I kept wondering what the bicycle was that repeatedly showed up on video and in photos of the Solar Impulse as it took-off and landed last year in its history-making flight from its home base in Switzerland to Morocco and back, via Spain and the Straits of Gibraltar. Whatever it was, whoever made it, it was serving, in a way, as a two-wheeled chase vehicle; and it appeared to do a pretty good job keeping up with the lumbering, solar-powered giant as it gracefully lifted off the runway.
I soon learned the answer after querying the Solar Impulse team: It was a Stromer electric bike and I am guessing it is the 600W, 36V ST1 Platnium, which breaks the typical European convention of limiting electric assistance to 250 watts or about one-third horsepower. The ST1 Elite does meet EU e-bike technical standards.
Designed by the Swiss and built, like most e-bikes today, in Asia, the Stromer ST1 Platinum uses a 600W rear hub motor and Samsung lithium-ion batteries to help propel its rider up to 48 km/h (31 mph), which is well over the 25 km/h limit set by the European Union for pedal-assisted bicycles. So, while chasing the Solar Impulse down the runway is on the ST1 Platinum is perfectly legal, riding it at that speed down your typical European street definitely isn't. In the US, a 750W motor is legal, but the assisted top speed is limited to 20 mph, so you could also run afoul of the law on this side of the Atlantic, as well.
That being said, you'd have to be looking pretty closely to pick it out of a crowd of cyclists on the streets of old Amsterdam or new Amsterdam (now called New York City). While the large rear hub might give it away, the 11.4 AH, 36V integrated battery, mounted and locked into the bike's frame, isn't It can be charged either insitu on the bike or unlocked and removed from the frame to remote charging, say at the office. There's also a 14.5 AH battery option. Range for the Elite is estimated between 25-56 miles (depending on rider weight and terrain, the web site footnotes). The Platinum's range is estimated at 25-50 miles.
By the way, this is the bike Leo DiCaprio and Blake Lively were riding around on in Manhattan a couple summers ago when paparazzi captured them in their lens. The very fact they were riding e-bikes is, under a current city ordinance, illegal.
You can buy Stromer e-bikes at dealership in North and South America, as well as in northern Europe. The Elite's MSPR is $3,499, while the 'off-road' Platinum is $3,999.
Posted By: Bill Moore [21-Mar-2013]
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