Culture

Fat-tire Storm electric bike is almost cheap at $499

A crowdfunded e-bike opportunity is aimed at netting backers an extremely affordable alternative mode of transportation, though some are questioning whether the project can deliver at such a low price.

Storm e-bike
Add some boost to your bicycling. Storm

We've seen some nifty electric-bike designs, like the folding Gi Bike and the Denny, a sweet urban ride with a front-wheel motor for a power assist on hills. They're beautiful, but they're expensive. The Gi was going for around $3,000, while the Denny could reach up to $5,000 when it hits the market. That's why the Storm e-bike on Indiegogo is riding an early wave of crowdfunding success.

The Storm's initial early-bird price is $499 (about £330, AU$640), though that cost is destined to rise to $599 (about £390, AU$770) on February 6. Over 2,600 backers have already stepped in to claim the cheapest level, despite knowing they could be saddled with another couple hundred dollars in delivery fees.

The makers of the Storm aren't trying to reinvent the e-bike wheel. The bike itself looks like a cross between a Huffy and a dirt bike. It doesn't fold up, connect to the Internet, glow or do your laundry for you. The creators say the 350-watt motor can take it up to 20 mph with a range of 30 to 50 miles.

It takes 90 minutes to charge the battery. The pedals will work when you want to cruise under your own power. The bike weighs 45 pounds, so you won't want to run out of juice at the bottom of a hill.

The most unusual element of the bike's design is the fat, all-terrain tires. Those chunky rollers combined with water-resistant battery and motor casings help it tackle conditions most regular bikes wouldn't want to touch, like sandy beaches.

The $499 deal is too good to last. The Storm will eventually hit the open market with a $1,299 (about £855, AU$1,675) suggested retail price. That price would seem to be more in line with what is expected considering the cost of components for an electric bike.

Court Rye from Electric Bike Review questions whether a bike with a steel frame, fat tires and battery could really weigh just 45 pounds. He cautions potential buyers to consider possible trade-offs in weight and the battery lifetime that may come with delivering a bike at the $499 price. This buyer-beware warning can be attached to any crowdfunding campaign, but is especially important for high-dollar items that make big claims like the Storm.

There seems to be some pent-up demand for affordable electric bikes. The Storm has already raised over $2.4 million on Indiegogo with 26 days to go, flattening its $75,000 goal on the way up the crowdfunding mountain. The Storm may not be as fancy or as innovative as some electric bikes we've seen, but the tempting price is giving it plenty of momentum.

Some reports have called into question the legitimacy of the Storm Indiegogo campaign. According to Yahoo News, electric-bike maker Prodeco Technologies has issued a cease-and-desist letter to Storm's co-founder Storm Sondors. Prodeco already markets an electric bike called "Storm," though the design is visually very different from the one on Indiegogo. It will be interesting to see if this highly successful campaign is able to deliver the electric bikes its customers are hoping for.

Update, February 6 at 12:35 p.m. PT: This story has been updated to include a Yahoo News link about a cease-and-desist letter sent from Prodeco Technologies to Storm's co-founder.