App students bringing e-biking to Boone


The Appalachian Online

Sammy Hanf

Ryan Gillespie, a senior appropriate technology major, is spearheading an effort to get Boone’s citizens behind the handlebars of electric bicycles.

Ryan said his interest in e-bikes was first piqued in a sustainable transportation class.

“It was me and a friend,” Gillespie said. “We were in Jack Martin’s sustainable transportation class and he told us about e-bikes and we thought well that’s the easiest way to get started with electric vehicles so let’s build one.”

Their project went from a humble first design with the battery rigged up to a two-by-four, to the beginnings of a small fleet which are being data tested for viability.

Michael Duignan, a senior appropriate technology major, said that they are using data loggers that can track how much energy comes from the rider, average speed and locations where the bike is used. The data will be used to demonstrate their utility and encourage investment.

Mid-Drive electric bike motors function by operating the bike’s crank directly. A chain is affixed across the crank and over spokes that the motor spins.

Gillespie said that Office of Student Research grants gave them the opportunity to get their data together. Data they then took to the Clinton Global Foundation to get a $2,000 grant and the opportunity to attend their conference in California.

Duignan said he thinks e-bikes fit right into the town, which already has bike lanes and low speed limits to keep bikers safe on its streets. E-bikes also help with what turns most people off about getting on a bike: the hills.

“Given Boone with its topography, it would be very beneficial,” Duignan said. “I think it would promote a lot of people to bike because those hills can be quite intimidating.”

Gillespie said he is excited about how fun and easy e-bikes are to ride and that they really help to pick up the slack when riding gets strenuous.

“It takes the edge off,” Gillespie said. “It’s just like whenever you’re playing a video game and you press the pause button.”

They are also a much greener way to get around than cars. Gillespie said the models they get the equivalent of 1,774 mpg, a number that could get higher as efficiency increases.

Gillespie said that using e-bikes also alleviates the need for parking and can curb roadway expansion.

“You can, in essence, fit 20 people in the space it takes to put one person in a car,” Gillespie said.

Duignan said there are safety concerns that need to be addressed, mainly dealing with biker awareness

Nicholas Stover, a senior appropriate technology major, said that if e-bikes become a common sight, drivers will be forced to consider biker safety more and more.

Gillespie said that e-bikes give riders a leg up safety-wise by letting them keep pace with cars, adding that one of his accidents likely wouldn’t have happened on an e-bike.

“If I had been on my e-bike that night I straight up wouldn’t have gotten hit, cause I wouldn’t have been going 3 mph up the 105 extension.”

Gillespie encouraged anyone interested in getting one of his bikes to send him an email at

Story by Sammy Hanf, News Reporter