Up to 250 watts can be activated to assist in reaching speeds of up to 25 km/h. In addition, there are a wide variety of other electrical two-wheel devices in use in Germany and abroad, though these do not legally qualify as bicycles. Compared with a country like China, however, these other devices are not as popular in Germany.
The Pedelec works via an electrical motor that starts automatically when pedalling begins. Energy is supplied via a removable battery that is typically attached to the bicycles frame or rack. The pedalling assistance can be switched on or off as needed.
The potential of bicycles on long distance routes
Small-sized, electrically assisted vehicles have originally held the image of serving the elderly and physically feeble. However, Pedelecs render steep slopes, head winds, long-distance commutes, and achieve higher speeds more easily for everyone. Increasingly, electrical assistance is being marketed towards use for longer-distance bicycle tours. In addition, use of electrically assisted bicycles for steep slopes is being piloted by projects in Tübingen (with university hospitals located at the top of the mountain), Stuttgart, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (where Pedelec rental systems work in collaboration with local public transport), in the Chiemgau area, and in the Thuringian Sea region (where Pedelec rentals are used for tourist purposes).
Many unanswered questions
The relatively new concept of Pedelecs in mobility research and traffic planning is still in its beginning phases, and many questions have arisen that need yet to be answered:
- Will the increased use of Pedelecs impact traffic accidents, and how will road safety priorities have to shift as a result?
- How might train stations be upgraded to accommodate Pedelec parking (for example, via small lockers to store the expensive batteries)? Fire safety concerns resulting from the storage of large numbers of electrically-assisted bicycles and their batteries remain unclear.
- Will the Pedelec be shared by entire households (and potentially substitute a second car) or will it most often be used by one person, as has been true for the traditional bicycle?
- How will the market for electrically assisted three-wheel bicycles continue to develop (for going shopping with children, for example), and how will the increased use of such bicycles impact the need for parking in densely populated areas?
- The impact on health also remains unclear. On the one hand, the use of Pedelecs increases exercise as compared with the use of motor vehicles, thanks to the continuous motion applied over long distances. Thus, regular exercise is built into the daily rhythm. On the other hand, the use of the Pedelec may have the opposite effect on segments of the population currently using traditional bikes, such as among young people.
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