June 7, 2010 Dear Yuba, Hi. My name is Don, and I write a blog about electrically-assisted cargo bikes. Although I’m pleased with the performance of my Rans Hammer Truck and BionX motor, many of my readers are interested in less expensive alternatives. The Yuba elMundo and Kona Electric Ute are two possibilities I’ve mentioned in my blog. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information available on the web to help prospective buyers make an informed purchasing decision. To help fill the void, I was able to arrange a test ride of the Ute, and I posted a fairly detailed review here: http://mycargobike.net/2010/06/15/first-look-at-the-kona-electric-ute/ Sadly, I haven’t been able to find a Yuba dealer in my area to test the elMundo. I don’t know anyone who owns an elMundo with whom I can correspond. Lacking first- or second-hand experience, I’m hoping you can answer some of my questions to help me and my readers understand where the elMundo fits in the assisted cargo bike marketplace. With your permission, I would like to post this letter and your responses on my blog within the next couple of weeks. Your website provides a brief description of the elMundo, several photos, and a tantalizing price for a bike in this category. I’m especially excited to see a lithium ion battery and a 750W hub motor. However, there are few details for those of us who obsess over such things. For example, who makes the motor? How did you decide it was a good match for your bike? Does it have internal gearing to help deliver good torque at low speeds? Besides the low price, there is a significant advantage of having a motor integrated by the bike manufacturer (as opposed to an after-market build like my bike). Customers will assume that the manufacturer has carefully matched the capabilities of the bike and motor. The manufacturer will analyze loads and stresses to enhance the reliability of the product. The bike will be tested under strenuous conditions, and a single warranty will cover both the bike and the motor. Can you assure us that this analysis and testing has been done on the elMundo, and can you provide details regarding your warranty? The Yuba Mundo is rated to carry loads of up to 400 pounds, excluding the rider. Since there is nothing to the contrary on the web page for the elMundo, I assume that the weight limit is the same. With the help of that powerful motor, it will now be possible for people to carry some pretty heavy loads up an incline. Of course, what goes up must come down. That’s why I was surprised to see only rim brakes in your photos of the elMundo. From my perspective, that seems a little risky. I know disc brakes are now an option on the Mundo. Are they also available for the elMundo, or does the hub motor preclude the possibility of a front disc rotor? It also seems possible that your motor is likely to produce new stresses on the front fork that didn’t exist on the non-electric bike. Have you made any modifications to strengthen the fork? Finally, I’m curious how much the elMundo weighs. Is the battery removable for remote charging, and can you also charge it on the bike? How long does it take to fully recharge? Do you have any estimates regarding the lifetime of the battery and motor? If you have any customers who would be willing to share their thoughts and experiences on this bike, I would love to talk to them. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, Don
July 7, 2010 Hello Don, Great to hear from you. I have visited your blog many times before and I did find the content extremely interesting, your analysis and opinions are well documented. Also this is the first email we are getting from you asking questions about the elMundo. If you were interested we could put you in touch with a few users of the elMundo Cargo Bike, these users are mostly in the Bay Area. Also one our dealer Cycle9 specializes in electric bikes and cargo bikes and has supplied electric Mundos to a numerous customers. One of them Mark Strosberg has been commenting on your blog, he purchased his Mundo from Cycle9. Currently the elMundo is a Mundo Cargo Bike frame with an after market electric kit installed on the bike. So a lot of the questions your are asking can’t really be answered since it seems that many customers are riding electric Mundos with different motors or battery packs. The model supplied by us integrates a battery placed between the rack and the seat stays, it is removable but doesn’t need to be removed to be charged. The motor is made by Aoetema, we have tested various combinations of motors and like this specific 750W version for many reasons one of them being the torque it gets for hill climbing. The 36V LiPO4 battery offers about 20 miles of charge on flat terrain. Motor, battery, controller are under warranty for a year. We do ship the elMundo with disc brakes installed on the rear (although it doesn’t show on the pictures!). We have no doubts that the Mundo bike is the best platform for an electric Cargo Bike in the market place due to the strength and solidity of the Hi-ten steel frame. So the elMundo can take the rider, the loads, the passengers and the electric assist. The battery can be removed and the current combinations gives a range of about 15-25 miles depending on the conditions and terrain. Let me know if you have further questions or comments. Ben
After this email exchange, I asked Yuba further questions about the weight of the bike and clarifications regarding the warranty, but I haven’t received a reply. If or when I do, I will post their answers.
Yuba’s first response was a bit of a mixed bag, from my perspective. I’m happy to hear the elMundo now comes with a rear disc brake. This seems to be a fairly recent development, and it’s a welcome step in the right direction. However, it doesn’t alleviate my concerns about stopping this bike when it’s carrying a load. Stopping distances for cargo bikes in general is a topic I hope to investigate in the future.
The Hi-ten steel frame of the Yuba is an interesting feature compared to the aluminum frames of the Ute and the Hammer Truck. It is heavier, of course, but steel will bend under stress rather than break. If you’re contemplating moving heavy loads on a cargo bike, that might be important to consider. But in that case, remember to test those brakes and upgrade them if you need to.
Although I have no experience with the Aoetema motor, the reviews I’ve found on the web have been mostly favorable. It appears to be a reasonable choice for this bike. However, it sounds like Yuba views the motor as an after-market product, so I’m guessing they would refer you to Aoetema if you had any warranty issues. This negates one of the advantages I was hoping would come from an integrated product. When you buy a car, you get a single warranty that covers the whole car. You don’t have to go to different companies to deal with motor issues, frame problems, etc.
The one year motor/battery/controller warranty is okay, but only half the duration of the BionX warranty.
Although the elMundo remains an interesting option in the electric cargo bike market, I’m hesitant to recommend it without trying it. Ben didn’t give me hope that I would get a chance to do that any time soon. If I could find a Yuba dealer in Seattle, I’m betting they wouldn’t have an elMundo ready to ride. Like Kona, Yuba seems reluctant to vigorously pursue this market. I would love to know whether that is due to technical issues, or if these companies are skeptical about the size of the market. In either case, the cargo bike revolution is off to a very leisurely start in America.