Jay Leno Gets A Charge Out of Vintage Electric Bicycle

If it rolls, explodes, or makes noise, Jay Leno likes it. Recently he came across a young man named Andrew Davidge who started Vintage Electric while he was still in high school. He came across an electric bicycle, tore it apart and rebuilt it the way he wanted it to be — a retro looking beach cruiser machine that looks like it belongs in a Old Gold cigarette ad from the 30’s.

As things happened, people saw Leno riding his bike around town and asked where they could get one like it. (That’s the original bike in red.) Before long, Andrew had designed two other bikes, one with an Art Deco battery case and another that looks like an early Harley Davidson V Twin engine.

Each bike has a 3,000 watt hub motor sourced from Vespa and powered by a 52 volt lithium ion battery. Range is 30 miles (more if you pedal hard) and the battery takes just 2 hours to recharge. Davidge admits that when he pushes the bike to its 36 mph limit, his range drops to 26 miles, but he says his father, who rides very gently, can go 32 miles with ease. Legally, the bikes are limited to 20 mph when travelling on public roads, but there is a key switch that allows them to travel at 36 mph. That’s only for “off road race usage”, Davidge says with a sly smile.

Brakes are hydraulic mountain bike units, but the rider also has control over a regenerative braking function that slows the bike almost to a complete stop while also recharging the battery. There is also a small 12 volt battery for the LED headlight and tail lamp.

With help from Leno’s exposure, Vintage Electric has already sold 400 bikes and is shipping 10 – 15 more every week. Starting price is around $5,000. Some of the bikes use a chrome-moly frame, others use hydroformed aluminum. The frames are all made by hand at the factory in San Francisco. The fabrication work is first class, with beautifully done welds and excellent paint work.

Davidge says the bikes are popular with RV owners, who use them to get around when they get to their destination. The bikes are almost silent while in operation, except for the chortles they elicit from their riders. What a fun way to get around with zero emissions.


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.