Mountain Biking

Jeep introduces a big electric mountain bike – Treehugger

Bill Murray looks like he is enjoying the ride. Others might go a bit faster.

Lost among the Hummers and the Audis and the Gladiators, Jeep introduced an e-bike, of all things, at the end of a clever commercial starring Bill Murray, a huge Jeep pickup truck and a groundhog. They say on their ad that it’s “the first ever Jeep® e-Bike powered by QuietKat.”

There’s not a lot of information here, but Jeep says it’s got a 750 watt motor and gets 40 miles on a charge and has 4.8″ wide fat tires. Down at the bottom in the fine print, it says that the Jeep name and trade dress are trademarks of FCA US LLC and used under license by QuietKat Inc, a Colorado e-bike manufacturer, who describes their bikes:

Our best in class heavy duty electric mountain bikes are designed for lovers of fresh air who want non-obtrusive access to the deep woods for hunting, fishing, and camping, or for those who want a play vehicle for family excursions… QuietKat all electric mountain bikes are environmentally friendly, driven by powerful Lithium-ion batteries for green and silent power to motor through any landscape.

Jeep Bike with Jeep© FCA US

Bill Murray certainly looks respectable and calm, and the helmet on the groundhog is a nice touch. Others on a bike this powerful might like a little more action. Micah Toll of Electrek knows his e-bikes and likes them big and powerful. He recognized the parts and writes:

jeep e-bike© FCA US/ QuietKat

First of all, that mid-drive motor seen on the Jeep e-bike isn’t a 750 W motor. It’s a motor built by Chinese company Bafang and is known internally as the model M620. Externally, it’s known as the Bafang Ultra. It puts out at least 1,600 W of peak power with a standard 52V e-bike battery. And it pushes 160 Nm of torque. Folks, that’s an insane amount of torque – a level that most gas-motorcycles don’t reach. That motor can literally twist and rip a bike chain to pieces.

Bike ClassesBike Classes/ City of San Diego/Screen capture

Jeep/QuietKat may be capping the power at 750 watts to keep it legally an e-bike, since they are limited to that in all classes; above that power it becomes a moped or motorcycle and might not be allowed on trails where e-bikes can go but dirt bike motorcycles can’t. (QuietKat says their e-bikes “are non-assisted electric mountain bikes – you simply steer them into the wilderness to have your fun.” So I really don’t know what class they are. I have asked.)

Micah Toll never saw an e-bike that he thought was overpowered, but there are a lot of people who are not going to be happy about this bike. For years, there have been worries about mountain bikes tearing up trails; George Wuerthner, author of the anti-ATV screed Thrillcraft, (which caused a big stir on TreeHugger and a bigger one when I took it up north to ATV country) wrote in How mountain bikes threaten wilderness that mountain bikes are “the greatest single threat to wildlife habitat integrity and new wilderness classifications. I’m not the only one. There is a growing number of public lands advocates who see mountain biking, especially the growing network of new trails, as a threat.”

And now it’s got a motor, and even the pedal-powered mountain bikers are worried. Steve Graepel of Gear Patrol asks Are electric mountain bikes ruining trail systems? and notes that the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) fought for years to get the right to use trails, and worries about e-bikes.

“First and foremost, we advocate for access for traditional, non-motorized mountain bikes. IMBA does not advocate for access for e-MTBs,” stated IMBA Executive Director, Dave Wien’s, in the IMBA’s position statement. While the IMBA has warmed up to the idea of Class 1, pedal assisted e-MTBs on non-motorized trails, by and large, they’ve stayed out of the fray and left the access discussion to local land managers and bike clubs. The IMBA’s primary concern? Protecting their hard-fought trails from being taken away and preventing the slippery slope of motorcycles getting back onto the quiet trail system.

Writing in Adventure Journal, Mike Curiak says the culture of mountain biking has gone astray.

Our trails are being systematically shredded—yes, by skidding endurbros, straightlining shuttle monkeys, and shortsighted stravassholes. And by an industry that “sells” the sport largely by glorifying the above abusers. But also by you, and by me, by remaining complicit in the shadows and not saying “enough”… Ignorance is ruining the trails: Whether we’re actively doing the damage or standing idly by and letting it happen, we’re all to blame.

I wonder what he would say about a bike marketed by Jeep: “It’s the most capable off-road electric mountain bike there is. When the road ends, your adventure continues with the all-new Jeep e-Bike.”

I do worry about what happens when you put a big motor on a bike that can go anywhere when the road ends. I hope I am not hiking on the trail when it comes through. The video is fun though:

Those who are worried about possible mistreatment of the groundhog should note the press release:

Poppy© Poppy the Groundhog/ FCA US

Poppy (now 10 months old) was rescued at 4 weeks old, and a birth defect prevented her from returning to the wild. She is currently in the care of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Pennsylvania and is a beloved member of the caretaker’s family. Poppy is a state- and USDA-licensed educational animal. Now thriving, Poppy has become an educational “ambassador” for all wildlife. Additional information on “Poppy” can be found here.

Bill Murray looks like he is enjoying the ride. Others might go a bit faster.