razor now offers the EcoSmart Metro, with larger wheels and more power, which means some propulsion oomph. At about $400, with an 18 mph top end and a range of 15 miles, these scooters can get you everywhere a Segway can, plus you can carry it up the stairs and park it in your office.
A little more exciting is the E-Glide GI Powerboard. This 1,000-watt, 36-volt electric skateboard is not for the meek. At $1,400, with a handheld controller and an estimated top speed of 24 mph, this is an affordable option for the commuter/adrenaline junkie.
The electric bicycle market ranges from DIY kits for converting your standard bike with hub motors for bike wheels to purpose-built electric bicycles. There are several DIY kits, including Crystalyte and Golden Motor that come as individual parts or as complete packages with batteries and controllers. You can get an idea of acceleration by the motor’s power rating, and electric bikes generally fall within the low 250 to 800 W range. Higher wattage gives you more speed and acceleration.
The Ultra Motor A2B is one of the more striking purpose-built bikes available. It weighs 72 pounds, can pull you (unassisted) at 20 mph, and has a range of about 20 miles (unassisted). The electric components are completely integrated and the bike includes disc brakes and tires that look more intended for a light motorcycle than a bicycle. These, as well as the kits, have pedals and even multispeed shifting, just as a standard bike. At $2,700, they’re not out of the range of what many die-hard bikers would pay for a racing bike.