This article was first published in June 2004. Ezee has more or less gone out of business now, and big heavy electric folding bikes like this are very much a thing of the past
We have to be honest; most electric folding bikes are horrible.Without being so cruel as to name names, we’d have to admit that half of the bikes we’ve tested are either complete rubbish or close to it.
Part of the problem is the conflicting design constraints discussed elsewhere, but that doesn’t explain everything.The fact is that the Chinese are churning out cheap rubbish and greedy middlemen are flogging the things in the UK for mouth-watering mark-ups, without even test- riding them. How does 250% profit sound?
The Shanghai Ezee Kinetics Co, run by Waiwon Ching and his son Ken, is a bit different.Working from a small factory in Shanghai, and a European office in France, the pair are determined to break the ‘pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’ pattern and introduce a decent range of Chinese bikes.
We tested the Ezee Forza back in June 2003 and were suitably impressed.The electronics needed some fettling, but the basic concept – quality alloy frame, nickel-metal hydride battery and fast, efficient motor – proved perfectly sound.The bike has gone on to reach nearly 2,000 miles on long-term test and continues to work well. Mr Ching has now launched a folding bike called the Quando, and we had a brief look when father and son passed through the UK earlier this month.
Like the Forza, the Quando has a nicely-engineered aluminium frame, NiMH battery behind the seatpost and a powerful brushless hub motor. Unlike its big brother, the wheels are 20-inch, the frame folds, and the motor is in the rear wheel, rather than the front.The disadvantage of this layout is that you can’t fit a geared hub – one of the Forza’s best features.
We’re not very happy about the Ezee dual power control system.This has been brought about by confusion over whether UK electric bikes are legally allowed to motor along without the rider pedalling (they probably are allowed at present).The Ezee system features a torque sensor on the crank that brings the motor up to full power a second or two after the rider starts pedalling. The motor can also be more precisely controlled with a conventional twistgrip throttle, but this does not have a safety switch to prevent accidental power application when standing still.
We’d like to see a simpler system, where a crank movement sensor feeds power to the twistgrip, rather than squirting 36 volts straight into the motor.We only dwell on this because the Quando is the most powerful folding electric bike we’ve seen, so precise control is important, both for safety and fuel efficiency.
The bike also has a single 53″ gear. If you can picture this, the rider starts pedalling and one second later the characteristically smooth, torquey brush-less motor cuts in, propelling the bicycle forward at a cracking pace.Within a few seconds, you’ve passed 12mph, leaving the 53-inch gear behind – further acceleration relying on the motor alone. On full throttle, the power continues to arrive smoothly and cleanly right up to (or a shade over) the 15mph legal limit. At this stage the bicycle stops accelerating and relaxes into a quiet cruise. Hills of up to 10% are simply ironed out, but steeper gradients will slow the motor to varying degrees. For example, our, ahem, 83kg rider (not Jane, incidentally) slowed the bike to 11mph on a 7% (1:14) gradient, 7mph on a 10% gradient, and the bike even managed a restart with reasonable enthusiasm at 12.5% (1:8)… all without turning a pedal. Anything steeper, and you need to provide some modest assistance, the absolute limit depending on how heavy and how fit the rider is. Our steepest local hill is about 18% (1 in 6), and we cleared that relatively easily, so an enthusiastic rider in the North Yorkshire Dales should do a lot better.
…with one fairly low gear and oodles of power, this machine is more moped than bicycle…
Brakes are somewhat low-tech for such a speedy projectile – a nondescript caliper on the front and a rather noisy and ‘wooden’ band brake on the rear. Stopping requires quite a heave on the levers, producing a brake force of .33G from the back, which is just enough to lock the wheel (but not in reverse – see page 11).That’s adequate, but the similar .33G brake force from the front caliper brake is some way short of the power we would normally expect.
