Date: Thu, May 27th, 2021

Great Falls College renewable energy students auction student-built e-bike

Renewable energy student Keaton Habel tries out the e-bike that is being auctioned off by the program after students worked on converting a mountain bike into an e-bike.

The Great Falls College MSU renewable energy and respiratory therapy students teamed up on a project to learn more about electric bicycles.

The big winner?

Well, it could be you.

The bike, which renewable energy graduate Blake Annis put together as his capstone project using a 26-inch, 21-speed WalMart Huffy mountain bike and an 11-amp hour lithium battery conversion kit from, is up for auction on the Facebook group Great Falls Tech. The auction officially begins on June 1 and runs through June 13.

You can go to the Facebook group to place a bid, ask questions or find additional details. The bike also is on display at Student Central at Great Falls College if you'd like to swing by and take a look.

The minimum bid is $500. A good electric bicycle, or e-bike, can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to well more than $10,000.

When Karry Hardman, renewable energy program director, was considering the e-bike project for his students, he started to wonder just how effective they were, so he invited some of the college's respiratory therapy students in on the project.

"The respiratory therapy students gathered some really interesting data about our pulse oximeter -- so how much oxygen was in our blood and also our heart rates," Annis said.

The way it worked was Annis and first-year renewable energy students Brian Tucker and Keaton Habel each did loops around campus using full pedal power, full motorized power and a mixture of the two called pedal assist.

The respiratory therapy students measured the vitals of Annis, Tucker and Habel after each loop.

"Our heart rates went up dramatically with just pedaling," Annis said. "When we did the pedal assist, (our heart rates) stayed about even, and when we did the motor, some of us went down and some of us stayed consistent."

Tucker enjoyed the experiment and learning about e-bikes.

"It was pretty fun to find out," he said. "Pedaling without the motor, it took a lot effort. At the end of it, I could barely even stand on the bike. I was pushing as hard as I could. When I got off, I about fell over. My legs were burning. And using the pedal assist was pretty cool. I was still using as much power as I could, and it was helping me out. You could feel it kick in and then kick out. Using just the motor, it was fun to just take a ride around."

Annis said he could really see a use for an e-bike when commuting, perhaps using the motor on the way to work or school and then using pedal assist or all human power on the way back so that folks don't arrive at work out of breath and sweaty, but they could get their exercise after work.

"It's a great exercise," he said.

Habel, an outdoors enthusiast, sees a bright future for e-bikes in the backcountry.

"It can be overlooked, but It's something that is finding its way into that backcountry for sure," he said. "Especially in the hunting industry, a lot of guys are switching to those e-bikes to get them someplace because it's quiet, it doesn't leave a big footprint, less maintenance, so if you need to get somewhere in the mountains and you don't want to scare what you are looking for, you can get to where you are going and you're not going to be gassed when you get to where you are actually going to start walking."

Of course, someone forgot to tell the students the test loops weren't a competition, and the three all gave each of their laps around the campus everything they had.

"I found out real fast I wasn't in as good a shape as I used to be," Habel said.

Tucker, who noted he was the oldest of the trio, completed the laps the fastest.

"It went really good," he said, "because I took first in it."

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