|Electric power for cyclists
when the pedalling gets tough
SUSAN WATTS, Technology Correspondent
Sir Clive Sinclair's fortunes have always been
precarious, but his new venture could hang by a
strip of Velcro.
His latest innovation, the Zeta, is a
shoebox-sized device that turns an ordinary
bicycle into an electric one. A quick road test
at the London launch yesterday revealed either a
design problem or a cunning safety feature.
The lid of the box, apparently held on by just
a strip of Velcro, clattered to the ground as I
rode slowly down a shallow kerb. Could this be
intended to deter cyclists who enjoy bumping up
and down kerbs?
The Zeta (Zero-Emission Transport Accessory)
is available by mail order only from this
weekend. Sir Clive hopes to eventually sell it
through bicycle shops.
It is aimed at people who might enjoy the
freedom of cycling, but are wary of hills or do
not want to get too sweaty. The electric motor,
similar to those used in electric wheelchairs, is
kicked into action by pulling a small red lever
on the handlebars. This has to be held on all the
time (a legal safety requirement so the unit cuts
out after a fall), making braking with the left
Two years ago, Sir Clive launched the £500
Zike - a wobbly electric bicycle with small
wheels. He claims to have sold 'over 2,000' but
admitted his original target was substantially
higher. The Midlands-based company that was to
manufacture the Zike had an initial production
target of 10,000 bikes per month. When asked what
happened, Sir Clive said yesterday: 'We guessed
Other designs for electric bicycles have
usually included small rollers that sit on the
side of the tyre. Sir Clive's new unit sits on
top of the back wheel, where a luggage rack would
normally go, and uses a smooth, rotating rubber
belt to transfer power to and from the wheel.
Downhill, the Zeta limits the bike's speed to
15 miles per hour - the legal limit for electric
bicycles - with excess power fed back to the
battery. If the rider lets the Zeta do all the
work its sealed lead-acid rechargeable battery
will last for 10 miles. If the rider pedals as
well, the range can increase to 30 miles. The
Zeta is recharged overnight, at a cost of about
1p, Sir Clive said.
Riders need no tax or licence, but must be
over 14 to use the Zeta on public roads. The unit
costs £144.95 and weighs 10lb.