Voltaire electric bike test: classy, ​​powerful, reliable

Who is Voltaire? Data sheet Design Application and screen Driving Autonomy and charging Price and availability ConclusionCommentsSee the product sheetAvailable at €2390

Launched by the French brand Voltaire, the eponymous electric bike is positioned as a Dutch-type model belonging to the high-end segment. For 2390 euros, does the Voltaire have the weapons sharp enough to offer an experience worthy of the name? Answer in this comprehensive test.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Voltaire (2020)Who is Voltaire?

Voltaire is a French company founded by Grégoire Lieurade and Gabriel Ecalle in March 2019. From this new entrepreneurial adventure was born a very first electric bicycle by the name of… Voltaire. After several months of pre-ordering, deliveries begin in April 2021.

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Today, the tricolor company is made up of 12 employees. It is obviously counting on the popularity of electric bicycles in large cities to continue its development. Its product sold for 2,390 euros is aimed at relatively well-to-do purses, and wishes to “meet the requirements of daily urban use”.

Voltaire (2020)Data sheet

Model Voltaire (2020)
Max speed 25 km/h
Engine power 250 watts
Autonomy announced 80km
Announced recharge time 150 minutes
Removable battery Yes
Bluetooth Yes
Screen Yes
Weight 21.5 kilograms
Dimensions n / A
Color Black, Blue, Green
Maximum weight 100kg
Headlights Yes
Taillight Yes
Integrated anti-theft Yes
Price €2,390
Product sheet

This test was carried out using a model lent by Voltaire.

Voltaire (2020)Design

All in elegance

For his first electric bike, Voltaire opted for a so-called “Dutch” style. This category of cycle is intended above all for urban use, and is distinguished by a slender look, a long frame and relatively high handlebars. It is a city bike that we have come across regularly for many years now.

One of the main strengths of this bike is its open frame: this configuration is the perfect ally for getting on and off your mount with ease. No need to play the acrobat by lifting his leg more than a meter from the ground. It is very practical in everyday life, for both men and women.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

The second strength of this model concerns the graphic style applied by Voltaire's teams. This product exudes elegance and shows a certain class, not without enjoying a little vintage touch. In my entourage, his style was clearly unanimous. I was also the first conquered when I discovered it.

Our test model is adorned with a midnight blue color that is very flattering for the retina. The brown-colored grips and saddle provide an interesting contrast, while the handlebars and stem match the mudguards and the seatpost in a more industrial language. All in all a success.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Special mention to the handlebars, enhanced by a perfectly integrated screen (we will come back to this later) and a Crane Bell Suzu bell manufactured by the Japanese Crane Bell. This elegant accessory, designed with finesse, features a brass bell and produces a sufficiently powerful and prolonged sound to warn other road users.

The handles have topstitching that adds depth to its aesthetics. The highlight of the show: a Voltaire logo engraved on the front of the steering column completes this very convincing, but not perfect formula.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Indeed, some small flats come to tarnish the note of Voltaire, without either compromising it deeply. First, the front cables would have deserved better camouflage and a little less length. One of them is entitled to a protective cord, but the whole thing turns out to be a bit unsightly.

To quibble, you can also point to the traces of welds visible on the elements coming to be fixed on the seat tube. But here, we really nitpick. It is also difficult to miss the size of this famous tube. And at the same time, you have to wedge the battery somewhere.

Adequate comfort, but could be improved

Buying an electric bike over 2000 euros can legitimately raise expectations in terms of comfort. That of Voltaire is suitable, without being exceptional either. Difficult to feel on a small cozy cloud when no suspension has been installed. Neither in the front, nor in the back, nor under the saddle.

It would indeed have been interesting to opt for a suspension seatpost, which has the merit of filtering out low impacts and vibrations on the cobblestones, but obvious design problems - the battery is located just under the saddle - have surely got the idea right. It's a shame, but it will have to be done with, or rather without.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Test du vélo électrique Voltaire : classe, puissant, fiable

Don't worry though: the high-density foam saddle and Schwalbe's Road Cruiser Plus Green Compound save the day somewhat. Your trips on the cobblestones will certainly not be very pleasant, vigilance will be required on potholes, but for the rest, it does the trick.

Composed of renewable and recycled raw materials, the tires also benefit from a 3 mm thick underlayer to avoid punctures as much as possible. It's always good to take on a bike of 21.5 kilos, whose weight impacts your passages on the irregularities of the road.

Shovel of equipment

In terms of equipment, the Voltaire does not play it Harpagon de l'Avare. And still happy, at 2390 euros. The long mudguards will protect you perfectly from splashes, the bell falls perfectly under your left thumb and the double-footed center stand stabilizes the bike wonderfully when parked.

On the other hand, the front of the cycle suffers from a slight imbalance which tends to cause the handlebars to lean to the left when the bike is seated on its stand. The first few times, it's quite confusing: you have the impression that the bike will completely tip over, or even fall, with the momentum of the handlebars. When driving without hands (not recommended), the observation is the same. So be careful.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

The front headlight is directly integrated into the stem, although a bit high to illuminate a cycle path at night. The rear one is incorporated vertically on the rear fender, and also and above all benefits from a brake light that comes on when using the rear brake. Nice idea!

