On the outside, an electric bike looks a lot like a regular bicycle. Today, some e-bikes conceal the battery and motor so well that they can fool almost anyone. However, inside the battery pack, motor case, controller casing, throttle, sensors, magnets, wires, and computer, there is a lot of tiny electronics and microchips that make these incredible machines work. In this article, we will go into depth to explain how electric bikes work so you can understand them better and make a smart purchasing decision when you're ready.
What is an electric bike?
Simply put, electric bikes work by integrating an electrical circuit into the mechanical workings of a mechanical bicycle. The circuit consists of a battery, motor, controller, computer, and switches. That is simply what makes up an electric bike. In this section of the Electric Bike Buyer's Guide, we will explain how each part works.
Pros of riding electric bikes
- Simple, cheap, economic and convenient – bicycles are one of the world’s means of transportation. Unfortunately, they are not for everybody.
- Traditional bicycles could be difficult to pedal up and down hills or with heavy loads, and elderly or disabled people could find them impossible to maneuver.
- Electric bicycles are the new generation of bicycles that have revolutionized the idea of environment-friendly transportation.
- The new electric bicycles give the convenience of cars with all the simple economy and efficiency of ordinary cycles.
- At any time, you could pedal an electric bicycle just like you would a regular one.
- There is no added resistance created by the motor, so it is going to feel exactly like a regular bicycle.
The history of the electric bike
The oldest patent of an electric bike is an electric bike at the US Patent and Trademark Office by Ogden Bolton, Jr. of Canton Ohio which was filed in September 1895 and granted three months later.
You can see from the original diagrams of the patent that it bears an interestingly close resemblance to modern electric bicycles.
You should see a hub motor on the rear wheel, a battery suspended from the frame, and a simple handlebar control to make the stop and go. In the more detailed cutaway of the hub motor, you would observe a six-pole magnet in the middle attached to the frame and an armature turns around it if the current is switched on.
It is quite a cool motor even based on modern standards. Ogden describes it as a heavy current at low voltage, for example, to have one hundred amperes at ten volts. This is 1000 watts we are talking about, which is twice the power of a normal motor.
The next big thing
The next big upgrade of the e-bike came in 1897 when Hosea W. Libbey used two motors and batteries rather than one each while designing it. It was called the ‘double electric motor’. In 1898, Mathew J. Steffens patented an e-bike that had a driving belt on the wheel’s outer edge. A US patent was granted to John Schnepf in 1899 for a bike that was ‘roller-wheel’ style bike driven rear-wheel. 50 years after this, Jesse D. Tucker was issued a patent. He developed a motor that allowed one to freewheel and also used internal gearing systems. The rider now had the option to choose whether he wanted to use the pedals together with the electric motor as a combination or not.
Torque motors and power controllers
In the 1990s, the development of torque motors and power controllers came into the picture. Zike was sold as the only commercial e-bike that was available then, in 1992. Another device using power controls with torque motors was first patented in Japan in 1997.
New technology and a rise in demand
In the 10 year period of 1994 to 2004, the production of e-bikes saw an astonishing hike of almost 35%. During the same period, the production of a normal bicycle fell down radically. The new e-bikes used light and less bulky batteries. The new power bikes that emerged in 2001 were called ‘pedelec’.
E-bikes have been broadly classified into three categories - pedal assist, power on demand and both combined.
Market analysis has shown that e-bikes are perhaps going to be capturing 65% of the market, the largest share in the economies worldwide. There are various factors influencing this. Health benefits being the prime reason. An awareness amongst the people about the planet and global warming are also reasons why more and more people have lately been moving towards investing in e-bikes especially in countries like China where the population is vast.
Throttle (on-demand power) vs. Pedal Assist (pedelec)
A modern electric bike is not so different from the first patent. At its core, it is a bicycle, but it has a motor, battery and sometimes a throttle which traditional bicycles do not have. These bicycles are retrofitted with a kit so they will become motorized or could be bought new and already modified to be electric. Almost all of them need pedaling as reflected by the term “Pedelec.” With pedelec bikes, the amount of assistance is connected to your pedaling.
How do electric bike motors work?
For example, if you have dynamo-powered bicycle lights, you technically have an electric-powered bicycle already. Just consider the fact that as you pump your legs up and down, you let the wheels rotate. A small dynamo or generator mounted on the rear part of the wheel generates a small amount of electricity which keeps your back safety lamp lit in the dark. Now, try to imagine that you can run the process backward. Say, for example, you removed the lamp and replaced it with a huge battery. The battery would kick a steady electric current, which drives the dynamo in reverse so that it will spin around just like an electric motor. As the dynamo or motor turned, the tire would rotate and let the bicycle go along without any assistance from the pedaling. It may be too simplistic but this is more or less how electric bikes really work.
