By Stan Purdum
Cargo-carrying ebikes are hot items these days. Even before electrification, cargo bikes were a good idea, especially for people living in urban areas where the bikes could replace cars for many errands. But the addition of electric motors to these two-wheeled beasts of burden have made them the vehicle of choice for many more people.
Ebikes offer utility, exercise, ease of navigating crowded areas and a reduced carbon footprint. They are easy to mount and dismount, and there is no need to find a place to lean them when you dismount as you do a regular bike.
The ebikes included here have a wide range of available accessories you can purchase to tailor your setup for how you want to use these sturdy steeds, accessories including platforms, racks, child seats, canopies, running boards and cargo boxes.
The first five ebikes in this roundup are all priced below $3,000. The two additional ebikes are higher priced and are included here to give some idea of what spending the additional bucks might give you. As it stands, however, the cargo ebikes below the $3,000 threshold are pretty impressive.
Most have managed to keep their bike prices relatively low by using motors in the hub of the rear wheel instead of in the bottom bracket — where they are called mid-drive motors and are more expensive to produce — but note that one of the under-$3000 bikes does have a mid-drive motor. These less-expensive bikes also employ some components from lesser known manufacturers, which is not to say there is anything wrong with them.
Except for the Surly Big Easy, all the frames of these bikes are aluminum. Most frame formats are either longtails (like a tandem, but with a cargo area behind the rider instead of a second saddle) or midtails (same idea but shorter than the longtails).
Also apart from the Big Easy, all these ebike are a one-size-fits-most, ranging from, in some cases, about 4-foot 11-inches to about 6-foot 5-inches.
All legal ebikes, whether cargo carriers or not, fit into one of three classes, defined as follows:
- Class 1: ebikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph. That is, the motor ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.
- Class 2: ebikes that also have a maximum speed of 20 mph but are throttle- and pedal-assisted. The throttle does not have to be employed, but both throttle-assistance and/or pedal assistance cease when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. With the throttle, class 2 ebikes can be driven without pedaling, but do not have to be.
- Class 3: ebikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph. The motor ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph.
All classes limit the motor’s power to 1 horsepower (750W).
Called the “Best Electric Cargo Bike of 2021” by ElectricBikeReview.com, and the “Best Value Cargo Bike” by Bicycling magazine, the RadWagon 4 from Rad Power Bikes is a strong and versatile cargo hauler in the midtail format. Rad touts that the stand-over height is 2.4 inches lower than its predecessor. This move is in the right direction and is made possible by newly designed 22″ x 3″ tires, small enough and wide enough to provide a lower center of gravity and a smooth ride over rough surfaces.
The bike has a rear hub motor, and reviewers of previous versions of the RadWagon noted that it didn’t provide quite enough torque on steep hills. The bike manufacturer, however, says that’s been corrected in this new model, which puts out twice the torque as the earlier ones. The bike, made of aircraft aluminum, weighs 76.7 pounds and can carry 350 pounds. It has seven gears and the class 2 electric motor offers a five-level pedal assist for a range of 25-45 miles per charge.
The KBO Ranger has a step-through frame and is technically a midtail, but proportionally, it’s not as long as some in that category, making it easier to store when not in use. It features an in-frame 48V 17.5Ah lithium-ion Battery with Samsung/LG Cells, that is also removable and is rated for 900 complete charge cycles. With an 840Wh battery capacity, you can ride up to 60 miles on a single charge.
The Ranger is powered with a continuous 750W brushless geared hub motor in the rear wheel. It has 20-in tires, fenders, 7-speed Shimano derailleur, mechanical disc brakes (complete with an integrated brake light that illuminates immediately when you apply the brakes) and can handle a 400-pound payload. The bike weighs 77 pounds and has 0-5 pedal-assist levels. It’s a Class 2 bike. See our full review.
The Packa Genie from BlixBike will travel up to 80 miles thanks to its single and dual battery options. The dual battery system totals 1,228Wh and automatically uses both to ensure you don’t have to stop when one battery runs out. The batteries power a 750w rear-hub motor in this Class 2 ebike.
The Genie has a midtail frame, but at 81 inches, it’s only slightly longer than a regular bike, and it has hydraulic disc-brakes for excellent stopping power. Has 24-inch wheels and low step-through frame with an integrated front light and a rear brake light. Includes a deflopilator, a 7-speed shifter, a throttle and 1-5 levels of pedal power assist, and mounting points for a trailer.
It weighs 67. 7 pounds with one battery or 76.8 pounds with two, and can haul about 450 pounds, including the rider.
$ 2,499 – $ 2,799
Magnum Payload is a longtail that’s a bit taller than the other bikes in this list, having 26-inch tires. Though Magnum calls its frame a step-through model, the rider has to take a slightly higher step to mount it. And the height means that the cargo’s center of gravity is also a little higher. But the bike includes a provided front rack that’s an additional cost accessory for the other ebikes.
The rear hub motor output is 48 volts, 500 watts, and the bike will carry up to 350 pounds, with a range of 25-55 miles (depending on riding style, terrain, rider weight and pedal assist level), with a top speed of 25mph with pedal assist, 20mph throttle only. Has an 8-speed derailleur and hydraulic disc brakes. The 2020 Magnum Payload is a Class 2-Class 3 hybrid. There is both throttle motor assist, up to 20 MPH, and pedal motor assist, up to 25 MPH. The throttle can be removed to make it a Class 1
The Eunorau G20-Cargo stands out among the under-$3,000 bikes because it has a mid-drive motor, a feature that is usually seen only on higher-priced cargo bikes. That motor is a 48-volt, 500-watt model with a torque sensor from the Asian motor maker DAPU. While DAPU is a lesser-known manufacturer, Eunorau found that their motors work well, and its lesser price enabled Eunorau to use it on this bike.
The G20 is a longtail aluminum alloy bike with 24-inch tires, a Shimano 7-speed derailleur with a push-button shifter. The battery range is about 40 miles (or 50-75 with the dual batteries option). Has mechanical disc brakes. Has throttle and pedal assist, making it Class 2.
FOR COMPARISON …
Surly Big Easy
Technically, the Big Easy is a “pedelec”: a bike that has an electric motor that assists only during pedaling. This is also part of the definition of a Class 1 ebike, which the Big Easy is. The other part of the definition is that it has no throttle, and has a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph. (Some riders who want their cargo bike to also be a full-time fitness machine prefer not to have a throttle available.)
This longtail ebike has a mid-drive motor, a battery and a display all from Bosch, a well-known and respected name. Unlike all the other bikes shown here, the Big Easy’s frame is 4130 chromoly, not aluminum. It has 26-inch tires and is sold without fenders or integrated lights or the “Y” kickstand that is common on cargo bikes (It does have a single-leg stand, but some reviewers view it as inadequate for the cargo category.) The bike is not a step-through, but neither is it difficult to mount, and the bike comes in small, medium and large sizes. Has a SRAM NX 11 speed shifter paired with a SunRace CSMS7 11-42 cogset. Range is up to 75 miles in eco mode.
Tern HSD S11
This step-through bike is a mighty mini — shorter than a standard bike — but still has good hauling capacity, able to carry 374 pounds. And storage is easy, because the handlebar folds down flat and the bike can be stood vertically on its rear rack. It features a Suntour suspension fork, an 11-speed ShimanoDeore XT Shadow+ derailleur and Magura hydraulic disc brakes.
The battery and motor are both from Bosch, and the mid-drive motor puts out 65 Nm of maximum torque and boosts the rider’s pedal input as much as 300 percent. And being a Class 3 bike, the pedal assist will help the rider reach up to 28 mph.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.