Medienberichte und Publikationen rund um Fahrräder, Pedelecs, Technik und Sicherheit

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Stuttgarter Zeitung, 2017/04/01

"Never let the electric bicycle stand in the blazing sun"

Safety expert Dirk Zedler knows about the risks in the new electric world of cycles. He also describes why expensive bicycles provide more protection against accidents and states who will get along quite well with an entirely normal bicycle.

Dirk Zedler (54) is an expert in bicycle technology. The graduate engineer is founder and managing director of Zedler-Group in Ludwigsburg dealing with all fields of bicycle technology.

Mr. Zedler, the demand on electric bicycles is still increasing at a rapid pace, at the same time there are reports about an increasing number of accidents. What is the risky thing about electric bicycles?
First of all, it is the cyclist himself. Electric bicycles are often used by elder people who were used to a certain speed for decades. Now, as they ride faster all of a sudden, some of them misjudge the speed and ride for example too fast into a bend. The heavy weight of about 25 kg makes the stopping distance longer and pushes downhill. In addition, other road participants underestimate the speed of electric bicycles which results in collisions. And on top of all that some bicycles provide technical pitfalls?

What do you mean by that?
Simple motor systems do not stop working when the cyclist stops pedalling. These motors propel another one or two seconds after the cyclist has stopped pedalling. This is dangerous of course, because the cyclist normally stops pedalling in order to slow down. Modern motors are no longer concerned by this kind of problem. High-value processors in the motor recognize the rider’s wish at any time and react accordingly.

How do you know whether the electric bicycle has a modern motor or not?
The best way to find it out is a test run. But the brand and the price are also decisive factors. When you buy a new electric bicycle with the motor of a market leader, the motor runs state-of-the-art. These bicycles, however, are available at prices from about 1,800 Euro on. An electric bicycle bought at the DIY-store at 499 or 999 Euro hasn’t got this technology.

Does that mean that cheap electric bicycles are dangerous?
As regards the motors’ running on, yes. But the same applies to other components which are often not state-of-the-art. In general, electric bicycles may provide advantages in terms of safety. As weight is not so important when cycling with motor assistance, manufacturers can mount the slightly heavier disc brakes and a powerful lighting set without disadvantages. But more quality and safety for brakes and light cost more money.

We heard about real horror stories about burning batteries. Recently in Hanover, a complete shop burnt down after the explosion of a rechargeable battery.
What I said about the motors also applies to batteries. There are manufacturers that use state-of-the-art technology to prevent the battery from malfunction. Cheap batteries, however, often have a dangerous inner life. This starts with simple connectors permitting wrong charging and refers to the battery-management-system switching off the battery when one of the cells gets too warm during service. Lots of electric bikers only have a limited knowledge about batteries in general.

What should you know in fact?
The battery’s memory effect which was usual in former days is a thing of the past. The battery should therefore be charged often, that is to say after every longer ride and preferably at ambient temperature in a dry room. You should not leave your electric bicycle too long in the blazing sun, just to mention two examples.

Someone like you who is dealing with bicycles every day – how to you assess the electric bicycle in general?
Electric bicycles, as a matter of fact, are a great thing for example for cargo bikes or when they make people of completely different performance levels cycle together again. An electric bicycle is also a useful every day vehicle in a hilly area. For example commuters in Stuttgart have to overcome up to 300 altitude meters in the extreme case. For them electric bicycles are a great thing. If you live for example in Munich, Hamburg or Berlin, there are quite wonderful bicycles without motor and they are absolutely ok as means of transport in such a plain region. The ordinary standard bicycle hasn’t lost its right to exist at all.

The interview was held by: Jürgen Löhle