James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

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Giving Bikes a Boost

By: Megan Williams
Posted: February 19, 2010

PHOTO: EbikeAnyone who has a car and has lived in Harrisonburg for an extended period of time knows the frustration and disruption of traffic and congestion. That, along with the unpredictable price of gas, has led a group of faculty and students to pursue alternative forms of transportation in the city.

Led by Dr. Prins, an engineering professor, a group of students have been working with eBikes, electrically powered bicycles that can travel at 20 mph over flat surfaces for extended periods of time.

Work with eBikes has been an ongoing project for Prins. In the past year he and a team of four ISAT students picked three abandoned bicycles from JMU surplus, fixed them up, researched the eBike conversion market and purchased tow kits. After becoming familiar with the tools and techniques needed to convert a regular road bike into an electrical bike, the students, with the help of Prins, worked in the Alternative Fuel Vehicle lab and assembled them. The students also went to DC to compete in the EPA's P3 (people, prosperity and the planet) event, where passersby and judges rode the eBikes on the National Mall.

PHOTO: Statue with ebikeOne of the students who helped convert the salvaged bikes was ISAT senior Ari Giller-Leinwohl.

Giller-Leinwohl has been worked with Prins for three semesters; he said that deciding to become a part of the project was an easy decision given his interest in mountain biking and bike commuting.

“I get to work with bikes, promote human powered transportation, and with fairly expensive light electric vehicles,” Giller-Leinwohl said.

Prins and Giller-Leinwohl presented their study at faculty research day last semester, showing how eBikes cut down the time of the commute of an average JMU student or professor.

Travelling by eBike, though, isn’t for everyone. The conversion kit adds about 20 to 40 lbs of weight and can cost upwards of $500. The benefits, however, are they go faster, up steeper hills and with less energy required from the rider. They emit no point-of-use emissions, but most electricity in the US is currently coal-based. Although eBikes are still being improved and studied, the potential of eBikes to get people out of the automotive commuting cycle that plagues the JMU campus is immense, said Giller-Leinwohl.