Mopeds and electric bikes – a greener transportation alternative

If you’re ready to ditch the car for the sake of the environment, aren’t keen on a motorbike or motor scooter and excessive pedalling isn’t yet your scene, consider a moped or electric bike.

Mopeds (short for Motor/Pedal I guess) are basically a motor assisted bicycle, usually powered by a gas (petrol) engine up to 49 cc’s or increasingly, an electric motor.

They aren’t speed machines,  attaining speeds of only 20 – 30 miles per hour (35 – 50 km/hr), but as such often don’t require registration, insurance or a license in many states and countries. In places where they do; the fees are generally far less than even a motorbike. In some places, mopeds can also be used on bicycle only paths. Mopeds also have pedals, allowing you to add some human power as you wish, further conserving fuel/electricity consumption.

Gas powered mopeds

In regards to fuel economy, many of the gas powered models I researched boasted consumption of 200 miles per gallon (85 kilometers per litre)! That’s pretty incredible!

On the down side; these mopeds still use fossil fuels and as they often have 2 stroke engines needing oil in the fuel mix, emissions can be a real issue. Even 4 stroke engines may be comparitively high in emissions as they don’t have all the pollution controls you find on a car.

A two stroke engine also is noisier than a 4 stroke; but I was pleasantly surprised by the noise levels of modern mopeds – somewhere around the 60 decibel level. To give you an idea of how loud that is, a lawnmower is around the 90 decibel mark and general conversation is around 50-60 decibels.

Mopeds powered by gas engines tend not to be ultra-light; most I looked at were around the 100 pound (45kg) mark; but that’s easily manageable for most adults.

While probably not well suited to carting the weekly shopping, gas powered mopeds in the 50cc engine size range are able to carry a load of just under 300 pounds (135 kilos). Whether they do that well up a steep hill is another matter.

Gas powered mopeds can be purchased new for under USD$1000 and you can also buy kits for attaching to regular bicycles.

Electric bikes and mopeds

Aside from gas engine powered models, electric engines are also becoming increasingly popular for mopeds, which is a more environmentally friendly option – and the range available nowadays is quite impressive.

Eco Wheelz has a good selection of electric moped and bike models on their site, starting out at around $900.

The technology used in electric bikes and mopeds has improved a lot in recent years; for example, the XB-500 has a top speed of 20 mph unassisted and will travel 20 – 25 miles on a single charge. It weighs around 100 pounds (45 kilograms) and will carry 300 pounds (135 kilos) – not too shabby for an entry level vehicle.

Moving up through the range sees improvements in speeds (to the point a licence is required), range (65-70 miles) and/or SLA (sealed lead acid) batteries being replaced with Lithium Ion or Nickel Metal Hydride batteries for longer life and faster recharging. Electric bicycles and mopeds using Lithium Ion or NiMH batteries weigh as little as 48 lbs (22 kg)!

While the higher end models do cost a bit, bear in mind that recharging electric bikes and mopeds works out to be around 40 cents per 100 miles – under a penny a mile.

Even taking into account battery replacement costs, over the long run it still works out a good deal cheaper than a gas powered moped.

When it comes to a comparison with car running costs, according to U.S. Government figures, the average cost of driving and maintaining a motor vehicle in the USA is 54c per mile.

So if you have a lot of bike paths in your area (check the regulations first) or car drivers in your town aren’t too insane, a moped or an electric bike might be the answer to your green(er) transportation needs!