Recently, I came across a Time magazine article with the pithy title “Electric Bikes Sell as Gas Climbs.” (Apparently, for the first time in my life, I’m helping to set a trend instead of being oblivious to it.) Here’s a close-up of the bike being ridden in the article. It certainly looks cool. I have no idea how well it actually performs other than it takes the standard five hours to charge. From Time:

… sales [of electric bikes in general] are up about 50 percent so far this year over last. Inc. says sales of electric bikes surged more than 6,000 percent in July from a year earlier, in part because of its expanded offerings.

A few hundred dollars gets you an IZIP mountain bike from Amazon with a heavy lead-acid battery. For $1,400, you can buy a 250-watt folding bike powered by a more-powerful, longer-lasting nickel-metal hydride battery like those in a camera or a Toyota Prius. At the high end, $2,525 buys an extra-light 350-watt model sporting a lightweight lithium-ion battery similar to a laptop’s

89,000 electric bikes were sold in the Netherlands last year, while 60,000 power-assisted bikes were sold in Germany … in China, … they are selling at the rate of 2.6 million electric bikes a year.

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The Energy Bulletin has some really cool photos that document how the rest of the world bikes. I also have five photos sitting in my cell phone of electric bikes I’ve encountered in the past two weeks. Every one of them is a different model.

Following are a few electric bicycle comments culled from my inbox this week:

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… I just wanted to let you know I have been putting the bike through its paces. As they say in the space program ‘all systems are performing nominally’. One thing that was a real eye opener- The watts used. While I have only gotten over 600 watts for brief spikes, it is great to have that power in reserve. I think that the 750 watt limit on ‘street legal’ production bikes means that the off-the-shelf product will never really have satisfactory performance … After spending $2600 on two Chineese LiFePO4 packs and the fact that neither one currently works, I would very much like to try making my own

… You’ve got to be kidding me! I’m afraid I left those batteries in the pack for about a week with the controller “on” and now all four of those batteries just “blink” in the chargers. Do you think they’re really completely dead?

Not just dead, but irrepariably damaged, and good luck with that. I’m getting word that there is a shortage of electric bike components. China can’t make them fast enough.

On the old-fashioned two-wheelers: I also get the occasional comment from a beardless youth that goes something like this, “I’m young and fit and have no need for your girly man electric assisted bicycle. But, hey, if it gets you on a bike I’m all for it.”

The response I’m tempted to give would go something like this: “Tell that to my butt as I blow by you going up a steep hill. Having a throttle doesn’t mean you have to use it. Let me send you my recipe for Schweaty Balls. Nothing co-workers like better.”

The world really needs a standard battery pack as reliable, robust, and powerful as the 36-volt Dewalt power tool line, complete with a battery management system designed for electric bikes that can be charged in under and hour and be chained together as is done with 12-volt lead-acid batteries to obtain different voltages and amp-hour ratings.

In other bike news, the Seattle Critical Mass ride made headlines when another irate guy mowed down some bikers. I wasn’t on this ride but I’ve seen this happen several times. It usually doesn’t make the news. The injuries are not usually serious and the bikers don’t usually assault the driver or slash his tires after he plows through them — probably because they can’t catch him. These clashes are inevitable when you get hundreds of young men and women, but especially young men, unleashed from their work cubicles, riding bikes en masse on a Friday night.