Ukrainian fighters turn to e-bikes

During World War II, motorcycles were widely used by the military to carry out reconnaissance missions. Japanese forces adopted pedal-powered bicycles during the Malayan campaign of the conflict, using them to outwit slower-moving British troops on foot – in what became known as the “Bicycle Blitzkrieg”.

Now, Ukrainian fighters are using e-bikes in the battle against Russia, mostly in support of reconnaissance missions, mine clearance operations and medical deliveries, according to one of the Ukrainian e-bike manufacturers involved. They would also have been used to carry out sniper attacks. The motorcycles have a top speed of 55 miles per hour and are relatively quiet, helping their riders evade Russian fire.

Ukrainian e-bike company Eleek initially donated a few bikes to the military when the war started, according to director Roman Kulchytskyi. Soon after, they began mass-producing bikes — outfitted in military green, with a small Ukrainian flag on the rear wheel — for Ukrainian fighters.

“When the war started, we were shocked at first. … Everyone was worried and thinking about what to do,” Kulchytskyi told The Washington Post. “But we all pulled together.”

Working from a bomb shelter, Eleek began making a power bank based on lithium-ion battery cells she had left in storage. After struggling for parts, he turned to e-cigarettes, launching a social media campaign to get people to send in their devices.

The military version of the bike was stripped down to remove parts such as mirrors and flashing lights that were considered unnecessary for trail riding. The company has added footrests for passengers, improved charging times, installed a battery monitoring system and included a 220V outlet that allows soldiers to charge gadgets and can help power satellite internet terminals. Starlink, Kulchytskyi said.

The bikes, fitted with relatively large tires, are particularly useful in wooded areas where cyclists can carve their own way along unpaved trails. They weigh around 140 pounds – light compared to motorcycles – but can carry relatively heavy loads. Video posted to social media showed an armed Ukrainian fighter speeding along a road on an electric bicycle, apparently traveling as fast as an accompanying vehicle.

Another advantage of bikes is that they may not be visible on thermal imaging systems, which are used to detect temperature differences and help the military identify potential targets. That’s because the electric motor doesn’t get hot like an internal combustion engine, Kulchytskyi said.

Daniel Tonkopi, founder of e-bike company Delfast, wrote on Facebook this month that his California-based company has been donating e-bikes to the Ukrainian military since the war began.

He included photos of the motorcycles carrying anti-tank weapons and said he had received comments from the military indicating that they planned to use the motorcycles to target Russian armored vehicles. During a recent mission, they told him that several vehicles came back with holes but the pilots were intact.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces did not respond to a request for comment on the program.

A Delfast spokeswoman said the “main aim” of the company’s e-bikes is to reduce the user’s carbon footprint and make transport more sustainable. She said Delfast did not sell bikes or make modifications to e-bikes to support military action. The company donates 5% of all sales to fund humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

Ukraine isn’t the only army trying out e-bikes. The New Zealand Air Force is testing locally made UBCO bikes for tasks such as reconnaissance and surveillance. Flight Sergeant. Jim Reilly told an Air Force publication that the bikes made patrolling a lot easier. Their relative silence also provides the military with “great situational awareness” compared to noisy motorcycles or 4×4 vehicles, he said.

The Australian Army is funding trials of e-bikes for a range of potential combat roles. Recent military video showed troops from a mounted infantry unit known as the Light Horse Regiment meandering through gum trees on bicycles.

In Norway, e-bikes have been tested by border guards patrolling the country’s border with Russia. That project is on hold for now, said Rolf K. Ytterstad, a Norwegian military spokesman, due to maintenance issues and the overall economics of the project. “We’ve had good experiences with e-bikes,” he said.

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