For many people, an electric bike makes sense for longer commutes, but it isn't needed for shorter jaunts or recreational rides. As a result, we've seen a number of kits that allow cyclists to temporarily turn their existing bike into an e-bike, by swapping one of its wheels with an electrified one. It's a pretty simple solution, although the Swytch eBike Conversion Kit may be even simpler and easier yet.
Most of the electric wheels we've seen have been quite heavy – this is because they contain not only a motor, but also a battery pack and the associated electronics. That extra revolving weight makes them difficult to move if pedalling without electrical assistance, so the bike's original unpowered wheel needs to swapped back in when using the bicycle in non-e-bike mode.
In the case of the Swytch system, though, the supplied front wheel only contains a 36V/250W hub motor. This reportedly leaves it light enough that it can stay on the bike full-time, permanently replacing the bike's regular wheel. The lithium-ion battery and electronics are in a separate power pack that clicks in and out of a handlebar-mounted bracket within just a few seconds.
Electrical cables run from that bracket to the motor, and to brake and pedal sensors. Initially installing all of the permanent hardware is a one-time affair, which is claimed to take about 10 minutes. From there, users just pop the power pack on when they want an e-bike, and pull it off when they don't.
A control panel in the top of the pack lets riders do things like selecting the amount of electrical assistance, and checking how much power is left. An electronically-limited top speed of 15 mph (24 km/h) is possible in the European version, or 20 mph (32 km/h) for the US/international model. The range sits at either 25 or 50 miles (40 or 80 km), depending on which of two available battery capacities are selected. Charging time is 3-4 hours or 5-6, respectively.
The whole system – including both the permanently-mounted bits and the power pack – weighs 3.9 kg (8.6 lb) with the small battery, or 4.8 kg (10.6 lb) with the big one. By contrast, the lightest all-in-one electric wheel we've seen so far tips the scales at 7 kg (15 lb), with others more in the neighborhood of 9 kg (20 lb).
The Swytch system is currently the subject of an Indiegogo campaign, with pledge levels starting at US$299 for the 25-mile model. The planned retail price is $650. There are also complete bikes available, with the system built in.
It can be seen in use, in the following video.