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2013-10-05 11.18.27.jpgreview-line.JPGName: Smart e-bike 

Electric bike 

Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price as reviewed: £2495

I love cycling, but living in a particularly hilly part of North London I'm not really inclined to take the bike out on long rides, unless I wanted to attend meetings in a big sweaty heap. So the idea of getting an electric bike or Pedelec (Pedal Electric Cycle) does appeal. 

Back in April I reported on a new range of electric bikes from German firm A2B including a very retro looking number called the Galvani (see my review here). Very different, however, is this new electric bike from car manufacturer Smart. Developed and built in conjunction with electric bike experts GRACE, it looks like a bike for the iPhone generation, similar at first glance to the original Go Cycle, but much, much sturdier. 

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Indeed, the first thing you notice about this bike is its weight. Tipping the scales at 26.1Kg (57.5lbs) it really is a big beast, much heavier than a conventional mountain bike, let alone road bike. This is largely down to the whopping 423 Wh Lithium Ion battery which, the manufacturer claims, can deliver a range of up to 62 miles on a single charge 

Smart and stylish

Styling, as you might expect from a brand like Smart, is exceptional. There's a comfortable green and white coloured leather saddle and the battery - though heavy - is discreetly located within the framework and can easily be removed for charging. 

Key to the bike's control is the console panel that sits in the centre of the bike between the handlebars. This displays information about the bike's speed, distance travelled and whether the bike is in Power Assist or Generator mode (more of this later). When the console is switched on the headlamp and the tail lamp also both switch on (reflective strips on the sides of the tyres are also provided for safety).

Optional extras includes a smartphone cradle and a luggage carrier to fit on the back though neither was included on my review sample.

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A beautiful green bell is included on the left handlebar though to be honest I was expecting something a little more hi-tech. On the right handlebar sits the gear lever (just three gears are provided) and the all important +/- buttons which can be used to control how much power assist you need (this toggles between minus three and plus three). 

Originally this adjustable assistance handle sat in the middle of the bike, but Smart has now moved this to the right to provide greater stability. It also makes more sense to have it next to the gears as the two functions are complementary. Rather than a standard bike chain, the Smart has a carbon drive belt which is much more reliable.

Got the power

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Apart from the fact that it's extremely heavy the Smart e-bike can be ridden as an ordinary bike. However, that's really no fun. The best bit about the e-bike is using the Power Assist function by pressing the +/- buttons on the handlebar. 

As the Smart is a Pedelec it works by providing assistance only when you exert pressure on the pedals - a bit like being shoved in the back to get you going. Stop pedalling and the pedal assist will stop too. Three levels of power assist are provided though generally you only need the highest level when you are cycling up a really steep hill. 

I found most of the time level one was enough, though I sometimes used level 2 to get a bit of acceleration - it's particularly handy when you are stuck in traffic. Maximum speed with pedal assist is 25Km/h (15.5 miles per hour) though without Pedal Assist you can cycle as fast as you like - within the speed limits of course.

Alternatively, for those feeling particularly fit (or just riding down hill) it's also possible to ride the bike in 'generator' mode, effectively putting charge back into the battery. Because the bike has regenerative brakes the electric motor also acts as a generator when the brakes are applied.  

Would I buy one?

For wealthy brand-conscious eco-warriors who like the idea of cycling, but don't like the idea of hills, then the Smart e-bike possibly fits the bill. It looks great and rides well. Certainly it was a talking point among my cycling friends and everyone was keen to have a go.

It's just I can' t really see who is going to spend nearly £2.5K on an electric bike, especially when you consider that you could probably pick up a decent scooter for this sort of price and a fairly good road bike for half the price. 

Obviously at the moment the product isn't intended to be a mass-market proposition, but I think to really catch on even among the wealthy commuters it's aimed at I think it needs to be come down in price to at least £1500. 


