Cargo Electric Bikes

SUBHEAD: A broad review of varieties for electrically assisted cargo bicycles available in America.

By Staff in 21 June 2012 for Electric Bike -

Image above: A big rig Bullet electric cargo bike with high capacity trailer. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: This is a detailed article with more links and images than are in this partial post. If you are interested in this subject. read the original article here.]

One genre of bike that fits the electric bike utility nicely is the cargo bike. Because of the nature of a cargo bike there is a lot of space to hide batteries, controllers and wiring and still have plenty of left over space for a baby or two.

For an electric biker, the extra few pounds that a cargo bike frame weighs is of no serious significance or consequence , especially given the extra capacity for battery stowage. Basically, with a cargo bike you will be able to toss into the bags as much lithium battery as you’re able to shake your  credit card at , with storage space and weight capacity finally being a non-issue! Once a cargo bike is rolling they are designed to handle well even when weighted down.  Your only issue with the heavy cargo bike will be when it comes to parking.

A cargo bike is one of the best frame choices for an electric bike because of its capability to hold many pounds of battery. Not only that, but your imagination can run wild on everything else that they can carry.  How about 300 bananas for mammas frozen daiquiri corner stand?  What about styrofoam bricks for your brothers foam house? Owning a cargo electric bike can be like owning a truck…but be careful…pretty soon everyone will want a favor or a pick up. It’s like owning a truck.

Cargo Electric Bikes, the Pros
  1. Unlike a pedal cargo bike, an electric cargo bike is not slow, and can go as fast as you set it up to go.
  2. Tons of Battery storage. Need high volts for hill climbing (72V+), and also lots of Ah for long range? with a cargo bike, you can easily have both.
  3. Tons of cargo capacity, You can actually use it to get stuff from the store.
  4. Ability to take passengers.
  5. Kids love riding on Cargo Bikes.
  6. Easy to go stealth and hide the electrics behind cargo bags.
  7. Since you are a cargo bike you have a good excuse to be electric…acceptance among other bikers.
  8. Not a hot ticket for bike thieves.
  9. Long wheelbase and fat tire capability are good for high speed, even if you don’t care about cargo.
  10. Sturdy non-suspension front forks, and the even weight distribution make them ideal candidates for simple front wheel drive hubs.
Cargo Electric Bike Cons
  1. Hard to store, you need a space big enough to roll your big and heavy cargo bike into (biggest drawback).
  2. Because they are not in mass production, they tend to be expensive.
  3. Not practical for riding  off road.
  4. Front suspension forks do not work well on cargo electric bikes because of its front heavy weight balance.
  5. Can be unwieldy and not as fun to ride as shorter wheel base ride.
  6. You have no excuse not to help your friend move.
If you live in suburbia, are blessed with  a big garage,  use your bike mostly on the street, plan to carry loads with your E-bike, have kids…a cargo ebike might be the perfect solution for you. Cargo electric bikes are a fun and healthy way to tote your children around. Imagine the joy your child will feel riding in the open air compared to riding home in a car…these are days your child will always remember and maybe he/she will grow up and be part of the healthy biking culture.

3 Styles of
Electric Cargo Bikes
There are 3 basic styles of turnkey electric cargo bikes:

1. Trailers
2. Long Tails
3. Long-johns

Its worth weighing the pros and cons of all 3 of these styles.

Image above: Mid drive electric bike with large cargo trailer. From original article.

1. Trailers

A  trailer can instantly transform your rig  into a cargo electric bike.  Trailers have been used by E-bikers who want to transport extra battery, kids, camping gear, and even dogs. People have biked across the country on regular mountain bikes towing trailers with all their food, camping gear, and especially lots of battery.
 Trailer Pros
  • Affordable
  • Can carry up to 100lbs
  • Once you easily and quickly detach, you have a regular ebike once again
Trailer Cons
  • Trailers make your electric bike not handle like a bike anymore.
  • Trailers are very unwieldy and hard to park
  • Trailers can be hard to navigate narrow passageways or single tracks
  • Can only carry up to 100lbs saf

Image above: A front wheel drive long tail electric cargo bike by Big Surly . From original article.