The Quando has suspension – a Moulton-style sliding fork at the front and a polymer bungee at the rear. Both units work well enough, but the front suspension can bottom- out with a nasty crash on rough roads, and the rear has no damping effect, so the bike tends to pogo up and down a bit when you’re pedalling fast, which you usually are.
Saddle height is a bit limited too, at 84cm – 94cm.That’s too high for some of the grey- market customers it might appeal to and too low for taller folk. But this is a prototype, so we can afford to be generous – these are relatively minor faults. Like the Forza, the Quando is fully equipped with mudguards, a stand, a chunky rack, bell and trip computer.
With one fairly low gear and oodles of power, this machine is more moped than bicycle, so range is less than it might have been, had we been able to test the bike in our normal ‘flat-out, plus typical pedal-power’ mode.That said, 15 miles is a good result in hilly country and with hardly any assistance from the rider. Average speed is around 141/2mph, which really isn’t bad when you consider that it’s difficult to pedal above 12mph and the motor only runs to 15mph…
Fuel consumption (including some losses in the charger) is close to 30 watt/hours per mile, but this high figure is hardly surprising when you take the performance into account. Back in June last year, with the same battery pack, a slightly less powerful motor, and more suitable pedal gearing, the Quando’s big brother consumed 18 watt/hours per mile, giving an excellent range of 33 miles.With the torque-sensor disconnected and a choice of pedal ratios, we think the Quando could easily exceed 20 miles, even on our hilly test route.
With the rocket boosters empty, the bike is still quite pleasant to ride. Despite a little play in the handlebar hinge (very common this), the frame is rigid enough to make pedal effort productive and the 53″ gear is a reasonable compromise.
Recharging proved a bit of an unknown quantity because of a suspected charger fault, but the figures suggest four hours or more to reach a 90% charge (the Forza took five hours) and the rest of the night on a slow trickle charge to top right up. The charger is the same light, compact fan- cooled unit supplied with the Forza (see A to B 36).
Like most 20-inch bikes, the Quando folds into a large package, but the operation is easy enough and the result is very neat, all things considered. Dimensions are 38cm wide, 90cm long by 66cm high.That comes out at 226 litres or 8 cubic feet. Not minuscule, but perfectly acceptable by non-assisted 20-inch standards (the archetypal Dahon Vitesse measures 190 litres, for example). In terms of weight, the Quando is a very different animal. It’s lighter than some folding electric bikes, but at 25.7kg (20.2kg with battery removed), still way outside our folder viability zone (see graph, page 26). Once again, improved gearing and range would make a lot of difference.We think 25.7kg is a lot of hardware for a 15-mile ride, but probably acceptable with a 25-mile range.The bike would be capable of this with the right gearing.
Some people wouldn’t choose the Quando if it was the last bicycle on earth. But for others, it’s the dream machine they’ve given up hope of finding. If you’re old or infirm and you need a bicycle that can easily haul you home when you can’t manage another pedal stroke, this is one of the best options available. As a boat tender, the bike would cope with steep, unpaved climbs from remote harbours and carry back provisions on its substantial rear rack. The Quando would also suit a commuter in a hilly city, storming up gradients that leave conventional cyclists puffing and blowing.There are smaller electric folders available, of course, but this machine folds well enough to carry in most car boots, by train, or by boat, assuming reasonable stowage space.
The price remains a bit vague for the time being, but the target is £650 – cheaper than the much less effective Bliss or Powabyke folders. If the makers can achieve that, they have a guaranteed winner.
Ezee Quando (estimated price) £650
Weight (bicycle) 20.2kg (battery) 5.5kg (total) 25.7kg (57lb)
Gear ratio 53″
Batteries nickel-metal hydride
Capacity 324Wh . Range 15 miles
90% charge 4+ hours
Fuel consumption 30Wh/mile
Manufacturer Shanghai Ezee Kinetic Technology
fax +86 21 58224040 mail sales@ezeebike web www.ezeebike.com
European enquiries Ken Ching mail firstname.lastname@example.org