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  • Flywheel | October 10, 2022

Flywheel | October 10, 2022

Exploring throttles vs. pedals and the accessibility of micromobility with Jim McPherson and featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week


Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight an observation of trends emerging in the industry and feature five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the secondary market.

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The observation of the week explores throttles vs. pedals and the accessibility of micromobility with Jim McPherson. This week’s featured vehicles are a shockingly discounted commuter, an etrike, a custom electric tandem cruiser, an all-terrain trekking bike, and a powerful two-wheel drive scrambler.

Observation of the Week

Throttles vs. pedals and the accessibility of micromobility with Jim McPherson

Regulators recently updated California Vehicle Code 407.5 to expand the definition of two-wheeled scooters from having a "floorboard designed to be stood upon" to now include "a seat with footrests." This change adds fire to an already contentious debate around throttles on ebikes because it opens the door for new class of vehicles that look like ebikes but are throttle-powered and have no pedals. This week, I had the opportunity to talk to Jim McPherson, General Counsel at Spin, about this regulation change and his views on throttles vs. pedals.

Traditional bikers have long argued that it’s unfair for scooters and other pedal-less light electric vehicles to have access to bike lanes. But Jim believes that the requirement for pedals ultimately makes micromobility less accessible and equitable: “if my throttled vehicle goes the same speed and no faster than your pedaled bike, you have no claim on the amount of effort I give (or don't give). Just like someone on a one speed steel bike can't tell someone on a 32 speed carbon fiber missile that they’re not working hard enough.”

Once you take away the need for human input, it completely changes the shape and form factors possible for light electric vehicles. This legislation change was likely prompted by pedal-less, seated vehicles from the likes of Wheels and VEO, but the trend of slowly eliminating pedals is already in full swing. Many class-2 ebikes (i.e. Super73, Segway C80) technically have pedals, but they’re not really that functional and most riders rarely use them. Rather, they are simply bolted on for the purpose of complying with class-2 ebike classification requirements. Particularly for cargo bikes where the payload expands beyond a single rider, pedals are at best superfluous and at worst a major hurdle that pushes riders away from the vehicle altogether (i.e. Ryan Johnson’s observation that many pick a RadWagon over an Urban Arrow because of its throttle). I personally believe that embracing the throttle is ultimately what will lead to a Cambrian explosion of exciting new form factors that drive mass adoption.

The current ebike class-1/2/3 classification (i.e. California Vehicle Code 312.5) is a great initial attempt at categorizing and standardizing ebike specs, but it’s ultimately a restrictive regulation that places arbitrary, pedal bike-centric requirements on light electric vehicles. As the popularity of throttle-optimized ebikes grows, it’s important that states either continue to expand vehicle codes like CVC 407.5 further or add to/reimagine the class-1/2/3 classification to reflect the fact that micromobility is not just motorized bicycles.

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Top 5 Vehicles of the Week

The Radmission is Rad Power’s cheapest ebike, and the company’s recent fire sale of RadMissions makes the model even more affordable. At a shockingly discounted price of $499, new RadMissions are available for $700 less than MSRP and $460 less than the average resale price of a used model. For context, a Rad Power battery alone costs $449. This sale is likely in response to overstocked inventory, a problem that many bike shops and other ebike retailers are facing in the wake of pandemic-induced demand spikes. The RadMission was built as a competitor to budget ebikes from the likes of Lectric, and features a weaker powertrain than its sister vehicles (50Nm vs 80Nm motor and 504Wh vs 674Wh battery pack). It’s frankly my least favorite Rad Power vehicle (I prefer the RadRover or RadWagon), but a price this low is a steal and an incredible opportunity to get a great starter ebike.

Listing can be found here.

The Pedego Trike is a class-2 etrike designed for more stable, albeit slower cruising. With a 30Nm motor and 396Wh battery pack, the trike’s modest powertrain only allows riders to go up to 11mph. However, this is actually an important safety measure given that many etrikes tend to tip over when going over 15mph. The powertrain is supplemented by a torque pedal assist sensor and a 3-speed internally geared hub that can be shifted in place, making it very easy and intuitive to pedal the Trike. There’s also a fairly sizeable plastic storage bucket on the rear of the vehicle that riders have used for cargo (and occasionally even children). The Trike’s cargo capacity and comfortable speeds have made it extremely popular with older riders. This listing has less than 20 miles of usage and is still under its 5 year manufacturer’s warranty. Listing can be found here.

This listing is for a Schwinn Twinn beach-cruiser style tandem bike that has been converted into an ebike. Built on top of an 80Nm Bafang rear hub motor (a motor that is extremely popular with DIY ebikes) and 840Wh Panasonic battery pack, this listing has a powerful enough drive system to propel even two adult passengers up hills or for long distances. An excellent example of the many fun form factors possible due to the easy, DIY nature of ebikes, this vehicle has only recently been converted and has low usage (Flywheel estimates ~200 miles). Listing can be found here.

The Giant FastRoad E+ EX Pro is a rugged, all-terrain class-3 ebike. At a weight of ~45lbs, the EX Pro is as light as class-1 commuter ebikes despite having beefy high-volume tires and a robust frame that make the ebike feel sturdy and smooth. The powertrain features the 80Nm SynDrive Pro mid-drive, a custom motor co-developed by Giant and Yamaha, and a 375Wh battery pack (can be upgraded to a larger 500Wh battery pack). The SyncDrive Pro is a well-reputed motor system because of how easily it can be tuned by riders. This listing is excellently authored and gives ample information to potential riders. Included in the listing are the reports from a system check and vehicle diagnostics run on the rider app, where the vehicle was most recently serviced, and even the conditions in which the vehicle was stored. This listing has fairly high usage (~2000 miles) but was recently tuned up by a NYC bike shop Bicycles NYC. Listing can be found here.

The Pedal Electric AWD III is a powerful and adventurous class-3 scrambler. Featuring two 1000W (~90Nm) Bafang hub motors for each wheel, 1008Wh battery pack, and dual suspension, the AWD III has a commanding powertrain capable of climbing even steep SF hills at 25+ mph. In fact, the two-wheel drive is strong enough to carry a second rear adult passenger, and the bike even comes standard with rear foot pegs and a long enough seat for two people. There’s also a few other convenient and clever accessories, like a rear brake light, turn lights, and locks for the steering stem and battery pack. Although some may argue that an ebike with two 1000W motors is too aggressive, I actually think a powerful two-wheel drive (when operated at legal speed limits) is an amazing safety feature because it allows the vehicle to keep up with traffic regardless of how much weight it’s carrying. This listing is practically new and has only 6 miles of usage. Listing can be found here.

That’s it for this week. Thanks again for joining, see you next Monday!

- Puneeth Meruva

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