Instead of spending a whole chunk of change on a new electric bike, why not convert your current boring non-powered one for cheap?
That's the premise behind UrbanX's Electric Wheel, which is currently on crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. Retailing at $299 (£245, AU$390) for either a throttle or pedal assist version, the electric wheel replaces your front wheel to turn your ordinary pedal machine into a 15 mph beast.
Hoverboards, e-scooters and electric bikes have become all the rage, thanks to more power efficient motors and better battery tech. While UrbanX is not the first to come up with a design that puts the motor on a wheel -- the Copenhagen Wheel has that honor -- it's a lot cheaper compared with the Copenhagen Wheel's $699 price tag or Rool'in's, which costs about $590.
While the UrbanX was inspired by the Copenhagen Wheel, there are differences. For one, the UrbanX replaces the front wheel, which means you don't have to worry about the Copenhagen Wheel's myriad of gear configurations that jack up the cost. You still keep your bicycle's rear gear hub and chose between two versions: pedal assist or throttle control. It comes in six sizes: 24-inch, 26-inch, 27.5-inch, 29-inch, 650c and 700c.
The UrbanX also features a replaceable battery, which CEO Eric Chow said will make servicing easier. Embedding the battery can also be detrimental to battery life, as the 240W motor generates a lot of heat. There's also no regenerative braking to charge the battery; Chow said that adds too much resistance.
It's also easy to install, according to Chow, who graduated from Singapore's National Technology University as a mechanical engineer. Simply swap out the front wheel and attach the throttle to your handle bar (if you go with the throttle version). There's no need to worry about the gear hub, and the UrbanX will fit all standard bikes because it fits into the standard 100mm front spoke and you'll get to pick from a variety of wheel designs. The wheel also supports both V-type and disc-type brakes.
The UrbanX has a range of about 30 miles and a top speed of either 15 mph or 20 mph, with the former meant for use in the European Union due to regulations. If you ride a foldie with 20-inch wheels though, the bad news is that there isn't a 20-inch version. Chow said that a 20-inch version is possible, but hard to do for now.
The UrbanX is due to ship in July, which would be a quick turnaround since the Kickstarter project ends on April 25. That's because this is actually a second-generation version of the electric wheel. The first model was sold only in China, while the UrbanX targets Europe and the US. The company will set up a service center in LA, with plans for another one in the Netherlands.
Batteries Not Included: The CNET team reminds us why tech is cool.
CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.