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The Digital Skeptic: Best Battery-Powered Car May Be a Bike

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- George Bliss has something, uh, shocking to say to all those fanatics of troubled electric sports car maker Tesla Motors (TSLA).

"We're backing the wrong battery-assisted vehicle," Bliss told me as he assembled handlebars in front of his West Village bike shop, Hudson Urban Bicycles. "When you get people riding around upright, not looking like some angry street racer, batteries that help you ride easily make a difference."


Bliss had assembled for me as critical a future as any in the world of alternative vehicles: The elBoda Boda electric pedal-assisted cargo bike, made by five-person, Petaluma, Calif.-based Yuba Bicycles (models start at $2,797).

I am as stunned as you are, but even in these fat-butt United States of America, the emerging generation of smart electric bicycles such as the elBoda Boda will be the critical driver in the battery-induced transport market, which includes trendy-with-investor electric vehicles including the Tesla, Chevy (GM) Volt, and the Nissan (NSANY) Leaf.

"There were 31 million electric bikes sold in 2012, mostly in China. That's a $5 billion worldwide market in batteries," Frank Jamerson explained to me. Jamerson is publisher of Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports, a Harbor Springs, Mich.-based eBike analyst firm. "Compare that market to pure EV vehicle types. There only 60,000 of those sold last year. That's $630 million in total battery sales."

Jamison is no eBike front runner. He first rode one back in the 1990s as part of his 35-year General Motors engineering career. He headed the electrochemistry research department, where he became the assistant program manager for GM's doomed electric vehicle, the EV1.

"I'm a futures guy. I tried out an electric bike in Europe. I figured it would get folks to buy the EV1," Jamerson said. "I even tried to import them. It was a disaster. But I know a lot about electric bikes."

Jamerson says that the electric bicycles market is so massive that it moves the commodities market. The otherwise bike-obsessed mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is expected to ban the things due to overpopularity.

"It's basically the messengers," Bliss explained to me. "They ride like maniacs and you can get going really fast. It pissed everyone off."


If my month riding the elBoda Boda around town and out near my home in suburban Harrison is any indication, it's easy to easy see why The Man is cracking down. Battery-assisted bikes are the crack cocaine of new-age transportation.

Use one once and you will never want to use anything else again.

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