In our last article about the history of electric bikes, we were still in 1946, the year in which the Bicycle of the Future was presented. The following decades saw mass motorization happen: cars and motorbikes took over and people couldn’t wait to get rid of their bikes because they were now seen as vehicles for poor people. We will have to wait until the 70s to see some progress in the history of electric bikes.
Among the first to recognize the potential of ebikes, we must name the Communist Party of China: at the beginning of the 70s, they commissioned the production of ebikes that were very similar to the Electrocyclette. There were also some models with no pedals. Electric mopeds are still very popular in China today.
Back to Europe, the Yom Kippur war was one of the most important stages in the diffusion of electric vehicles: oil producing countries raised the price of crude oil so much that it increased by 600% over a few weeks. It was at that moment that the discussion about energy saving activities started, and some companies started selling some interesting electric bike models.
The most successful model was the German Solo Electra. It had a Bosch 750W motor and two 12V batteries. It was sold through mail order catalogs and the price was 1100 marks. Its weight was absolutely tremendous: 67kg (just the batteries weighed 30kg). Moving the Electra with the pedals only must be quite hard: better not to find oneself with empty batteries!
The maximum speed was 24km/h; this put the Electra in direct competition with all the other German mopeds that had a speed limit of 25 km/h. The Solo Electra didn’t have the same success in France, where mopeds could reach 40km/h.
In those years, there were other electric bike models competing with Solo. We can name Zundapp and Hercules E1, which you can see in the photo above. We don’t know much about the sales of these models, but it seems that only the Solo Electra had a good commercial success: there are still quite a few samples, lovingly cared for by their enthusiast owners. To reach mass diffusion, electric bikes still had to become much lighter.
Sources: “Electric Bicycles”, by D. Henshaw and R. Peace