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The Tomcat “e-Bullet” – “Power Assist” technology

The Tomcat “e-Bullet” – “Power Assist” technology
18th September 2018 Bob Griffin

The New Power Assist Tomcat Bullet – allowing you to become more active outdoors

This British-made electric trike is completely transportable and can be driven effortlessly with easy an to use gear system and or a little pedal assist, allowing for more physical activity.

 

 

At Tomcat, we are very pleased with the enormous success of our new Bullet trike, because it has the innovation to get almost any adult cycling, no matter how mild or how major their difficulties.  But in addition to that, almost every model in the range can be fitted with electric power assistance that adds a new dimension to the ease, enjoyment, range, social engagement and the sheer joy of cycling.  The advantages of e-power are fairly obvious on a bike, but if you are thinking of a tricycle, you probably have some health issue even if they are very mild, so what do you need to know about electric trikes?

What does power assist mean and how does it work.

As the name suggests, a power-assisted e-Bullet helps the rider propel the trike with a little or a lot of help from an electric motor, but the motor only kicks in when the rider turns the pedals in the normal way.

Think of power-assist as a tandem bike with an electric motor replacing your companion.  You can either do your fair share of pedalling or if you’re feeling tired or lazy, you can sneakily let them do most of the work while you take it easy!  Some buddy you turned out to be!  Fortunately, “Power Assist” won’t mind!

How will I notice the difference between an e-Bullet and a normal Bullet?

The obvious effect is that you will travel faster and further with for less effort, but e-bike technology is very clever and can sense when more power is required from the motor to cope with a hill for example.

For the rider, the technology automatically smooth’s out the steepness of the Cotswold Hills into the gently rolling Salisbury Plains. Generally speaking, with a combination of the trikes gears and e-power settings, you can travel at a speed of your choosing with as much or as little effort as you want.

How does it work?

There are 5 key parts to an e-Bullet system.

  • The motor
  • The battery
  • The rider interface (programmer)
  • The control module (onboard computer)
  • The speed sensor.

When you start to pedal the e-Bullet, the speed sensor detects pedal rotation and sends a signal to the control module, which in turn, applies battery power to the motor.  The amount of work the motor adds depends on how the rider sets the power level at the rider interface.

There are six power level settings which can be changed at any time, ranging from the motor doing just a little of the work, to doing a lot.  There is also a speed limited “start button” which gets the trike moving from a standing start, without your initial need to turn the pedals.  That can be a real friend if strength is a problem.

The system also includes a mains charger, which charges the battery when the battery is removed from the trike and a motor cut-out when the brakes are applied.

What does UK law say about Electric Assisted Trikes in England, Wales and Scotland?

To comply with UK law, electric power-assisted bikes and trikes must:

  • Have pedals that can be used to propel it.
  • Show either the power output or the manufacturer of the motor
  • Show either the battery voltage or the maximum speed of the trike
  • The electric motor must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
  • It should not be able to propel the trike at more than 15.5mph or 26kph.

Where can you legally ride an electric assisted trike

E-trikes that conform to the above rules can be ridden on cycle paths and anywhere else that pedal bikes are allowed.

Who can ride an electric assisted trike

You must be 14 years or older to ride an electric assisted trike in the UK

Special regulations for Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, to ride an electric trike in Northern Ireland you must apply for a moped licence (currently £55pa).  The vehicle must also be taxed and insured.  To register for tax with the DVLA use form V55/4 available at www.gov.uk

The importance of an “e” trike power to weight ratio.

A small family car like a Renault Clio, has a power of about 60,000 watts, making it 240 times more powerful than an e-bike which is limited by law to 250watts.  So to get the best performance from your 250watts it is important to keep the weight of the trike as low as possible.  Trikes built in near European countries where hills are not a problem, tend to be heavy – 40 to 60kg for standard pedal trikes and even more for e-trikes.  This reduces not just acceleration and hill climbing power, but also battery life and range.   Imagine your Clio towing a large caravan with four up, and you will get an idea of the importance of keeping weight to a minimum.  Batteries and motors make any e-bike intrinsically heavier, but the e-Bullet is just 30.5kg all in  – an astonishing difference that will have a great impact on acceleration, range, and the effort you put in – not to mention the environment.  Your 250watts are precious so don’t waste them!

