E-Bikes Go to War

May 26, 2022

Washington Post:

During World War II, motorcycles were widely used by militaries to conduct reconnaissance missions. Japanese forces took to pedal-powered bicycles during the conflict’s Malayan campaign, using them to outmaneuver British troops moving more slowly on foot — in what became known as the “Bicycle Blitzkrieg.”

Now, Ukrainian fighters are using electric bikes in the battle against Russia, mostly in support of reconnaissance missions, demining operations and medical deliveries, according to one of the Ukrainian e-bike makers involved. They’ve reportedly also been used for carrying out sniper attacks. The bikes have a top speed of 55 miles per hour and are relatively silent — helping their riders evade Russian fire.

Ukrainian e-bike firm Eleek initially gave a few bikes to the military when the war began, according to manager Roman Kulchytskyi. Soon after, they began to mass-produce bikes — kitted out in military green, with a small Ukrainian flag on the rear wheel — for Ukraine’s fighters.

“When the war started, we were shocked at first. … Everyone was worried and thought about what to do,” Kulchytskyi told The Washington Post. “But we all rallied.”

Working from a bomb shelter, Eleek began making a power bank based on lithium-ion battery cells it had left in stock. After struggling for parts, it turned to electronic cigarettes — launching a social media campaign to get people to send in their devices.

The military version of the bike was stripped down to remove parts such as mirrors and rotating lights that were considered unnecessary for trail riding. The company added footrests for passengers, improved the charging time, installed a battery control system and included a 220V output that allows soldiers to charge gadgets and can help power Starlink satellite Internet terminals, Kulchytskyi said.

The bikes, which are fitted with relatively fat tires, are particularly useful in forested areas where riders can carve their own paths along unsealed trails. They weigh about 140 pounds — light compared with motorbikes — but can carry relatively heavy loads. One video posted on social media showed an armed Ukrainian fighter zipping along a road on an e-bike, apparently traveling as fast as an accompanying vehicle.

Another advantage of the bikes is that they may not be visible on thermal imaging systems, which are used to detect differences in temperature and help militaries pinpoint potential targets. That’s because the electric motor doesn’t heat up like an internal combustion engine, Kulchytskyi said.

Daniel Tonkopi, founder of e-bike company Delfast, wrote on Facebook this month that his California-based firm has been donating electric bikes to the Ukrainian army since the war broke out.

He included pictures of the bikes carrying antitank weapons and said he had received feedback from the military that they planned to use the bikes to target Russian armored vehicles. During one recent mission, they recounted to him that several vehicles came back with holes but that the riders were intact.


2 Responses to “E-Bikes Go to War”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    If you have a solar pack you can unroll you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel in a war zone.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      (Not that recharge would be quick, but nobody else has to be put at the risk of fuel transport.)

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