Nice idea. Superbly styled, well made and has some nice features. But really who is going to spend £2500 on an electric bike? Also I'm not sure I would leave it even locked up in a bike rack as I'd be just too worried that someone was going to steal it! Let's hope the price comes down soon because I really like it, just not at this price. 




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In other parts of the world, Electric Bikes (e-bikes) are hugely popular. In 2013 sales are expected to reach 2 million with Germany and Japan leading the way with around 1 million units between them. 

Yet in the UK very few people have even heard of them, let alone bought them. Here e-bike sales are less than 50,000 per year though it's expected that initiatives such as e-bike rental for major cities like London will help boost numbers as well as raise awareness. 

Approximately 40 per cent of e-bikes are used for commuting purposes and they are particularly popular with older users (55 per cent of users are over 50) who are keen to cycle to keep fit but don't fancy the challenge of cycling up steep hills! Unlike scooters e-bikes don't require a licence and are also kinder to the environment (though of course you still need to use mains power to recharge the Lithium Ion battery).

Grand designs

Whereas early incarnations of e-bikes were little more than conventional pedal bikes with huge batteries strapped on them, later models have - thankfully - focused more on design. 

Unless you are a big aficionado of electric bikes, A2B is probably not a brand you've ever heard of. But they actually launched one of the first electric bikes, or e-bikes, nearly four years ago. Dubbed the A2B Metro it was quite well received at the time but at £2500 was quite pricey as well as fairly bulky tipping the scales at a hefty 37Kg. 

Since then the company has gone through a number of changes, including new ownership (it is now owned by Indian scooter firm, Hero-Electric) as well as a complete re-branding. Still available, the A2B Metro has been renamed the Octave while new models include the retro looking Galvani which I tested out at a launch at London's National Theatre. 

Also just launched are several new premium e-bikes manufactured in Germany, rather than the Far East where most are currently made. There's even a foldable electric bike, the Kuo which at 19Kg is the lightest in the range. The aim for 2015 is to get the whole range down below 20Kg, making them much nearer the weight of a conventional pedal bike. 

Retro styling

Expected to retail for £1400 the Galvani looks like a conventional, if somewhat retro-styled hybrid bike at first glance but differs in one key respect - underneath the rear pannier sits a 36V Lithium Ion Battery. 

Two versions are available (male and female) though the male retro-looking version is by far the more attractive of the two. I tested out the black model but it is also available in white and silver versions. Weighing in at around 23Kg, the Galvani is a little heavier than a conventional pedal bike, but there is a Shimano Alivio 8 speed gear box if you want to change gears manually and use it in non-powered mode to give your legs and lungs a work out. 

As I was cycling on a flat surface I kept it in fourth gear, and switched on the power assist using the backlit display in the centre of the handlebars. 

Feel the force


Three Power Assist modes are provided and they take a little getting used to. However, basically the harder you pedal the more assistance will be provided. The end result is that you can find yourself going quite fast without having to put that much effort in, especially driving along a flat surface. 

Maximum speed is limited to 25Km/h (15.5 miles per hour) to comply with legal requirements. Any faster and the bike would be classified as a scooter and you would require a licence. Either you can charge the battery via the mains in situ on the bike or you can remove it and charge it in your house if you prefer. Charging takes around 4 to 6 hours and gives a range of up to 90Km depending on how much you use the Power Assist modes. 

So would I buy an electric bike? Probably not but that's because I don't like the idea of cycling in rush hour traffic around London, even with a motor. However, if I wanted to commute by bike and lived somewhere quite hilly then I certainly would consider it. At £1450 it's not exactly cheap, but it would be a good investment especially when you consider how much public transport prices have gone up. See YouTube videos of A2B Galvani Electric Bike below:


Model: A2B Galvani 

Price: £1450

Speed: Maximum speed 25km/h (15.5mph)

Range: Up to 90km (56 miles)

Battery: Lithium-Ion, 36v 9ah (recharging 

Motor: 250w brushless DC hub motor

Brakes: Tektro V brakes

Tyres: 28inch x 1.75 Kenda Khan

Weight: 22.8Kg

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Luxury eco hotel sets up camp in Antarctica

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When we saw BBC's Frozen Planet and experienced the marvels of Earth's polar regions - accompanied by the inspiring guidance of David Attenborough - we've felt the an urge grow within to pack our bags and go on an adventure.

