Vvolt Slice Lite utility e-bike

The Vvolt Slice Lite Is A Right-Sized Lightweight Utility E-Bike — CleanTechnica Tested

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When a cargo e-bike is too much for your daily needs, but a standard e-bike isn’t enough, then a utility e-bike might be just the right fit, and the Vvolt Slice Lite is a solid contender.

Although Portland-based Vvolt is new to the CleanTechnica team, the company has been designing and producing electric bikes for the last several years. The Slice Lite is its newest model, and is the company’s entry into the utility e-bike segment, which are kind of like the “lite” versions of cargo bikes — not as big as a long-tail cargo bike, and not usually built to carry kids or loads of cargo on the rear rack, but still very useful for getting around town and hauling groceries or gear with you.

The Slice Lite was one of the simpler e-bikes to put together, as it came in a somewhat smaller shipping box, and instead of having to lift the e-bike out of the box (or cut down the sides of the box), Vvolt uses a cardboard cradle for the front fork which allows the bike to slide right out of one end of the box. Once that’s done, it’s a simple matter to attach the handlebars to the stem, install the front fender and the front wheel, and put the pedals on the crank. The forked center kickstand makes it easy to put the front wheel on without much hassle, as it keeps the bike steady and can be used to keep the front end off the ground during installation. After that, setting the rise and reach of the handlebars using the quick-adjust feature of the stem is simple to do, and although the seatpost is adjusted using a recessed bolt instead of a quick release, it’s no big deal. Then, a quick brake check and a brief ride to dial in the final position of the seat and handlebars is all that is needed before powering it on and pedaling away.

Vvolt Slice Lite

Instead of using a rear rack to carry a load, the Slice Lite uses an optional cargo module mounted to the front in a ‘cycle truck’ configuration directly over the 20″ x 3″ front tire, which is smaller than the rear tire and allows for a lower center of gravity. The cargo module is also simple to install, as it just requires a few bolts attaching it to the front of the frame, and then the headlight can be removed from the frame and relocated to the front of the cargo module, which is also a quick process. If you ever had a front basket on your bike that was attached to your handlebars, you may remember that the basket and its load moved with the handlebars when turning corners, which is not ideal. Because the Vvolt cargo module is mounted to the bike below the handlebars, the load is always in line with the frame, which means that the Slice Lite handles almost the same when it’s loaded as when it’s not, even up to the 40-pound payload limit.

The electric assist comes from a 350W (550W peak) rear hub motor, which is powered by a removable 36V 496Wh battery mounted in the down tube, said to be capable of up to 55 miles per charge. Pedal power is transmitted to the rear wheel via a Gates carbon belt drive, which makes for a very smooth and quiet ride, as well as being low-maintenance (and cleaner, as no grease or lube is needed). The Slice Lite is a singlespeed (50t front ring and 22t freewheel), so it’s not possible to shift up or down for hills, and instead, the pedal assist level can be changed on the fly to supply more power to the wheel for challenging uphill grades, with the rider providing any additional power needed.

Vvolt Slice Lite

The Slice Lite is a Class 2 e-bike, with a top pedal assist and throttle speed of 20mph, and it uses a combination of torque, cadence, and speed sensors to inform the bike’s controller as to how much power the motor supplies. Having a torque sensor in addition to a cadence sensor means that pedaling the Slice Lite has a very natural and responsive feel to it, and there’s no hesitation when the pedal assist is engaged, and no surge in speed or clunky feeling as is common in some cadence sensor e-bikes. Changing the pedal assistance from off to any of the five assist levels (Eco, Tour, Sport, Turbo, Boost) with the controls on the left side of the handlebars allows you to keep your pedaling cadence steady under changing conditions on your route, while the motor provides varying levels of assist if more power is called for. In addition, another button on the controls enables a low-speed Walk mode for help moving the bike while not in the saddle. The thumb throttle on the handlebar is easy to reach without having to feel around for it, and can be a big help when starting out from a dead stop or when a boost of speed is needed.

The color display provides easy access to the speed, trip distance, odometer reading, and estimated remaining range, as well as showing the current pedal assist level, and it’s easy to read even in direct sunlight. The only issue that came up for me about the display was that it doesn’t have a clock feature, which is a small thing but which might be useful while riding. The other thing that stood out for me was actually the absence of a feature — there is no app to connect to, which, although it’s really common for e-bikes to have their own app, shouldn’t be a big deal for most casual riders. Many e-bike apps allow for users to change some or all of the assist parameters on the bike, or to provide mapping and other ride data, and then to share that data if desired, but in my opinion, not having an app is definitely not a deal-breaker.

Vvolt Slice Lite

The Slice Lite has a lot going for it and has some features that I really liked, as well as some other features that were not exactly ‘cons’ for me, but were more like just kinda meh. Of course, each rider will have their own wants and needs in an e-bike, so as always, your mileage may vary.

For the pros, I really liked how maneuverable and nimble the Slice Lite was, as the smaller front wheel and the way that it affects the geometry of the bike makes the steering very responsive. It’s also not any longer than a conventional bike or e-bike as some cargo bikes are, which is a plus when maneuvering in tight spaces, and the forked kickstand is a great feature for parking and loading the bike. The frame is unique, with the chainstays (belt-stays?) attaching to the seat tube above the crankset, and the low top tube means its easy to step through to mount it. The frame feels solid and stable, but not clunky or heavy, and at a total of just 52 pounds, the Slice Lite is not too heavy for most people to move around when not pedaling. The belt drive is a big plus, as it makes pedaling smooth and silent, and the front and rear fenders are a must for any self-respecting city bike.

As far as the cons meh features go, the headlight, being mounted to the frame (or the cargo module), does not track with the handlebars, which means that taking sharp turns after dark might be a little trickier (a removable headlight added to the handlebars would solve that, though). The rear light, while providing a bright red light to both the sides and the rear for visibility, does not have a brake light function, which is not a huge deal but which many other e-bikes have. The Slice Lite has no suspension, so if local road conditions are rough and pothole-y, it may be a bit of a bumpy ride (and any fragile cargo put in the front rack might require some padding), but for most well-paved routes will be no big deal. The singlespeed gearing on the Slice Lite might be an issue if you regularly encounter steep grades on your ride, as even with the motor in Boost mode, pedaling up a long hill may take a lot of muscle power. I live at the bottom of a steep hill that requires a fair bit of muscle on the pedals even on some higher-powered multi-speed e-bikes, and the Slice Lite was no exception, so if you need to ride a lot of hills and lean toward ‘sweat-free’ cycling, it’s something to consider. The final issue, which may not be a problem for people who do not ever fix their own flats, is that both the front and rear wheels use bolted through-axles, so you’d need to carry a couple of different wrenches to be able to repair a flat on the side of the road. That said, I understand why those types of axles are used on the front and rear of many e-bikes, but I often wish there was a ‘quick release’ version of those made for e-bikes.

I have to admit that when I first put the Slice Lite together, I was prepared to not like it at all, but that was just my bias for bigger faster fat tire e-bikes showing its head. However, after riding it around a bunch and putting myself in someone else’s shoes who has completely different needs in an e-bike, I was able to really appreciate the Slice Lite. In my opinion, it would be a good choice — or at least on the short list — for a large segment of riders who want a grocery-getter and errand-runner and decent commuter e-bike. The Vvolt Slice Lite currently retails for $2049 with free shipping in the continental US, and it comes with a 3-year warranty.

Disclaimer: Vvolt provided this e-bike to the author for the purposes of this review.

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Derek Markham

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee.

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