A recent episode of a podcast called The Definitive Word offered up a discussion of modes of transportation which led to mention of something called a Sinclair C5. Host Will Tristram and panelists Richard Smith and Lee Harris had a good chuckle about it, but didn’t really get into what it was. They’re in the U.K. and often discuss things that fly over my Canadian head.
But I picked up enough to figure out that the Sinclair C5 was some kind of electric vehicle, and it was a bit of a joke. So I googled it later and found out everything I needed to know. I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s important to know the C5 was an early-’80s electric pedal-car that failed miserably and ended up being sold in discount stores. There are still people out there who loved these things — few of them outside the U.K. — but for the most part they were forgotten.
This caught my fancy because of changes to the laws here in Ontario that allow for a new kind of electric bicycle to be operated on roads. These aren’t like those older e-bikes, which looked like regular mountain bikes but had big batteries clamped under the seat. These new ones look like small scooters, or mopeds. They’re quick and silent, and don’t really need to be pedalled. Their top speed is 36 kph (about 22 miles per hour), and they recharge quickly with a regular household plug-in.
Alternative vehicles are a hot topic here these days. Gas prices have soared, and are still climbing. We drive two vehicles: a compact car and a minivan. Travelling in the minivan is now almost prohibitively expensive; taking the car means we pay almost as much for gas as we did in the van two years ago.
We looked at these new e-bikes this summer and considered buying at least one. They sell for $1200-$2000 (Canadian), which isn’t a bad price; we calculated that we would save that on gas alone by using it for a year. We looked at other factors — would I be comfortable scooting around on something so … well, they aren’t very manly. But I’m at the age now where I don’t have anything to prove. That’s my midlife crisis — forget the Harley or the Porsche, I’m getting a little e-bike!
But in the end we didn’t, and for two reasons: The pilot project that allows these e-bikes to be operated without licensing or insurance (they’re considered bicycles under the law) ends in October 2009, and we didn’t want to be stuck with yet another insurance policy if suddenly the law changed. Also, there’s the fact that we live in Canada, and the thing would be pretty much useless for half the year, because of the snow, the rain, the ice and the wild moose.
So with that dream dashed, I am moving on. I am considering hitting online auctions and trying to assemble a Sinclair C5. It might not be legal, but it looks like fun, and from what I’ve seen so far, it won’t cost me much, meaning I can have my mid-life crisis, save gas money and also do my part for the environment for a couple of hundred bucks.