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At the rear wheel, an integrated lock allows the wheel to be locked with the turn of a key in a latch provided for this purpose. An additional layer of security, and potentially deterrence, which is not displeasing to us.

As an option, a basket and a front rack of very good quality signed Pelago are available at prices of 110 and 95 euros, respectively.

Voltaire (2020)Application and screen

A clean screen

The Voltaire belongs to the category of connected electric bikes. As a result, he benefits from Bluetooth connectivity and a mobile application allowing him to pair his cycle with his telephone. A screen directly integrated into the stem, as already presented above, completes the whole thing.

Let's start with the screen. If it is off, the e-bike is off too. It is imperative that this small slab is lit to operate the electrical systems of the machine. There are two ways to turn it on: via the mobile app, or with a company-provided NFC tag.

Simply pass the badge over the Wi-Fi icon – which is placed just below the screen – to activate the bike (and vice versa to turn it off). In barely a second, you're done. Be aware that the screen is not touch-sensitive: it therefore acts as an informative support, and not interactive. A single display window is also on the program.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

On this window, you will find your speed, the assistance mode used, the remaining autonomy in the form of a loading bar, the mileage and last but not least, the time. It might seem trivial, but few connected bikes deign to display the time of day. This is, subjectively speaking, a real plus and a useful addition.

On the other hand, we would have appreciated a physical or tactile button to directly manage the assistance mode or the switching on of the headlights. These actions depend on the mobile application. If you're out of battery in your phone, good luck switching modes — though usually that's rarely going to happen — and managing your lights.

We can never repeat it enough: a connected electric bike that is too dependent on an application can quickly bring up some limits.

An application to refine

For its part, the application is more provided. If you want to switch on your bike from the app, it must already geolocate you near your model. Generally speaking, the location system lacks precision and tended to move me around the map. Yet I was motionless.

Then just press the ignition icon for about two seconds. From this step, you will come across a relatively uncluttered welcome screen. At the top left, a tile shows the remaining battery percentage, the total number of kilometers traveled and the distance of your last trip.

Problem: the distance displayed corresponds to that of the overall mileage. As of this writing, the app tends to flatter me with a final route… 161 kilometers long, compared to 5.7 kilometers in reality. It's nothing serious, but Voltaire's teams still have to fine-tune their software experience.

To the left of the ignition button, a "headlight" function allows you to manage the light intensity of your headlight. Why not, it's rare enough to underline it. To the right of the ignition button, a tab displays the electric assistance modes: VIF, ECO or MECA (no assistance).

At the top right, another button gives you access to navigation statistics, resetting your geolocation and mileage, and Transport mode. This mode intervenes when the bike is off: it prevents it from producing a beep when moving.

Because Voltaire has also reinforced the security of the bike via the software part: as soon as the bike moves, it rings and sends you a mobile notification to warn you of a potential theft or suspicious movement. The alarm may not be the loudest and most dissuasive, but it has the merit of existing. In the short term, Voltaire will make improvements to his entire system, Grégoire Lieurade told us.

“We are in the process of developing the FOTA (Firmware Over-The-Air, editor's note) which will be 'uploaded' to all our bikes from the autumn. We are also working on new modes of assistance, as well as improving the app, ”explains the person concerned.

Finally, I would like to report a slight system bug encountered during my test. After switching from FIVE mode to ECO mode on my way to work in the morning, it would have been impossible for me to activate the bike from the app in the evening when returning home. In short: I got stuck in ECO mode, which I wanted to remove.

The NFC badge worked correctly, of course, but it was mandatory to use the application to switch from one mode to another. Force closing the app and disabling my Bluetooth didn't change anything. In this case, the solution is relatively simple: restart your phone. Hence the idea of ​​a physical button to change mode: in this kind of case, it would have been useful to me.

Voltaire however assured us that their server “responsible for client authentication stopped working” for a short period of time. Hence this system bug. This is the first that this type of anomaly has occurred since the launch of the software in production.

Voltaire (2020)Driving

When we come to town

If you have read the test so far, you will no doubt have understood that the Voltaire is above all a bike made for the city. Do not try to venture on beaten paths or other paths in the middle of the forest, unless you like the risk and the singular experiences.

Nor is it about sport riding where your body naturally tilts forward. Here, you will favor a straight driving outfit, with good visibility of your surroundings. Also note that the bike is suitable for users measuring between 155 and 180 centimeters. Outside these limits, it is recommended to test it before buying it.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Does Voltaire belong in a small apartment? Not really, considering his very slender appearance. The best solutions for parking it remain a secure bike room, a garden or a sufficiently spacious living room (this is my case). But for that, you need a big elevator to take it up the floors.