The Key Parts of An Electric BikeThere are four key parts of an electric bike, the batteries, the motor, the sturdy frame and spokes and the brakes. When somebody first hears electric bicycle, the first thing that comes to mind is a scooter or an electric motorcycle but they look pretty different in reality. The electric component of the electric bike is designed to add to human power but not totally replace it.
Advantages of Electric Power
- It makes obstacles such as hills and headwind more manageable and lets you travel further and not get tired.
- The good news with electric bikes is that they can be repaired, maintained and upgraded by any qualified bicycle mechanic.
- There is no question that when it comes to the environment, electric bikes are far better than petrol-powered car engines. It does not mean though that electric bikes are perfect.
Manufacturing and disposing of electric bike batteries could be very polluting. Not only this, an electric bike is still using energy that certainly comes from somewhere. You might think that you are using clean green power, but the electricity you use for getting around might have come from a dirty, coal-fired power plant or something driven by nuclear energy. Electric bikes however, are certainly a step in the correct direction. If everybody used them to get around instead of cars, global warming could be less of a problem and the world would be a healthier and cleaner place.
Electric Bikes Are Environment-Friendly
If you are into mountain biking, some of the most advanced e-bikes are made with the capabilities to tackle any terrain and even ride up the same hills most people ride down. Check it out!
How does an e-MTB work?
Learn how pedal assist works by watching this video:
The main distinguishing factors of an electric bike
At this point, you're probably really excited about buying yourself a new e-bike. You've learned how electric bikes work, how the bicycle is integrated with a battery, motor, controller, throttle, sensors, magnets, and a computer. You understand what you need to look for in a battery and what you need to be aware of with motors when you go to shop for a new e-bike.
Parts of An Electric Bike And How They Work
When you buy an electric bike, your criteria for choosing or the important parts that you ask a salesperson or a customer representative are the e-bike’s battery, motor, frame, brakes and warranty. If you have all these parts covered, it is safe to assume that the other parts are just as okay.
The Role of The Battery
The batteries are the most significant parts of electric bikes. If you don’t pedal your electric bike, all the power is provided by the battery. Usual batteries produce 300-500 Watts of power which is around 35-50 volts and 10 amperes. This is a quarter as much as you need in order to drive an electric toaster.
In principle, you could use any kind of battery on a bicycle. In actual situations however, you would want something that stores a lot of power and not being heavy or you will be using half the power just moving the battery along.
Kinds of Batteries
This tends to rule out heavy lead-acid batteries just like the ones that start cars although some electric bikes really use them. Lightweight lithium-ion batteries, the same as computers, mp3 players and mobile phones are now the most popular choice even if they are more expensive compared to rechargeable battery technologies like nickel cadmium or “nicad”.
Usually batteries are going to give your bicycle a range of 10-40 miles between charges (based on the terrain) and also a top speed of 10-20 miles per hour. This is the maximum that most countries allow for these vehicles by law). You could extend the range by pedaling or free-wheeling sometimes.
The Principle of The Motor
The basic idea of an electric motor is very simple: you simply put electricity into it at one end and an axle or metal rod rotates at the other end which gives you the power to drive some kind of a machine. How is this going to work in reality? How do you convert electricity into motion? Imagine that you take a length of ordinary wire, turn it into a big loop, and position it between the poles of a powerful permanent horseshoe magnet. If you connect the two ends of the wire to a battery, the wire will jump up briefly. For an electric bike, the dynamo/motor drives the back wheel directly, simply by pressing on the tire.
Most electric bikes work a different way. They have compact electric motors that are on the hub of the back or front wheel, mounted in the center of the bike and connected to the pedal sprocket. Most electric-powered vehicles use onboard batteries and one, fairly ordinary electric motor that powers either two or four wheels.
How a Hub Motor Works
However, some of the latest electric cars and electric bicycles work differently. Instead of having a single motor powering all the wheels with chains or gears, they build a motor build directly into the hub of every wheel so that the motors and the wheels are just one and the same. This is what a hub motor means. Front Hub motors are located on the front tire and give propulsion by spinning the tire. The motor makes the sensation that the bicycle is being pulled forward. Rear hub motors give propulsion by spinning the back tire. They push the rider forward, which could feel more natural to traditional bicycle riders compared to front hub motors. Mid-drive motors send power to the bike’s drivetrain instead of a hub. The central location produces a more natural riding sensation compared to hub motors. Motors and batteries are mostly supplied by Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano and Tranz-X.
