When it comes to the long-term sustainability and prosperity of Toronto as the financial and technology capital of Canada, the efficient urban transportation networks are pivotal on several fronts. They are the key to business investment and growth, since companies depend on the efficient movement of workers and goods around and between urban and suburban areas to maintain their competitiveness. From a social and environmental perspective, the construction of integrated mass transit systems across and beyond boundaries of Great Toronto Area provides an eco-friendly and acceptable commute time for work labour.
At the beginning, let's agree on a sustainable transportation term. Though going province by province or even regions, definitions may slightly vary, there is at least a common understanding, one which UltraVista accepts, that a sustainable transportation system is one that:
- allows the basic access needs of individuals and societies to be met safely and in a manner consistent with human and ecosystem health, and with equity within and between generations is affordable, operates efficiently, offers choice of transport mode, and supports a vibrant economy.
- limits emissions and waste within the planet's ability to absorb them, minimizes consumption of non-renewable resources, limits consumption of renewable resources to the sustainable yield level, reuses and recycles its components, and minimizes the use of land and the production of noise.
- Still, in spite of all the buzz, numerous proposals and plans, Toronto may still not have a practical framework on the sustainable transportation. The only traces of structured approach we could find are intertwined within Toronto's vision for the future that emphasizes prosperity, sustainability and community.
UltraVista is about to present the E-bike programs that seeks to stimulate the development of innovative methods for decreasing the impact of transportation on the environment, aiming to provide Torontonians with practical information and tools to apply sustainable transportation thinking to their daily lives.
During UltraVista's group trip to Europe we have been amazed with the number of bicycles travelling the streets of major European cities. Electric bicycles (e-bikes) are traditional bicycles that can be powered by an electric battery-powered motor, which is replenished with either charging it through the electrical outlet at home or by simply pedaling. Traditional bicycles can be converted with a conversion kit, and can therefore a traditional bike can now provide a means of transportation that both does not pollute as well as offering the convenience of not physically draining the rider. The electric bike makes commuting a pleasure. Upon return to Canada, UltraVista have quickly jumped onto the e-bike bandwagon, but it was Transit Canada's MOST Initiative that encouraged us to go beyond casual biking and engage into promoting new and most promising alternative forms of sustainable transportation.
E-bikes provide all the advantages of a regular bicycle: fun exercise, small parking footprint, zero emissions and freedom from gridlock all while eliminating one of the bicycles most serious drawbacks: lack of power. The boost that an e-bike gets from an electrical battery when power is mostly needed is one of its fundamental benefits, since not all bike riders are fit enough to pedal for long periods of time or uphill. Many people would like to travel by bicycle, but find it impractical or impossible because of factors such as hills, distance, health reasons, knee problems, aging, or even the inconvenience of arriving tired at the workplace. E-bikes make biking a whole lot more accessible to over 90% of our populations who are not cyclists. Multiple studies suggest that in the most situations in the city, riding an electric bicycle will be faster and cheaper than either car or public transit. Despite all these advantages over conventional means of transpiration, e-bikes nowhere near as promoted and marketed as their more expensive competition.
E-bike is a bicycle that can operate on either human power or electric power for pedaling. When electric power is kicked in, the bike can travel at speeds that exceed 20 miles per hour and do so without eating up gasoline or creating emissions in the process. More efficient than a standard bike, but not as costly as a true scooter or motorcycle, the electric bicycle presents a best-of-both-worlds situation for users.
There are a number of advantages that can go along with using an electric bike for short-distance commutes. They include:
- The power – Electric bicycles can function exactly like a bike and be used solely as such. When there is a need for an extra power boost, however, these machines can provide. For example, a rider can use personal pedal power for an entire trip, but kick on the electric to make climbing a hill easier on the legs and lungs. This makes the electric bike well suited for day-to-day commuting, exercise and more.
- The safety – Electric bikes offer all the safety features of a regular bike with a little twist. They have the power to get out of their own way or a car's when the need arises. This is a big positive for bicycle riders in high-traffic areas.
- The operational and purchase expenses – Electric bikes are fairly reasonable to purchase and they do not cost much to operate. Insurance is generally not needed to ride these machines and there is no worry about having to pay at the pump. What's more, electric bikes tend to hold their value quite nicely for resale.