What is the range?

That depends upon terrain and how you set your power level, but you should manage about 28 miles on a full charge.

Can I ride an e-Bullet normally if the power runs out, or when I want to pedal normally? 

Yes, you can.  Switch off the power at any time you choose, and pedal in the normal way.

Transportability.

Unlike most trikes in its class, the standard Bullet range is easily transportable in a medium family car, and the e-Bullet range is no different.   With the battery removed, the e-Bullet separates in seconds into three main components – the seat (4.9kg), the folding front wheel section (5.8kg) and the pedals and drive section (19.8kg), making the e-Bullet a much healthier and sporty alternative to the wheelchair.  When the basket and carrier are fitted, it is also great for shopping.

Who can use an e-Bullet?

For 20 years Tomcat has been a prolific innovator of ideas that have empowered riders with ever more complex disabilities to enjoy the health benefits of cycling, and in 2013, we won the coveted “Queens Award for Innovation” for the work we have done.  However, before the Bullet, adult trikes offered little or no assistance for adult riders with simple health or access issues or for more complex special needs.  The Bullet range has changed all that because we have designed it to include our prior innovations, meaning that almost every adult, regardless of their degree of special need, can now enjoy cycling.

That said, an e-Bullet can travel quite fast (15.5mph) so e-Bullet riders need to have the ability to ride safely.  This means the ability to independently steer and brake at that speed and of course, an understanding of the Highway Code.  Don’t forget that you can use an e-Bullet on cycle paths or other paths where cycling is allowed therefore you should also consider the safety of pedestrians and children.  If you cannot ride independently, we may still have a solution, but this will be a very special application designed for you, and we would need to consider your requirement on an individual basis.

What about security and insurance?

The battery is locked to prevent theft and can be removed very easily for added security, but it makes sense to secure the Bullet as you would an expensive bike when you leave it in public.  The basket makes a very useful carrier for a suitable chain, which we can supply for our customers at less than high street or internet prices.

It makes sense to have insurance for your e-Bullet.

If your home insurance doesn’t cover you, we can introduce you to affordable insurance policies that cover such essentials as breakdown and recovery, holiday cover, personal injury, punctures, vandalism, accidental damage, theft, fire and flood.

Does an e-bike have an extra-dimensional roll to play for cyclists with medical conditions that limit their cycling ability?

Clearly, power assist will be a great friend to anyone with strength or stamina difficulties; however, there are many health problems where we can use its features to overcome problems.  Arthritis, injury, and hip and knee joint problems are commonplace, however, there are many more circumstances besides, where power assist could be used to alleviate a particular medical condition that reduces full range of movement of the legs.  There are other special cases too, such as hemiplegia or restricted growth conditions.

Most adult bikes have a pedal crank length of 17 or 17.5cm which dictates how far the hip and knee joints move when you cycle, but some riders would find that amount of articulation painful.  If you suffer from arthritic hips, you will understand exactly what that means.  Excessive movement is painful, but inactivity is every bit as bad for you.

The obvious solution would be to shorten the cranks, but there is a very serious downside to doing that and it’s called “work”.  With shorter cranks, you would have to work far harder to propel yourself at the same speed, because science defines “work” as “force time’s distance”, and in pedalling torque terms, force is the amount of strength you have in your legs, whilst distance is the length of the crank.  Obviously, if the work or effort required is the same then if you shorten the cranks you will have to push the pedals harder – a very vicious circle!

However, power assist can be used to overcome that problem.  Choosing a standard Bullet trike will go a long way toward reducing work because of its lighter weight, but power assisted Bullet allows us to completely knock the problem on the head.  Where needed, we can fit shorter cranks to the e-Bullet and power assist will automatically take up the difference by using a higher power setting.

All too good to be true?  Well, it’s difficult to find a flaw in the wonderful new battery technology that is making our lives so much easier, more liberating and more fulfilling – not to mention fun!

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