"Unlimited range" stealth e-bike never needs plugging in
If e-bikes tend to look a little ungainly for your tastes, check out this thing from Barcelona's Nua Bikes. With the motor, sensors and battery built into a discreet hub unit, the Nua Electrica is barely distinguishable from a regular fixie, and its innovative "self-charging" mode means you can get away without ever charging it.
Weighing in at just 13 kg thanks to a full titanium frame, the Nua Electrica is the stealthiest single-speed e-bike we've seen to date. It uses a very cool motor/battery combo unit that we suspect we'll be seeing a lot more of in the coming months and years.
The Zehus Bike+ is an all-in-one hub unit that weighs just 3 kg (6.6 lb) and fits into any frame with a rear wheel dropout 120 mm (4.7 in) or wider. It contains a 250-watt motor, a 160-watt-hour battery, several sensors, a Bluetooth communications system and all the electronics required to run an e-bike.
Thus, within this one hub, you've got yourself about 30 km (18.6 mi) of full power pedal-assist electric cycling, without a single protruding wire, dash or set of buttons. And that enables builders like Nua, Jitensha, Deus Customs and many others, to produce stunningly minimalistic ebikes that you'd have to look at twice to pick as electrics.
You can choose between six cycling modes through an app on your phone, with the most interesting one being a "self charging" mode. Using a tilt sensor built into the back wheel, the drive unit can be set such that it only assists you on uphill climbs and taking off from a dead stop, giving you help where you need it most. And it recharges the battery with regenerative braking, and also sips a bit of power from you when you're pedaling along the flat or going downhill. The company says if you leave it in this mode, you can get around indefinitely without ever charging the thing – obviously this will depend on the terrain, but it's a neat idea.
It also might actually be practical with a bike like the Electrica, which is less than half the weight of some of the chunkier e-bikes going around and should thus be a much less onerous pedal with the e-part switched off.
The Electrica uses a Gates carbon belt drive, for maintenance-free reliability and quietness, and it's got a Sugino Pista crankset, a Gilles Berthoud saddle and Brooks leather grips, all of which sound suitably fancy. It also rocks Shimano brakes and Mavic wheels with Hexlox anti-theft locks. Nua has designed and 3D printed a set of special sliding dropouts that let you remove the rear wheel without having to take any tension out of the belt drive, which is a nice touch.
The price? Well, titanium frames, forks and seatposts don't grow on trees. The bike pictured here is around €4,000 (US$4,500). But it's not the Zehus e-hub causing the expense, as other brands like Jitensha are selling similar-looking classic machines for less than half that price using the same drive technology.
Edit: the Electrica, and other Zehus-powered bikes, can certainly be plugged in and charged if you want. Apologies if we were ambiguous on this point.