Bolt M-1 finds a home between electric motorcycle, moped and bicycle

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The Bolt M-1, born in San Francisco(Credit: Bolt Motorbikes)

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Part electric bicycle, part motorcycle and part moped, the Bolt M-1 is a capable, two-wheeled machine engineered for urban commuting. The fully electric bike wears light motorcycle styling and can put out up to 5,500 watts for speeds up to 40 mph (64 km/h). It can also be dialed back to 1,000 watts and ridden like an e-bike.

Bolt Motorbikes founder and CEO Dr. Nathan Jauvtis began commuting on a moped around the time he first moved to San Francisco. He found the moped to be the perfect vehicle for getting around the city – more speed and practical range than a bicycle but cheaper than a car. Jauvtis formed Bolt with co-founder Zach Levenberg, a moped enthusiast with world-record moped riding and Lit Motors engineering experience under his belt. The two designed their own version of the moped, turning to battery power and putting their own styling to it to create the M-1.

While the M-1's design is most similar to a moped, the company has been careful to keep specifications within California's legal definition of a electric (motorized) bicycle, thereby eliminating the need for a motorcycle license. The company also keeps the design simple and bicycle-like in hopes of appealing to bike riders looking for a light, electric form of urban commuting – in other words, folks that might be intimidated by more powerful electric motorcycles like those that Jauvtis helped develop at Zero Motorcycles. "If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a Bolt," the company promises.

Those looking for that type of easy-riding city commuting will likely set the M-1 on "economy" mode and never hit the switch again. It limits motor output to 1,000 watts, optimizing range for up to 50 miles (82 km) of riding on motor power alone. Speed is limited to 20 mph (32 km/h). No pedaling is required, but for those that want to stretch their legs, the M-1's pedals are just dangling there in waiting.

Economy mode meets California motorized bike limits, which stipulate no more than 1,000 watts and a 20-mph top speed. To avoid messing that up, Bolt says that sport mode is for "off-road use only." The bike isn't exactly an electrified dirt bike, but Bolt does have some photos of it tackling flat dirt, so an "off-road only" mode isn't completely fictitious. That said, we imagine it'll find more use on pavement, either by licensed folks with properly registered Bolt bikes or illegally by electric cyclists that just can't resist the lure of 5,500 watts and 40 mph (64 km/h). Range takes a big hit in sport mode, dropping to 30 miles (48 km/h).

The M-1 also features a computerized control system with passcode protection, USB phone charger, and Bluetooth-connected mobile application. Its 1.7-kWh lithium ion phosphate battery pack has a quick release for easier charging and fast-charges to 90 percent in 1.5 hours. Bolt recommends using the home charger for 5-hour "maintenance" charging to increase battery longevity. The bike weighs 140 lb (63.5 kg).

Bolt says that it already sold out its first M-1 production run and is currently taking preorders for batch #2 on its website. The M-1 lists in at US$5,495, and if we're reading the fine print correctly, it looks like early birds save $500 for a $4,995 buy-now price that entails a fully refundable $500 deposit.

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