Comparing the Cargo and Commuter Electric Trikes
Over the past few years, we’ve written countless articles on the advantages and benefits of owning an electric trike. Fitness, cost savings and green energy are forefront in the minds of etrike buyers or as we like to put it: Health, Wealth and Happiness. So, having concluded that an electric trike will enhance your life, the next question becomes: which one? What features and specifications will best suit my needs?
At eTrikes Canada we take extraordinary efforts to source and specify the components and designs best suited to our customers and environment. We recognise that not all electric trike riders are the same and nor will they use their e-trike for the same purpose. When choosing a model of electric tricycle for an adult it is important to separate the features and benefits of any given trike.
Feature number one: The Frame
Except for Tadpole trikes, most electric trikes are designed with two rear wheels and one at the front. The length and width of a trike will vary, and the specific measurements are something to consider depending on your height, weight, flexibility, and even available storage space. The eTc Cargo, for instance, is 4’ wider at the rear track than the eTc Commuter. It is also 5” longer and most significantly the height of the step through for the Cargo is 6.5” higher than that of the Commuter.
So those are the statistics but what do they mean from a rider’s perspective?
Although both trikes come standard with a rear differential, making turning and handling more stable, the Cargo, with a 4” wider track offers a slightly better stability at higher speeds when cornering. The downside of course is that some doorways are built with a 33” opening, so storing a Cargo trike may be a challenge for some. Depending on the height of the rider the length of the Cargo trike at 75” means that the seating position may be more of a “lean forward” than a “sit upright” position. Having said that if you are over 6 feet tall you may find your knees are cramped on a Commuter. Similarly, if you are 5 foot tall the Cargo would be a bit of a stretch. Both models come with adjustable seats posts and handlebar posts so can be customised to an extent however it is important to know that the two frames offer different things to different people.
Finally, and very importantly, the design and height of the crossbar of both trikes is quite different. The Cargo has two crossbars, one above the other offering a very sturdy, rigid frame. The challenge though for shorter, or less flexible riders, is lifting your leg over a height of 22.5”. These riders may find it easier to mount and dismount a Commuter trike where the step through is only 16” off the ground.
Feature number two: Motor & Battery combinations
Again, we have separate blog posts going into more detail on these two components, but let’s think specifically about how they affect you as an e-trike buyer. At the time of writing, the maximum motor size allowed on Canadian public roads and pathways is 500 watts1. The peak power of these motors is also influenced by the battery size and the amperage of the controller, however it’s safe to say that 500 watts is plenty of power for most people, even heavier riders living in hilly areas. Of course, the bigger the motor, the greater the drain on the battery so if you live in a flat area and want to go on long rides you may be able to get away with a smaller motor. Likewise, if your daily electric trike route is a short trip to the park or the shops, you may be comfortable with a smaller battery. As the battery can be one of the most expensive components on an e-trike. A smaller battery may save you as much as a few hundred dollars.
Feature number three: Fat or Skinny tires
Fat tire bikes hit the market a few years ago and were particularly popular for their adaptability to riding in the snow. Mountain bikes tires too have grown in width over the years and they offer certain advantages to the older skinnier tires. Again, depending on where you live and the terrain you intend to ride on a fatter tire can offer greater comfort in the form of suspension. They also tend to handle snow and gravel with greater grip than a skinny tire. Having said that fat tires are bulkier and heavier and if your travels are solely on smooth pavement a traditional width tire will suffice.
Feature number four: Seats or Saddles
As an electric tricycle is generally used for touring or recreation, often a high-performance road bike saddle is not ideal. The seat needs to be comfortable, but this is where preferences vary, and options are numerous. The seat should be wide enough to avoid pressure points but not too wide to restrict free leg movement when pedalling. Some customers outfit their eTrike with a backrest. These seats are available at bike shops or online and offer a very relaxed seating position. Others may choose to fit a gel seat cover over their seat to add to the cushioning. More active riders require a narrower saddle for a more aggressive riding position. As we mentioned before the Cargo eTrike offers a more forward leaning riding position and the Commuter eTrike is a more upright riding position. These two trikes therefore may suit a different saddle design depending on the rider’s height and riding ambition.
Feature number five: Cargo Space
Many of our customers buy an electric trike because it offers them stability and exercise. They prefer the security of three wheels over a conventional bike and their purpose is to enhance their health by getting outside and moving. For these customers the cargo space offered by either the Commuter or the Cargo is convenient but not their main priority. If, however your intention is to leave the car at home on your trip to the grocery store or if your furbaby expects to accompany you on your rides, then the cargo space can become more of a priority. We also have a range of commercial customers who have modified their rear cargo capacity to maximise the utility of the trike for their specific purpose. So, to get the most from your daily rides it might be worth looking at our options for carriers or baskets. Our Commuter trike for instance is fitted with a rear hitch bolt allowing for bike trailers to be attached. There are even trailers available for your golf clubs2.
Buying an electric trike may be one of your happiest purchases and give you years of enjoyment. It’s just important to give some thought to your intended use before choosing a particular model. Happy riding.
1 As of Feb 4, 2021, Transport Canada has changed restrictions on motor size. However, currently all provinces still require the 500W maximum motor size limit. https://tc.canada.ca/en/road-transportation/importing-vehicle/importing-non-regulated-vehicles
2 Check with your local golf club before riding out onto the fairway but with the fat tires of today’s trikes you may be given permission.