One of the most talked about vehicles at last month?s Detroit Auto Show wasn?t gas-powered, or even a car. It was an electric bike made by Smart cars and sold only in Europe (for now). While the Chinese bought more than 25 million electric bikes last year, Americans purchased less than a million--and dozens of domestic makers, many California-based, are jockeying to fill the void. After recent test-drives, we became converts to e-biking, which makes us feel like a kid again with speed, power and the wind in our hair. Here are the bikes we like for our favorite parts of the active SoCal lifestyle.

Short-range commuting: Basically, electric bikes come in pedal-assist models (your pedaling gets extra oomph from a battery) or hand throttle (the motor does all the work). But Irvine-based Pedego?s City Commuter (about $2,295) works both ways with a flip of a handlebar switch. We?d pedal on cool, breezy days and switch to hand-throttle mode for hot days and hilly climbs.

Neighborhood cruising: The pedal-assist Electra Go! (about $2,200) gets high marks for cuteness (its San Diego makers are beach-cruiser experts) and comfort (thanks to the Townie frame?s low seat and forward-placed pedals). 

Pedego and Electra bikes are available at Metropolis Bikes, 4660 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hollywood; 818-506-8144 or pedegoelectricbikes.com, electrabike.com

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