But we've not been sure of how we'd cope in tiny tents (or huts) with the cold polar winds biting outside, travelling only with the help of dog sleighs and skis. Until now.

Whichaway Eco Camp now offers explorers the chance to experience the Antarctic a little more comfortably, yet still sustainably.

Guests will be able to stay the night in one of six tents located on dry land, 70 metres above the ice. They may look like oversized golf balls, but the frameless structures comprise of aerospace composite panels that slot together to have the strength of a normal building yet the mobility of a tent, to keep you warm and cosy. Each tent has an en-suite bathroom and a writing desk (for those important journal entries).

The camp consists of two more tents where you'll find the dining area, library, kitchen and communications area (Expect to see a "just checked-in at the Antarctic" on your social media feed soon).

You can only travel there during the Antarctic summer season which is November till December, so you'll have to book yourself in fast. After that the camp is de-constructed to ensure the environment isn't damaged.

The only thing that will be damaged is your bank balance. The cheapest trip, a three day safari with Mantis, will set you back around £20,000, but for the chance to see Emperor Penguins in their natural habitat, we think it's worth it.

[Via Aftenposten]

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If you're in the market for a new car, you might not have considered a hybrid car. For all their environmentally friendly abilities, a lot of people overlook the numerous other advantages that the hybrid car has to offer.

Hybrid cars are available in a range of models and makes, to suit anyone's need. Started back around 2004 by the likes of Lexus UK, the range of hybrid vehicles available has quickly spread to suit all needs and tastes. To this end, here is some of the information and advantages about the hybrid car that you might not have considered.

Less Fuel, More Money

Whilst everyone knows that a hybrid car is, as the name suggests, a hybrid of petrol engines and electric motors, not many people take the time to consider the financial benefits of this. Petrol, as a primary fuel source for your vehicle, is not cheap. The more you use, the more you have to spend.

Since hybrid cars are designed to use as little fuel as possible, you don't end up buying as much as you would with a conventional petrol consuming vehicle. Since you're not filling the tank up as often, you'll soon find yourself saving a large amount of money. As petrol isn't set to become cheaper any time soon, now would be a great time to switch to hybrid and start saving money.

Other Financial Benefits

Yet saving fuel isn't the only financial advantage you can receive with a hybrid car. Road tax is often cheaper for hybrid and other low emission vehicles. This might not be as important as fuel, but its a crucial annual payment none the less.


Of course, a hybrid car is still a car at the end of the day. You need it to fulfil certain purposes. Fortunately, hybrid cars don't sacrifice anything in terms of performance and usability to save the environment.

Since petrol is still used when necessary, these hybrid cars can still reach high speeds. This ensures that you can use your new vehicle on motorways and other areas that require a certain speed. The petrol provides a little extra power when you need it.

Fuel efficiency

Likewise, the rest of the car is also often designed to use as little fuel as possible. This means light weight materials are common place, and that hybrid cars boast excellent fuel efficiency. With additional streamlining and intelligent design to shift between the fuel engine and electric motor, hybrid cars can provide a surprisingly smooth driving experience.

In summary, these are just a few of the major benefits of the hybrid car. This isn't including the obvious benefit of saving the planet; less emissions emitted by hybrid vehicles instead of traditional petrol based cars results in less harm to the environment. So, whether you want to save the atmosphere, or simply want a car that saves you lots of money whilst providing a reliable driving experience, a hybrid car has a lot more to offer than you might think.

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As the capital strives to get more cyclists friendly (how is that going Boris..?), these panda approved DIY bikes from Camden, Maine, sound pretty cool - and what a great sustainable mode of transportation!


