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This electric bike is made for Imperial Stormtroopers

Gordon Mah Ung | April 20, 2016
Zeitgeist's carbon-fiber electric bike will go up to 100 miles on a charge and looks like it was built for the Empire.

Electric bikes have a problem. They can be as clunky as a moped, have limited range, and get shunned by other cyclists when used in bicycle lanes.

Zeitgeist hopes to address these concerns with the Beta X, an electric bicycle that fuses Scandinavian design with what could be one of the lightest eBike builds around.

We went hands-on with the Beta X and spoke with company execs about the creative decisions that go into producing an electric bike that, frankly, looks like it was designed for an Imperial Stormtrooper.

zeitgeist front wheel 
The Zeitgeist uses a carbon fiber frame to keep weight down. Credit: Zeitgeist

Carbon Fiber

One of the big knocks with eBikes is excessive weight, so Zeitgeist builds the Beta with a carbon fiber frame to shed pounds. While competing alloy bicycles might weigh 55 lbs. to 65 lbs. Zeigeist said the Beta X weighs in at 44 lbs. That’s still much heavier than a typical commuter bicycle, might weigh 15 lbs. to 25 lbs., but commuter bikes don’t have batteries and an electric motor, either.

There’s no suspension on the Beta X but carbon fiber generally rides softer anyway. Big 700c balloon tires also make the ride a little cushier. 

zeitgeist battery eject
The Zeitgeist Beta uses standard lithium ion cells in an easily removable battery pack. Credit: Zeitgeist

Battery pack

The Beta X's battery pack uses commodity lithium ion cells commonly found in laptops. The pack is easily removable so it can be charged away from the bike or swapped with a fresh pack. The company says it will charge in 4 hours, which is less than a typical work day. But with the Beta X's 80- to 100-mile range, you shouldn’t have to charge it every day.

zeitgeist profile
A torque sensor in the drive train adds more power to the motor as you pedal harder. After 28mph, due to laws regulating electrict bikes, all the work is on you.

Why you still pedal

Electric bikes feature either throttle controls on the handle bar, or torque sensors that adjust your bike's speed based on hard you pedal. Zeitgeist chose to design around the latter “pedelec” design. Pedal-based electric bikes also skirt laws regarding electric bicycles and their top speed.

A throttle-based bicycle that moves on its own power, without having to pedal, is legally required to stay under 20 mph to avoid being classified as a motorized vehicle. If it exceeds that speed, helmet laws as well as motorcycle licenses and registration would be required.

 

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