Examples of Motors
Bosch motors can be acquired in three different models, all of them with 250W of power and delivering 50/60/75 Nm of torque. Torque determines how much power you will be getting from the motor. Bosch batteries are 300 to 500 W/h and all make use of Bosch’s Intuvia display and controller. Yamaha motors provide similar performance to Bosch units, with 70Nm of torque powering the cranks and an easy to use LCD controller. Shimano, the leading cycle component manufacturer of the world makes the ‘Steps’ e-bike motor system with a capacity of 418 W/h. Selected Ebco and Raleigh bikes run with Tranz-X batteries and motors. These drive the front wheel using a 36V, 240W motor and give great value for your bucks.
Electric Bike Frame
The frame of an electric bike also has to be a bit different. The main part of the frame, which supports your weight, is usually made out of lightweight aluminum alloy. The lighter the frame, the lighter the entire weight of the bike is and the further it could travel before you have to recharge the batteries. The spokes on the wheel also need to be stronger compared to the thin spokes on a standard bicycle. This is due to the fact that the electric motor in the hub spins the wheel with much turning force known as torque and if the spokes were lightweight and ordinary, they might buckle or bend.
Braking and the Frame
There comes a time during an e-biker’s life when braking becomes top priority, especially in a world with drivers are frequently not paying attention and so do not always notice fast moving bicyclists. A car could pull out in front of you, or open a door in front of you as you ride in a bike lane along with other obstacles. For issues like these even a small improvement in braking power could really make huge difference, particularly if you are riding an electric bike with higher speed and increased weight. Good equipment such as disc brakes are highly recommended.
How Braking Works
If you try braking hard during high speed using only the rear, you will most probably notice skidding. The reason behind this is one of the keys to understanding how to make the most of your brakes. If you apply a hard enough brake force on the front wheel, the rear could completely lift off the ground. This is caused by the inertial force generating a ‘load transfer’ where your electric bike and the load on it wants to keep moving forward which shifts toward the front when you brake. This could reduce greatly or eliminate completely the effectiveness of the rear brake the greater the speed, because as the load on the rear is diminished so is its traction, until the point where the rear may not contact the ground is reached.
The Benefits of Good Brakes
The rear wheel could stop rotating with the use of good brakes, however, with a reduced load on the rear it is going to result in skidding. This is known as a wheel lock, and it reduces both the braking effectiveness and control you have on the bike. The same is not happening with the front brakes, in fact its effectiveness is greatly improved because of more weight being placed in front. The installation of e-bike brakes is therefore a necessary option. E-brakes are an important part of your system and could not be overemphasized enough because the cut power to the motor or engage the regen braking when you pull the lever, if you have a direct drive hub motor. Most factory built bikes include this as a standard part as do many e-bike kits.
Other Electric Bike Parts
There are also other electric bike parts that make an e-bike electric and not just a standard e-bike. It is also important to know these other parts and how they function. The electric bike console is another electronic part of the e-bike. It is usually located on the handlebars where it is very easy to look at while cycling and does not interfere with other parts such as the brakes.
Features of A Console
The most fundamental functionality of the console is to display the amount of battery power left. Without this, it would be difficult for you to know how many kilometers more are available for you to enjoy electric assistance before you go back to manual pedaling without assistance. The precise number of kilometers depends on how much energy your battery can store but it also depends on the amount of pedaling done by the rider, head wind, road condition, tire pressure, etc. The console also shows you trip length or mileage. Every standard vehicle usually shows this information but some electric bikes do not include odometers in their consoles. Speed is also shown in the console and monitoring your speeds is obviously quite important. Another information you might see on your console is the amount of assistance that the motor gives you. Other information and features that consoles have are regenerative braking, power meter, navigation (GPS system), backlit, water resistant, alarm and data logging.
The next part that you should be aware of is the e-bike controller. It is the brain of the electric bicycle. It is called the brain because it is connected to all the other electronic parts like the battery, motor and throttle if it exists. It gets all the inputs from all the components and determines what should be signaled to them in return. The controller has to be fitted to the other parts. You cannot just buy one and connect it to any motor or battery out there. At best, if you are going to do this, the system would not work but there is also a good chance that you will ruin and burn the other parts.
- First and foremost, the controller has to be fitted into the propulsion system. The internal circuitry must know whether to just provide a certain current and voltage to the motor based on the input from the throttle or use a complex measurement of human power in order to know how much power has to be headed to the motor.
- Next, the controller needs to make sure that the batteries are not over-stressed. Simply put, it has to treat the battery nicely.
- Third, the controller controls the motor and this control is based on inputs from the battery and the throttle pedelec. Signals will be sent to the motor to move the bicycle. Just like the battery, the signals are programmed not to overload the motor.
- In some advanced systems, the controller has a fourth function, regenerative braking. In these designs, the controller works to turn the motor into a generator and supply energy back to the battery.
Future Developments of the Controller
There are likely future developments for the controller to improve the electric bike. Future developments include integrating the controller with the motor, knowing the exact remaining distance via controller and parts within the controller that need to be integrated on just one chip.