Launched in 2008 to develop a better bike for the developing world, the Bamboo Bike Studio dedicates itself to 'building a more affordable, higher quality bicycle made from locally sourced bamboo and labour.'

While their initial work targeted consumers in the developing world, they've since expanded their efforts in the US and now have bike studios in cities like San Francisco, and Toronto in addition to its Camden, Maine headquarters.

For DIY fans there is also now the option to buy build it yourself kits. Take that IKEA!
Choose between The Local (the perfect cruiser for meandering around town) or The Express (for those that enjoy longer fitness inspired rides).

Read more about the bamboo bikes here.

2011-Renault-Kangoo-ZE-Front-Side-View.jpgIs the white van man about to be replaced by the green van man? Today the government's plug-in car grants scheme is to be extended to vans, with buyers being allowed to claim up to £8,000 off their new electric vehicle.

Under the new scheme, owners can receive 20 per cent off the cost of a plug-in van, capped at top value of £8,000 while electric car buyers will continue to be able to claim 25 per cent of the value of their vehicles, capped at a maximum value of £5,000.

It is a year since the plug-in car grants first launched, with the Department for Transport recently revealing that just 1052 eligible were sold through the scheme in 2011 - using up just £5.26 million of the £250 million allocated for the consumer incentive.

Transport Minister Norman Baker said: "Electric vehicles are the arrowhead for a low carbon revolution in motoring and as more models come to market we'll begin to see sales gather pace.

"Car buyers have had a year to take advantage of our grant and now it's time for van buyers to get their chance to go electric. This is great news for businesses given the lower running costs of these vehicles - fleet buyers tell us that this is one of the most important factor influencing their decision on what to buy."

There are currently 10 cars eligible for the Plug-In Car Grant - 5 of which came onto the market in 2011, with the other half expected to be available to purchase this year.

From today, van manufacturers will be able to apply for their vehicles to become part of the scheme. The first eligible vans are expected to be announced before the end of the month, with vehicles such as Renault's Kangoo Z.E (pictured) likely to appear on that early list.

Let's hope businesses embrace green vehicles more than consumers have so far. However, without a major development in the network of electric charging points - and with electric vehicles costing so much more than petrol vehicles - I suspect it is going to take some time to turn white van man green.

Via The Green Car website

Could this be the future of Formula One racing? Green, motor racing fans will be hoping so. Unveiled at the International Low Carbon Conference at Birmingham's NEC it's an all-electric prototype racing car, dubbed the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV.

Project pioneer Lord Drayson, former Minister for Science and Innovation, said he hoped the vehicle would break lap records for electric vehicles at tracks around the world.

Says Lord Drayson: "Electric racing is really taking off with the launch of the new FIA Formula E World Championship for electric racing cars planned for 2013 and we are delighted to be able to showcase at this conference the work we are doing to prepare for this exciting new championship.

"Electric racing is a major new business opportunity for motorsport and underlines the growing commercial potential of green racing with new drivetrains, new materials, new fuels and new aerodynamic developments that will be highlighted at the conference. It is an exciting time to be a race engineer."

Adds Robin Brundle, Lola Group managing director. "This innovative new project will evidence several new technologies with a variety of well-known technical suppliers, to show that zero carbon, clean racing can be fast and exciting whilst offering a stimulating engineering challenge."

The Lola-Drayson is expected to hit the track for testing during the last quarter of this year before competing at the FIA electric car championship in 2013.

London's latest double decker bus has hit the streets of the UK capital for the first time, after first being revealed back in November 2010.

Described as a true "21st century bus" and the "most environmentally friendly of its kind", it's the first time in 50 years London has had a bus designed specifically for its streets.

Built by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland and set to be operated by Arriva, it's green credentials boast a hybrid set-up that promises twice as efficient fuel consumption over a standard diesel bus at 11.6mpg.