In the very small Parisian elevators, the task turns out to be very delicate, if not impossible. In a larger lift, you will only need to lift the front wheel to tip the bike onto its rear wheel. It is doable, although the front of the bike is relatively heavy to carry.

The panoply of safety accessories can push you to let him sleep outside in case of force majeure. At your own risk, but it's playable.

Electric assistance to the hair

Here we are in the heart of the matter. The electrical behavior of the Voltaire… which turns out to be quite simply excellent. For its motor, the brand's teams called on Mivice, which specializes in the design of motors and batteries. The two partners started working together in 2019.

Hand in hand, the duo then developed a new engine specially designed for the Voltaire. "We worked a lot on the software, which allows us to have this 'smooth' support", Grégoire Lieurade explains. This smooth side, precisely, is one of the key elements of the bike.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

It's simple: at the moment of pedaling, a real feeling of power arises. But gently. Clearly, you have no sudden jerk caused by the electric assistance. This extremely well controlled power/softness ratio reminds me of that of the Cowboys, but in a slightly less sporty style.

To achieve this, Voltaire installed a torque sensor: the power is then sent according to the force you put into your pedals. This sensor is both responsive and precise, and has the advantage of responding instantly to your current needs. To extricate yourself from a delicate situation or overtake another cyclist on a narrow track, it is an ideal ally.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

In addition to that, the 25 km / h are reached in a few pedal strokes. You are dealing here with a turnkey solution: you get on your bike, and you pedal. No gear ratio is available on this two-wheeler, and it is very voluntary on the part of Voltaire. For hill starts, it will take a little force, but it is quite bearable. For the covers, the system fulfills its role well.

All these explanations mainly concern the VIF mode. For ECO mode, the operation of the system remains the same. Just tell yourself that the electric assistance is slightly less powerful. Here it is not limited to 15 km/h like on many other bikes, but propels you up to 25 km/h, with less force.

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In addition to the 250 W motor placed on the rear hub, the Voltaire pays for a belt transmission which therefore has the advantage of being less messy, requiring less maintenance and never derailing. This remains advantageous compared to a conventional chain.

Reassuring brakes

The Voltaire carries on board hydraulic disc brakes signed Tektro which are present in the majority of everyday situations. Biting, but progressive, the braking allows you to stop or slow down urgently when necessary.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Be careful perhaps not to squeeze the brake handles too tightly, at the risk of locking the wheel. This happened to me a few times. But overall, the braking phases have never been a problem for me during my trips. Mission accomplished.

Voltaire (2020)Autonomy and recharging

Good autonomy, but a bit fair

On its website, Voltaire claims a range of between 50 and 80 kilometers. It should be understood here that the ECO mode is taken into account in the calculation and therefore corresponds to the highest value, unlike the VIF mode which gives itself the lowest value. Let's be honest: 99% of the time you'll be using VIF mode.

So plan a radius of action that is more around 50 kilometers. In my case – 176 cm and 63 kilos – my outings allowed me to reach a range of just over 46 kilometres. According to my calculations, 10% energy corresponds to about 4.5 kilometers. If you have 20% left, you can still drive 9 kilometers.

This is important data here, since neither the screen nor the application gives you a numerical figure as to the remaining autonomy. But only a small percentage. In the future, Voltaire intends to refine its technology so that the battery transmits a more precise % remaining to them, we were told.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Is this autonomy of barely 50 kilometers sufficient for an electric city bike sold for 2390 euros? In our view, it is a fair bit. Some competitors push up to 70 kilometers at a relatively similar price, if not less.

Certainly, the Voltaire is intended for an urban environment, but it is not uncommon to travel from the suburbs to the city center, and vice versa, for journeys of 10 kilometers or more outward and return. In the end, the 50 kilometer limit can quickly be reached, prompting you to recharge it at least twice a week depending on your use.

Moreover, it is enough to make a detour after a day's work, to, at random, swallow a small foam, to drive 10 kilometers more. In short, you will have understood: we would clearly not have said no for 20 kilometers of additional autonomy.

Convenient and fast charging

Recharging, meanwhile, is quick: count about 2h30 to recharge the 360 ​​Wh battery. You can either plug it straight into the seat tube or pop it out of place — by lifting the saddle — to keep it close to you.

Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

The battery also benefits from security materialized by a small button placed at the very bottom of the seat tube: if the button is pressed, then the battery is blocked and secured. If it comes out — a key is provided for — then it can be extracted. It's simple, practical and effective.

Voltaire (2020)Price and availability

The Voltaire electric bike is available on the brand's official website at a price of 2390 euros and at various partners offering it in their physical store. In total, ten stores put it on sale, located in Paris, Biarritz, Deauville and Bordeaux. For addresses and timetables, go to this page.

Le Voltaire does not have insurance included: you have to pay the sum of 270 euros, valid for two years of cover (more information on this page). Good news: the brand provides after-sales service with a 2-year warranty. The slightest problem is taken care of by Voltaire during the day.

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To lower the note, many purchase bonuses for an electric bike exist in France: do not hesitate to consult our file which summarizes them region by region.

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