The Santa Barbara Electric Bicycle Company opened its doors to the public Saturday, Oct. 1, and now that the company has rolled into town, students can buy electric bicycles for far less than they usually cost.
The company, which is located downtown at 630 Anacapa St., aims to promote electric bicycles as an environmentally friendly mode of travel, said Scott Shaw, the company’s founder. Shaw, who designs all of the bikes in his shop, said the bikes usually cost around $500 and come with a removable, rechargeable battery. He said students will get a 15 percent discount on any bike during the month of October.
Shaw said trips to Europe, Asia and Australia inspired him to design electric bikes to reduce the amount of pollution caused by automobile traffic. He said electric bikes typically cost $2,500, but he said his bikes are cheaper because he works directly with the manufacturers. Shaw said his bikes appeal to all ages because the design of the battery, which has more than one power setting, allows for the bike to be used in a variety of ways.
“Basically, the electric bikes can be normal because of the removable battery that can slide out,” Shaw said. “You can also turn the key off and ride it like normal, or if you encounter a hill you can turn it on and the pedal will assist you. The motor, that is silent, kicks in and helps you. The third option, if you’re just tired or lazy, [is] just push the throttle up and you don’t have to pedal.”
Electric bicycles are economical and convenient because the power source is a 16-pound battery, which can be charged at home, rather than expensive gasoline, Shaw said.
“The battery pack plugs in with a charger – like a laptop charger – into the wall so you can just take it home and plug it in,” Shaw said. “Batteries last for about 15 miles and it takes about four to six hours to charge. The batteries have about a 300-charge life. For most people it would last a year, because most people wouldn’t use it during the winter. And the replacement battery costs about $60.”
Electric bikes are just as efficient for commuting short distances as automobiles, Shaw said.
“Many people want to get to class or work by means of biking or being outside, and the bikes lend the opportunity to enjoy riding and commuting,” Shaw said.
Ralph Fertig, president of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, said he rides his bike as often as he drives his car. He said electric bikes are a nice option because anyone can ride one, regardless of their physical capabilities.
“When I have to go a long distance or down to L.A., I use my car,” Fertig said. “I live two miles from downtown and it takes me as long to drive as to bike, and with a bike I can park really close and do errands really efficiently,” Fertig said.
Fertig said he prefers riding a bike because it allows him to experience more of his surroundings.
“You’re not in a metal cage and can appreciate the world so much better,” Fertig said. “You can see your neighbors and animals, it makes it a lot more pleasant and enjoyable and you are away from the fumes.”