2. Longtails
The most popular form of cargo electric bike, there are many versions of this available.
Longtail pros
  • Can carry up to 400 pounds.
  • handling is still like a regular Ebike…feels solid.
  • Many options available for conversion.
  • Is the best vale for the money.
  • Can maneuver in narrow passageways and even single track.
Longtail cons
  • Can not carry the massive weight and volume a long John can.
  • Big and bulky to park.
A high-quality highly-recommended cargo longtail for electric conversion is the Surly Big Dummy. The one below has an extra set of handlebars so an adult passenger can ride on the back.  This is what we recommend for a long tail if you can afford it.  The other 2 options we recommend  is the very affordable Yuba Mundo  and the Kona Ute pictured later in the story.

Image above: Long-John styke electric cargo bike by Joe Bike with front, mid and rear cargo space. From original article.
3. Long-Johns
The massive version of a cargo bike. These bikes have a long nose and hold the cargo in front of the rider. This is good for parents who want to keep an eye on their children, and for carrying large volume or a heavy weight. If you have a place to park this machine, and you have the extra cash, this could make a magnificent ride. Also you could base a business on it.
Long-John Pros
  • Can carry over 600lbs easily.
  • Real attention getter…sharpest looking of all cargo bikes
  • Awesome visibility of load or children riding right in front of your eyes.
  • Romantic date machine for taking out the ladies…a magic carpet ride.
  • So unusual looking that car traffic notices you more than on a regular E-bike.
  • Good weight balance so ideal for front drive motor.
Long-John Cons
  • Expensive…just the bike is going to cost you over $2K.
  • Heavy…these are the heaviest of the cargo E-bike styles.
  • Does not ride like a bike…these things are unweidly
  • They take a heck of a lot of room to park.

Image above: An Urban Arrow "from the ground up" electric cargo bike for small passengers. From original article.

Purpose Built
“Purpose built” means the cargo electric bike was built from the ground up with the plan of it being electric. Even with regular electric bikes this is a feat that very few companies have bothered with (see our list of 10 here).

 In the category of Electric cargo bikes I know of only one purpose-built bike, the beautiful, practical, and uber expensive: Urban Arrow. This is not a simple hub motor but a purpose-built mid drive.

Image above: the Juiced Rider electric bike is a brilliant 20 inch bike with a low step through and huge ah battery and 500 watt geared hub motor and disc brakes. From (

Semi Purpose Built
Many manufacturers of cargo electric bikes are converting their regular electric bikes by building into the frame a way to mount the battery pack so that the rider has his panniers all clear for maximum cargo. All the below bikes come turn key ready to roll, and all contain the battery built into the rear rack. Extra battery can be piled into the panniers for extra long rides.

My favorite turn key cargo e-bike, the Juiced Rider electric bike is designed by an Olympic High Jumper, a brilliant 20 inch bike with a low step through and huge ah battery and 500 watt geared hub motor and disc brakes.

Image above:Trek mountain bike with custom modified frame and electric conversion. From original article.

Conversion Bikes
Some non-electric bikes can be converted. This is making a electric cargo bike the cheap and easy way. If you are on a budget this is the way to go.

Simply a hub motor (front or rear), a controller strapped somewhere on the frame, and  the battery in the panniers. Conversion bikes are not too difficult and can be done as cheaply or as expensively as you want them. The pictured frame above is an Xtra Cycle, a kit that converts a regular mountain bike into a cargo bike.

Another option is to start with a cargo bike to begin with, and then just add the motor and panniers. This is easy and can be a bit more expensive but does not require a “donor bike”. This is an easy bike for anyone to build, and the benefit of building yourself, is you can install your own flair…or your own whatever you have laying around the house.

Video above: Promotional film for cargo bikes. From (

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: European Cargo Bikes 9/24/12
Island Breath: Three Wheeled Wonders 6/27/08
Island Breath: Kauai Police Patrols 6/7/08
Island Breath: Bikes on Kauai 11/16/05


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