January 14, 2008 Bicycles are a fun, environmentally friendly way to get from A to B under your own steam, but we're not all Tour de France cyclists, so the addition of electric assist systems helps to increase our range and leave the car in the garage more often. The latest offering from Schwinn - the Tailwind - will hit US dealers at the end of this month and arrive in Europe in Spring equipped with a battery that not only charges in a world beating 30 minutes via a standard outlet (or a lightning 7 minutes via a 40 amp commercial charger), but also guarantees 2000 cycles before it's full capacity begins to diminish. We took a closer look at the Schwinn at the 2009 CES.
The first thing you notice is that it doesn't look like an electric bicycle - the battery pack is placed neatly under the rear cargo carrier rather than attached to the frame, meaning it can be quickly detached for recharging. To optimize weight distribution, the motor (24V, 180W nominal/250W max) is positioned on the front wheel hub and the "Plug N’ Drive" system adding only around 12 pounds to the total weight of the bike according to Schwinn.
The bike is a hybrid, meaning that it can be ridden either in electric assist mode or as a normal bicycle. Access to the electric assist functions is via a controller on the right side of the handlebars which also includes a charge indicator and the ability to adjust the level of power required, while a twist grip changer on the right is used to move through the bike's eight gears. In power mode the electric assist kicks in smoothly as you begin to pedal and stops when you do so you can coast or brake as needed.
The fast charging times are courtesy of Toshiba’s Super Charge ion Battery (SCiB), a technology which the Tailwind is the first to take advantage of in the eBike arena. Schwinn says the 5Ah, 24V battery will be good for 2000 cycles and in testing, Toshiba has shown that the battery will still maintain 80% of charge after 6000 cycles. Competing products make between 600 and 1000 cycles and take around eight times longer to charge according to Schwinn (based on the 30 minute/standard outlet time).
The Tailwind's other specs include a lightweight Schwinn designed 6000 series aluminum alloy frame, SR Suntour suspension fork, a Shimano Nexus 8-speed rear hub gear system, a roller brake dynamo light, suspension seat post, rear wheel lock and Continental tires. The bike weighs 58 lbs and is available in 3 sizes (mens 17” or 19” and womens 17”) and comes in any color you like as long as it's white.
The price is USD$3200, so it's certainly not the cheapest offering on the market, but the cost needs to be weighed against the expense of replacing the battery more often and the convenience of such fast charging times. There's also a 2-year or 20,000 mile warranty.
Although we would have liked to cruise the halls of the CES on the Tailwind (it would have saved us a few blisters!) we only had a chance to test the Schwinn on a fixed roller, but we'll soon be hitting the road for a complete test - stay tuned for the full review.