The first time I saw a JackRabbit, I couldn’t help but laugh. For someone that comes from the e-bike world, the proportions are just so funny looking. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more this funny little “micro e-bike” seems like it could solve a lot of problems for urban commuters.
The San Diego-based mobility company refers to its JackRabbit as a micro e-bike, though I’m sure that my most pedantic readers will be quick to point out that it’s more accurately described as a scooter since it lacks functional pedals.
But just like motorcyclists refer to their “bikes,” so too do the JackRabbit creators. And regardless of what you call it, there’s some interesting capability packed into this pint-sized electric two-wheeler.
On the bike side of things, the JackRabbit features 20″ bike wheels with a wider tire on the rear to make up for its lack of suspension. There’s a rigid bike fork up front and a single disc brake on the rear. A bicycle seat and handlebars add to the bike credentials, but then the fold-up foot pegs put us back in scooter territory.
There’s a small 158 Wh removable battery in the top of the frame and a (slightly larger) 300W geared hub motor in the rear wheel. With a push of the thumb throttle on the handlebars, the JackRabbit gets up to 20 mph (32 km/h) and carries a claimed range of 12 miles (20 km).
That’s not a terribly large range compared to most e-bikes these days, but rather is more par for the course compared to scooters. Considering this is very much meant as an urban commuter, 12 miles seems like a nice balance for sufficient range while maintaining a low weight.
And at just 24 lb (10.9 kg), it’s super lightweight. The JackRabbit also folds to a width of just seven inches, meaning you can lift it easily to carry into an apartment or dorm room, then fold it down to rest against a wall or under a dorm. “Folding” might not be the best word, since, despite the pegs actually folding up, the handlebars pop off and clip inline against the frame. Either way you slice it, the JackRabbit definitely tucks down into a thin little form factor when not in use.
That’s the whole idea, which came to co-founder Tom Piszkin one day when watching his students show up late. As a coach at UCSD, he saw his athletes often struggling to navigate campus effectively. Parking was nearly impossible to find, bikes were regularly getting stolen, and skateboards/scooters were only good for smooth, manicured paths. He wanted to design a better solution that was small and lightweight so it could be brought inside a classroom or dorm room to prevent it from being stolen outside, yet still had the stable and speedy ride of a bicycle. With a bit of ingenuity, the frankenstein creation he came up with combined aspects of bikes and scooters into the JackRabbit.
Today’s version is actually the JackRabbit 2.0, which is the new and improved version that followed a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Over a hundred backers pledged funds to help the JackRabbit team bring the new design to life, and now the new and improved version is in stock and shipping across the US. It’s priced at $1,199, and add-on accessories such as a rear rack, spare battery, and a fender set are also available.
While it certainly has limitations such as the short range from a small battery, the company says that it performs great at the task it is designed for: short urban trips. Most e-bikes have much longer ranges than 12 miles, but most e-bikes are also designed for a combination of recreational cruising as well as urban transportation. The JackRabbit is purely designed to get riders from point A to point B, and then largely disappear against a wall when not in use. That’s also helped it become popular with RV owners, boaters, and others who require a light, small form factor transportation option when away from their main ride. The battery is even small enough to make it one of the only “e-bikes” you can fly with, since the battery capacity is below the 160 Wh limit imposed by TSA and many airlines.
I had the chance to talk to JackRabbit’s CEO Jason Kenagy about the funny little micro e-bike, and he helped shed some more light on the design.
In response to my first reaction, which was an involuntary chuckle, he took it in stride:
“A new form factor will always raise a few eyebrows at first. Remember when scooters came out? People laughed at the idea and thought they looked dorky. But today, you can’t walk down a block in most cities without seeing a row of them. They’re now completely accepted by the mainstream.”
That’s absolutely true. Not only are electric scooters everywhere in cities around the world, but they represent a multi-billion dollar industry. Heck, individual scooter-sharing companies have achieved billion dollar valuations by themselves.
It’s about more than just acceptance though. As Jason continued, it’s about being effective:
“But in all seriousness, the best part about the small size of a JackRabbit is its convenience. Our e-bike is only 24 lbs, so you can easily throw one into your car or carry it up stairs. And because a JackRabbit can fold down to 7 inches wide, it can easily tuck inside a closet or a small space. However, our “fun-size” doesn’t sacrifice performance or quality. Our e-bikes pack a punch with a top speed of 20 mph and are built with only top-notch materials, made to last.”
I’ll admit that I laughed at the concept at first. But after a more critical look and speaking with Jason, I agree there’s real merit here.
Obviously, this isn’t the e-bike you choose for a long Sunday cruise or to get in a workout. But for lightweight, simple urban navigation, this looks just about perfect. And if you really wanted to go further, just snag a spare battery for $199 and you’re all set to double your range. The spare battery even has a little holster so you can store it under your seat. If you’re especially quick and dexterous, you might even be able to swap it in without coming to a stop.
Often when I write about conventional electric scooters, especially ones that hit higher speeds of 20 mph or more, commenters will mention how dangerous the small wheels look. Hitting a pot hole with eight inch scooter wheels at 20 mph is a recipe for disaster, sending the rider over the handlebars and hurtling to the ground. But 20″ bike wheels can cover most obstacles you’d expect to find in an urban jungle. And the short wheelbase of this thing looks so nimble that you could probably toss out a handful of change and then weave through each coin like a slalom.
I also like that it comes in a bright yellow color option. Those in-your-face colors are hard to pull off for most any vehicle, e-bikes included (it takes a rare breed of individual to drives a bright yellow car). But something as wild and fun-looking as the JackRabbit seems to rock it perfectly.
As our readers already know, Electrek has developed a reputation as a leader in e-bike and e-scooter reviews. So you better believe that I’m going to come back soon with an in-depth review of this awesome little bugger. Until then, let’s hear what you think of the JackRabbit in the comments section below!
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