- The green factor – Electric bikes are an excellent alternative for the environment. They do not require gasoline and they do not produce emissions. This makes using an electric bike to replace vehicle transit an excellent choice for reducing personal carbon footprints. If an electric bike happens to pull its power from solar energy, the green factor and sustainability can be even more impressive.
- The speed – Electric bikes can travel faster than standard bicycles and do so without forcing the rider to break a sweat. Electric power, for example, can be used to get to work without messing up a professional look. On the way home, pedal power can come into play for a bit of exercise.
The latest trends in electric bike development are phenomenal. For example, the New York City startup FlyKly , originally known for its cheap electric bikes, has been launching a Kickstarter campaign for the new "Smart Wheel", with the hopes of getting into production by December. Replacing a rear bike wheel with the Smart Wheel can helps reaching speeds of up to 32 km per hour with a range of 50 km. It also works together with iPhone, Android, and Pebble smart-watch apps to control the speed, offer statistics, and most helpfully, serve as an anti-theft solution. The apps can lock the wheel from functioning, and they show the bike's location via GPS in case it gets stolen.
The Smart Wheel will be available in 66cm (26-inch) and 74cm (29-inch) sizes, and it weighs just 4kg (9 pounds). That's a little bit more than typical bike wheels, but significantly less than electric bike kits (which can reach 10 kg). It charges in 2 – 3 hours by plugging into any electrical outlet, and it also recharges slightly when pedaling downhill. To guide the rider through dark streets, FlyKly is also developing a Smart Light that is powered by kinetic energy from the front wheel. The Smart Light also sports an adhesive surface to hold a smart phone in place.
Similarly, Toyota and Yamaha show that just like cars, bikes can be electrified, Wi-Fi connected, and shared. These electric velocipede concepts are wired to connect to smart grids, smartphones, home network systems, and sharing services.
With populations in urban centers expected to surge over the next few decades, auto manufacturers are looking beyond cars to find ways to mobilize the population without using more fossil fuels. Toyota teamed up with Yamaha to show off a couple of electric bicycle concepts. They're not the first companies to tackle e-bikes, but they could be the first companies to show how these non-traditional EVs can be connected to smart grids.
The three-wheeled EC-Miu and the electrically power-assisted Pas With bicycle are designed to work with the Toyota Smart Center, an advanced smart grid energy-management system designed for homes, businesses, and power companies, which mean an e-bike will be another appliance riders can manage online. Commuters will be able to recharge these e-bikes using the same G-Station charging stations used by electric vehicles. Embedded Wi-Fi capability will give riders a way to use smartphone-based navigation and telematics services.
A communication platform from Saturna Green System brings the benefits of mobile wireless technology to electric bicycles, helping riders monitor and manage their bicycle's power usage and charging. It also allows for numerous mobile applications for personal and fleet use.
The Saturna on-vehicle device is the core hardware component that can be incorporated easily on any bicycle, and consists of a processor, operating system, sub-systems, and key applications. The on-vehicle device connects to the bicycle's motor controller and battery management system, or inline coulomb counter, in order to gather accurate status, range, and diagnostic information. With GSM, GPS and 3-axis accelerometer, the device collects a wide variety of location, diagnostics and telemetry data, which it then transmits to a rider interface — either a smartphone (via Bluetooth™) or a wired digital display. It can also send this data to the Saturna Cloud, for truly wireless communications and networking.
In Europe, for all the hype over the latest rugged mountain bike, the whirr of electrically assisted wheels is clearly audible. Although electric cars have struggled to gain purchase (their sticker price is unalluring and they stop dead if not recharged), sales of cycles using batteries to augment a rider's own efforts are growing quickly. Faster ones with more sophisticated electronic controls, a bit like those popular in China, may also be gaining ground.
In the Netherlands one bicycle in six sold is an e-bike. In Germany the cycle industry expects electric-bike sales to grow by 13% in 2013, to 430,000 (the most sold in any European country), and to account for 15% of the market before long. In France sales of traditional bicycles fell by 9% in 2012 while those of e-bikes grew by 15%.
E-bikes are catching on as people move to cities and add concern about pollution and parking to worry over petrol prices and global warming. It has been estimated that sales at around 34m this year and perhaps 40m in 2015. China buys most of them and makes even more, with European sales of 1.5m in second place.