There's a certain irony to most e-bikes. Their motors and batteries make them easier to pedal, yet those same components also make them much heavier than regular bikes – weights of 50 to 60 lb (23 to 27 kg) aren't uncommon. Additionally, some "bike snobs" think they're kind of dorky-looking. E-bike enthusiast Troy Rank and his team, however, have set out to address the weight and appearance issues. His Maxwell EP0 looks almost entirely like a regular steel-framed flat-bar road bike, and it's claimed to weigh as little as 25 lb (11 kg) depending on the model.
Instead of having one big highly-visible battery, the interconnected cells of the Maxwell's 250-Wh lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide battery pack are located inside the main frame tubes. They're charged via a port on the control unit, which is housed in the black triangular cowl seen above the bottom bracket.
Those cells can be replaced once they eventually stop holding a charge, through an access port in the head tube (which involves removing the fork, too) and by taking the seatpost out of the seat tube.
The battery pack powers a 300-watt freewheeling front hub motor, which augments the rider's pedaling power to attain speeds of up to 20 mph (32 km/h). Under typical conditions, one charge should be good for up to 15 miles (24 km) of use.
Although the current prototypes have a thumb throttle, Rank tells us that the production models will likely be pedal-assist only. And yes, it can still also be pedaled with no electric assistance, so riders won't be stranded if the battery runs out before they get home. To help keep that from happening, however, an LED indicator of the controller does indicate how much of a charge is left at any given time.
Plans call for the Maxwell to be available in three versions – a singlespeed, a 2-speed and a 9-speed. The singlespeed is the model that reportedly tips the scales at 25 lb (minus the pedals), although even the 9-speed is said to weigh just 31 lb (14 kg) – that's still four pounds lighter than the Riide and Electrolyte e-bikes, which are themselves known for being among the lightest on the market.
How is that possible?
"By using the frame to encapsulate the batteries, the whole battery pack ends up pretty light, only about 3 lb [1.4 kg], then 2 lb for the motor and about 1lb for the controller," says Rank. "We're using the lightest possible electric components, and we're using them really effectively, rather than trying to overpower a small frame or under-power a frame with an excessive amount of batteries. We're only using 250 Wh of battery pack capacity, but that's more than enough for 10 to 15 miles range with this type of bike, even with little pedaling input."
If you're interested in finding out first-hand if the bike lives up to the hype, Troy and his team are currently raising production funds for the Maxwell EP0, on Kickstarter. If things go as planned, a pledge of US$1,300 will currently get you a singlespeed (the planned retail price is $1,800), with $2,500 required for a 2-speed and $2,800 for a 9-speed.
More information is available in the pitch video below.