The battery boost of the Giant Twist flattens the hill, Loper says, so now most days he rides his e-bike to work. And he is using it often to make a run to the nearby grocery store or video rental store.

“I’m not saying it will take the place of a car, but if you can get out of your car two or three times a week, it’s worth it,” Loper says.

A calculator found on the Schwinn electric bike website helps you figure the impact of riding a hybrid bike instead of driving your car. For example, you drive 1,000 miles a month in an automobile getting 20 mpg and paying (for now, anyway) $2 a gallon for gasoline. If you ride your hybrid bike for 20 percent of those miles, you’ll save $20 in cash money and cut your CO2 emissions by 388 pounds. You’ll also burn about 5,580 calories.

“You can get a workout on the bike if you want to,” says Loper, noting that you can ride without turning on the engine.

The design of the Giant Twist and Schwinn Tailwind (pictured) have the battery packs hanging on the rear wheel like saddlebags. The motor drives the front wheel. Each has a similar range – 30 miles. A twin-battery version of the Twist has a range of 60-70 miles. Recharging the Twist’s lithium ion battery takes about four hours. Schwinn says you can recharge its Toshiba Super Charge ion Battery in just 30 minutes.

Cutting-edge hybrid technology – even in a bicycle – comes at a premium. The Giant Twist runs about $2,000. The Schwinn Tailwind – demonstrated earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – has a suggested retail price of $3,199.99. The Currie Technologies Express, promising speeds of up to 20 mph, will set you back $2,999 when it goes on sale in April.

That’s more than the $400 or so for a good quality, old-fashioned cruiser bike, but it’s a lot less than a second car. And when gasoline hits $4 a gallon again – and it will – it will seem like a good investment.

(photos courtesy Giant, at far top; Schwinn, above)

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