Test showed the bus emitted only 640 grams per kilometre (g/km) of carbon dioxide and 3.96 g/km of oxides of nitrogen (NOx). These figures are less than half the carbon dioxide emitted by a current diesel bus (1295g/km), and under half the NOx emitted too at 9.3g/km.

The bus will serve the 38 route from Victoria to Hackney as of February 2012, and is one of 8 new designs set to hit the tarmac in London next year.

"Christmas has arrived early in the form of this revolutionary new bus whose gleaming coat of red paint and sinuous curves will brighten the day of all who see it humming along our great city's streets," said Boris.

"It is the latest, greatest masterpiece of British engineering and design, and I am certain it will become a much-loved and iconic vehicle akin to the legendary Routemaster from which it draws so much inspiration."

But forget all that; the best bit, as true Londoners will attest to, is that the jump-on platform a the rear of the bus is back! Sure, it's now doored as standard, but will bring back many happy memories to those who ran and caught a ride at the very last minute, Indiana Jones style.

Via: TFL

How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

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Honda hybrid.jpgWith a number of recent developments propelling hybrid cars into the forefront of public attention, people are beginning to consider updating their existing vehicles to more eco-friendly models. But how exactly do hybrid cars work? And what are the benefits which they offer motorists?

Hybrid cars are different from electric cars in that they operate using both an electric motor and a traditional petrol powered engine. This means that they are able to offer high levels of performance whilst keeping environmental effects low.

How Do They Work?

The initial energy of a hybrid car is generated by the petrol engine in the same way as a conventional car. The difference lies in what happens to this energy after it has been expelled. Rather than being wasted, as with normal cars, hybrid cars recapture it and use it to recharge the battery which powers the electric motor.

Honda logo.jpg The electric motor is designed to boost the power and performance of the car, meaning that the traditional engine is not required to do as much work. This means that the car continues to perform at a consistently high level but uses less petrol, making it have better fuel efficiency and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

What Are The Benefits?

Of course, the main benefits of hybrid cars are those which relate to the environment. Low emission cars are those which emit lower levels of carbon dioxide from their exhaust fumes, thus lowering the harmful effects on the environment.

Alongside these benefits, hybrid cars also have a number of economical advantages for their owners. A number of hybrid cars are exempt from costs such as the congestion charge and may be subject to reduced rates of road tax. This means that drivers can reap financial benefits whilst protecting the environment.

What Types of Hybrid Vehicle Are Available?

Hybrid vehicles are available in a number of different formats and styles, meaning that there is a model suitable for all needs. Even a 4x4 car can have lower carbon dioxide emissions to make it more environmentally friendly, meaning there is no excuse for motorists not to protect the environment.

An example of one hybrid car available in a number of formats is the Honda Insight. This vehicle comes in a number of different models, such as the SE, SE-T, ES, ES-T and EX. These are all individually priced and will come with different features and will boast different carbon emission and fuel efficiency levels.

They all utilise a 1.3 petrol hybrid engine and their mile per gallon ration varies from 61.4mpg to 64.2mpg, depending on the particular model. All of the models are rated as "B" in the VED banding system, meaning that their road tax costs absolutely nothing each year. The cheapest of the models is the SE which costs under £17,000. The SE comes with a number of interior features designed to offer improved comfort, such as climate control, active headrests, arm rests and audio controls integrated into the steering wheel.

Electric CarA number of car manufacturers have made electric, hybrid and low-CO2 emitting vehicles over the past few years, including the likes of Fiat, Honda and Citroen, as well as more niche brands like Tesla Motors.

Most people see these cars as brilliant ideas, but they're often considered a bit too pricey or high maintenance, so reserve a space in the idea of the perfect world we'd all love to live in, where there's also global peace, no diseases and calorie-free cake.

Well now it seems that the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wants to make that dream a reality after he unveiled ambitious plans to ensure all taxis in the city are electric in ten years, a project he's dubbed Source London. Wow that guy loves transport doesn't he?!

