Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rockin' the Sanyo Eneloop: A First Look

Sanyo Eneloop Electric Bicycle Bike CY-SPA600NAThe Eneloop, debuting at 2009 Interbike and shining at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show(CES), is Sanyo's latest foray into the ebike market. Citing their bike/electronics origins and experience with battery technology (indeed, "Eneloop" is also the brand name for their line of rechargeable batteries), they describe it as "a cross between sustainability, stability, freedom and flight". Sanyo recently donated an Eneloop for use in the city motor pool, so having heard the hype, I was very excited recently when I got a chance to test ride one. First, the product details, then a few impressions.

The Bike
A lithium ion 26v 5.7 ah battery mounted amid-ships drives a 250 watt front hub, a rider powers a 3 speed internal hub in back. There is a torque sensor at the rear hub that supplies power proportionate to rider effort - the more you work, the more it helps. A curvaceous step-through frame on fairly narrow 1 3/8" tires makes for a fairly light ride. Thoughtfully, a full complement of lights come standard, as does an over-sized rear rack and (removable) full metal fenders. The Eneloop is one of the rare ebike models that uses regenerative braking; I don't have a lot of experience with regen - it will be interesting to see how it works! Top assisted speed is 15mph.

The Ride
Maybe its because they're the 2 test rides I've done (yeah, I'm kind of new at this), but it seemed to ride very similarly to the e-moto model I recently tested. I found smooth engagement of pedal assist across all 3 levels of assist - very little/no lurching as the motor engaged. The riding position was farther forward than I prefer/am used to on an ebike, and I found the handlebars a bit narrow. Granted, some of the riding position issues I had could be addressed through seat height/handlebar adjustment. The hand grips were very comfortable, and braking was strong. I'm used to a thumb throttle; at first I tried to "fool" the sensor into giving me the amount of power I'd use with the throttle, but I quickly found it was best to let the system work the way it was designed. The 15mph top speed left me comfortable on quiet bike boulevards, but when merging into a bike lane during rush hour traffic I'd have liked a couple more mphs.

Elegant frame design
Sanyo's commitment to building market awareness
Light weight
Smooth power delivery

"Um, yeah, about that..."s
Personal quirks re: riding position

"Can I let you know later?"s
Regenerative braking

The Sanyo Eneloop currently retails at $2,300 on Amazon.com. I couldn't find any local bike shops carrying them.

Update, 3/13:
Best Buy at Cascade Station is carrying the Eneloop, as well as some other ebike models. List price, $2200. Here's a poorly composed picture of said bike:


  1. First of all thank you for the excellent post on your experiences with the Sanyo Eneloop electric bike.

    If you get a chance to try the Eneloop ebike again, I'd be interested in your perceptions as to how the assist feels, and how the regen feels.

    According to the marketing description from Sanyo, the rider receives a the most significant assist from 0 - 6.2 mpg (which feels like barely moving, especially up a hill). Then, as the rider continues pushing on the pedals, going faster, the assist diminishes. The assist completely stops when the speed reaches 15mph, so beyond that point it's entirely up to the rider.

    Next, I'm interested in the regenerative braking which turns the motor into a battery charger. This works when the rider applies the rear brake, which automatically shuts off the forward drive, and begins generating energy for the battery.

    I believe the regen function works as long as the Eneloop bicycle is traveling less the 15mph. The rider can zoom down a hill well beyond 15mph, but all of that distance and speed has gone to waste if the bike is traveling too fast.

    So, with all of that said, if you can get a chance to try out the bike again, maybe you could pay particular attention to these little details. Also, the fit issues you mentioned in your post could be further explored (write to me if you have questions on fitting).

    Unfortunately, there are not dealers anywhere near me, in New England, either (according to the Sanyo website, 3/10/10)

  2. Thanks Velo Rep! Its hard to gauge the amount of assist by speed since it didn't have a speedometer, but it did feel like there was less assist as you went faster. I found the regen to be smooth enough that I didn't really notice it as I tested the cutoff switch in the brake lever, and unfortunately my ride wasn't long enough to gauge its impact on battery life. I've got a lot of other questions about regen, too, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Regen is interesting, as it seems to be everyone's first question, but its not widely available.

    In the future, if I know I'm going to be reviewing a product, I'll try to let folks know, so you can suggest things to concentrate on. This test bike, however, rolled into my lap, so to speak.

  3. Hey, thanks for the review. I rode one out here in San Diego and loved it EXCEPT the frame was too small for me. (I'm 6-2.) Did you think the frame could be comfortable for a tall person? Maybe I could buy a longer seat tube.

  4. Dave,

    You could try a longer seat post, and if you're primarily going to do bike paths and meander I'd guess it should be fine. However, there are other factors to be considered if you are going to log more serious miles; crank arm length should be around 175mm for your leg length, and the distance between the seat post and the handlebars should be longer (typically with a longer frame, but a longer handlebar stem would be OK, given Sanyo has a 1 size fits all "system").
    Actually, the best thing to do is to try larger bikes, with or without a motor, and then go back to the Eneloop to see how a smaller bike feels.
    It gets a bit more technical from here on out, so I'd recommend conferring with a forum, or I'm also available and knowledgeable on the topic of fitting.

    Remember to wear a helmet.... one save my brain - no doubt!

  5. Thanks, Velo Rep, for chiming in on that. I'm about as far from a bike fit expert as one could be, but other models of ebikes are available in array of sizes, and as good fit is key to efficient (and comfortable!) function, I'd suggest shopping around a bit. Besides, its fun to try out the variety of models available.

    Ditto re: helmet.