While electric bicycles are certainly becoming a popular new form of transportation, they're still generally much more expensive than their human-powered counterparts. Some people attempt to cut costs by converting existing bikes to electrics themselves, although doing so usually involves a fair bit of technical know-how. Mechanical engineer Micah Toll now hopes to open up that conversion process to everyone, with his Barak Electric Bicycle Kit.
Barak can reportedly be installed on almost any bicycle, and consists of a lithium-ion battery, a controller, a thumb throttle, and a front wheel with a hub motor. The wheel replaces the bike's existing front wheel; the battery/controller mounts on either the seatpost, in a bag on the frame or in place of a water bottle (depending on the model); and the throttle goes on the handlebar. According to Micah, the whole system can be installed without any special tools or expertise, within about 15 minutes.
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A Barak-equipped bike should have a range of 20 to 30 miles (32 to 49 km) per three-hour charge, and be capable of a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h).
Unlike pedal-assist e-bikes that augment the rider's own pedal strokes, Barak is more like a scooter – you just press down the throttle, and it goes. You still can pedal while motoring, though, helping to prolong the battery life while also expending less physical effort. That said, Toll informs us that the controller is designed for the addition of a proper pedal-assist system that electronically senses and responds to each pedal stroke, which he may offer down the line.
The whole setup weighs 12 lb (5.4 kg), is being made in 350- and 500-watt versions, and will also come with either a 20- or 26-inch wheel.
When it comes to electrifying regular bikes, the Copenhagen Wheel and the FlyKly may seem like simpler alternatives. In both cases, users just replace their back wheel with one that contains a battery pack and pedal-assist motor, and is controlled by a smartphone app. Micah tells us, however, that Barak offers much more in the way of battery capacity (up to 36-volts/10 amp-hours), and more powerful motors that deliver considerably more torque.
He's currently raising production funds for the kit, on Kickstarter. Pledge amounts range from US$585 for the 350-watt 20-inch version to $655 for the 500-watt 26er. More information is available in the pitch video below.