The announcement was made at EcoVelocity, a huge motor show specialising in electric and low-carbon motors. The show will be running at Battersea power station this weekend and looks like it'll be interesting to lovers of design, green tech AND fancy cars.

By Becca Caddy

[Via Metro]

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So you're en route to doing a spot of environmentally-friendly shopping and for the most part, you'll be using your own two feet to get around. Again, for the most part. You may have not yet found a comfortable green alternative of transport so the bus or car will just have to slightly cramp your sustainable lifestyle. Well here's something that just may save you and I a guilt trip...

It's GOGREENCAR. A green alternative to cabs, the service operates a 40-strong fleet of hybrid cars that boast 60% less pollutant emissions than the regular black cab. GOGREENCAR was founded in 2007 and, like all green initiatives, is a case of fuelling wonderfully massive environmental change through little schemes and great passion.The service is economical as well as ecological, claiming to charge rates that are easy on the wallet. Plus, they are a gigantic leap up from the Hackney cabs first mentioned four years ago, claiming to emit 98% less Nitrogen Oxide.

So which HEV did the eco-friendly service opt for? The top-selling Toyota Prius of course, in addition to Lexus RS. GOGREENCAR's site reminds us the Prius uses a fuel-efficient electric motor, and its engines drives the generator to both power the electric motors and charge the battery. Acceleration is supplemented by more battery power and any energy recovered, for instance from braking, is kept for later use. The Prius is THE number one choice for enviro-friendly car services.

Having said that, there are other environmentally-friendly cab services like Climatecars and Greentomatocars, taking online bookings and calls for both corporate and private hire. Also, GOGREENCAR offer a weekly prize draw to win a free trip in their GOGREENCAR!

Festival chic the eco way

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Festival season has begun! It's time for weeks and weeks of enjoying live music and chilling with your friends with an organic cider or three. Festivals also mean camping - unless you've booked yourself in at a local B&B - and having your usual beauty routine put on hold.

If you're heading off to Glastonbury next week or any of the other happenings this summer, we've gone searching for gadgets and clothes that let you enjoy the days while still being environmentally friendly.


Ford have reinvented their classic Focus car this year for the Geneva Motor Fest by whipping out the internal combustion engine and replacing it with a battery. Their new Focus Electric is run completely on electricity and has no carbon emissions.

It's not just a model for the show either - it's going into production this year and will be available in the US and Europe by 2013. It's one of five electrified vehicles they hope to deliver and the flagship vehicle for the manufacturers.

They say it's dynamic and powerful reaching a maximum speed of 136 kph (84 mph) but quiet and sleek as well with an aerodynamic design. Gadget lovers that we are, we like the sound of the personalised interior that will sync with your gadgets and provide intuitivie intelligent driving controls...

Charging times are as laid below....
* Powerful on board charging equipment can charge the Focus Electric in three to four hours, if the car is plugged to an appropriate public charging station
* Connected to a dedicated charging box at home, the charging time will be five to six hours and will range from eight to nine hours from a standard European household plug

We're interested to hear more...

All I want for Christmas 12 December: a good book

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eat slow.jpgDespite the iPad taking the world with storm, there is sometimes nothing better than to curl up in the sofa with a good book. For anyone interested in great organic British food, check out the third book in Sawday's hugely successful Go Slow series: Eat Slow Britain.

Take a journey to forty-five of Britain's most special places to eat and meet owners and chefs who grow their own food, source only the very best local produce, and who prepare it all with love and flair - all from the comfort of your own home! Eat Slow Britain is published in collaboration with the Soil Association, and also focuses on some of Britain's best organic food producers.

Discover the flavours of British foods, and meet artisan cheese makers, master bakers, farmers and brewers, and get a couple ideas for your holiday next year too.

Available from the bookshop at Sawday's for £12.99 + delivery.

Photos: Sawday's

Re-cycle! Recycled bike gear

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Everyone knows that getting on your bike is a great way to reduce CO2 emissions while keeping fit. Why not go the extra mile and make your cycling as green as possible.

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