Say hello to the future of commuting

March 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Move over, Segway! There's a new personal commuting device in town. It's an electric bike, but it's unlike any bicycle you've ever seen.

It's called the YikeBike. It's faster than a speeding Segway. Designed in New Zealand, the first ones are arriving in the US. This new carbon fiber model arrived hours ago for Ron Ocampo.

"You're low to the ground," he describes it. "It's almost like a small adrenaline rush every time you get on one. So this is something right up my alley."

Ron owns Auto Spa, a custom auto shop in Walnut Creek. And, yes, this baby fits right in.

It's "very much along the lines of what we sell here. Plus I've really been a gadget guy all my life. I think a lot of people are really going toward being green and being more environmentally conscious. And this is a really fun way to do it," he says.

The bike's got headlights, turn signals, tail lights -- even regenerative braking, like a Prius. The motor and the battery are inside the wheel. A YikeBike can charge in less than an hour.

It folds down to the size of a backpack and weighs just 21 pounds. Ocampo envisions fleets of these things running around Silicon Valley corporate campuses. "Companies like Google, Facebook and Pixar, where they allow and provide bicycles on campus. People who fly small aircraft would appreciate it, too," he said.

In Europe, they already appear on buses and trains. So BART is a natural, he says.

Andy Renteria of Berkeley heard about it on the Internet and rushed over for spin. He works at a bike shop, so isn't this heresy? "Oh, no," he says. "I don't feel that way at all. I see a lot of other people riding electric bikes. So, it's getting to be less a novelty and more a common form of transportation."

The YikeBike will do better than 15mph. And it'll do it for more than 6 miles on a standard charge. But, if you get the extra batteries, you could go 18 miles between charges. Are you going to ride this thing that far? Of course you are! Well, maybe. The YikeBike is selling for $2,000 to $4,000.

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