Understanding the Throttle
The next part that you need to know of is the throttle. Throttles are either twist-grip or thumb-press . The throttle controls the speed levels of your bicycle. For a twist grip throttle, how much you move the throttle will determine the speed of the bicycle. For the thumb-press, you simply do a simple on and off. The throttle’s analogy for a car would be the gas or the accelerator. Of course if you are on pedal assist mode, the accelerator would be your pedals.
Pedelecs are electric bicycles that need to be pedaled in order to run. Pedal assist begins as soon as you start pedaling. The motor assistance will come on to assist you only when you pedal. It will make pedaling really easy and you will feel like cycling with constant tail wind. The motor will automatically be turned off when you stop pedaling or press on the brake. In this design however, there is no throttle present. You do not have to switch anything or power-on anything. In theory, the pedal assist bicycle is usually more protective to the battery and its riding range is longer than throttle-based e-bikes.
Development of Pedelecs
The Pedelec was developed because of regulation of some countries including the European Union. The control mechanism is a lot more complicated than that of power-on-demand electric bicycles. The electronic circuitry includes an advanced pedal torque sensor and an advanced computer chip that handles the pedaling data and sends the data to the motor.
Now that you know the parts of the electric bike, how they work and how an electric bike works, the next step is to ask yourself some important questions about how you plan to use your new e-bike. These questions will guide you through the buying process to help you determine which e-bike is right for you. You will be able to understand the pros and cons of choosing a more expensive e-bike vs. a cheap e-bike, and what you'll need to know in order to have the best buying experience possible.
If you're ready to learn which electric bike you should buy, read our article Which Electric Bike Should I Buy?
If you still haven't made up your mind about buying an electric bike maybe you should know the benefits of an electric bike:
Benefits of Riding an Electric Bike
- Health benefits: While riding a bicycle, you get great cardiovascular exercise that tones your core muscles. Your body also release endorphins which are a chemical in your body that make you feel happy while taking care of your heart.
- Practical use: Electric bicycles make riding across hilly terrain no different than riding on flat, making commuting to work or school a breeze. You can ride without breaking a sweat, get places faster, and headwinds are much easier to manage.
- Economical: Besides the upfront investment, electric bicycle batteries cost pennies to fill up each day. The only cost you'll have with operating an e-bike is the maintenance of the moving parts and electric components every few months depending on usage. You'll get more out of an electric bicycle than a regular bike because you'll use it much more.
- Environmentally friendly: By using an electric bike instead of a gas-powered vehicle to get around cuts down on your carbon footprint. By choosing to use electricity more than fossil fuels, you'll be helping to change the world one ride at a time.
- Safer: Riding an electric bike is much safer than a motorcycle. You can ride on bike paths, sidewalks, and bike lanes, making riding an e-bike just as safe and fun as riding a regular bicycle.
So why ride an electric bicycle?
If you join the Tour de France and equip your bicycle with a small electric bicycle, you would be disqualified because of mechanical doping and is considered cheating. For everyone else however, an electric bicycle could be a good way to make exercise both practical and tolerable, based on a motivational study of bicycle commuting.
- Exercise is really necessary in our lives as we would have realized by now. People who are active physically have lower chances, compared to sedentary people to have heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, stroke, disabilities in old age and premature death.
- Electric bicycling reduces stress, boosts your immunity, reduces risk of heart disease, lifts your mood, makes you look and feel 10 years younger, helps you lose weight and get fit and move ahead in the crowd as electric bicycles are the future.
- Compared to a traditional bicycle, you don’t sweat as much because you have the option of turning on the motor.
A Simple Experiment
An experiment published at the European Journal of Applied Physiology by researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, showed what would happen if they gave a group of out-of-shape men and women zippy electric bicycles and suggested that they begin riding e-bikes to work. It is important to note that the researchers only studied motorized bikes that assist the rider instead of do all the work for them, like a moped. They used electric bicycles that required the rider to pedal in order to get assistance from the motor.
Aim of the Study
What the researchers wanted to know was whether the electric bicycles, even with the added assistance of an electric motor, was capable of giving meaningful exercise for people who had not been exercising much previously. They also wanted to determine whether the bikes were fundamentally safe to use, given that they let even novice riders reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour or higher. The Boulder city government funded the study partially as part of the assessment of whether to allow electric bicycles on municipal bike paths. Extra funding came from local bicycle shops and Skratch Labs, a sports nutrition company in Boulder.
The Experimental Setup
The researchers first brought the 20 sedentary volunteers into the lab to check the body composition, aerobic fitness, blood pressure, blood sugar control and cholesterol profiles. They then provided every single one of them with an electric bicycle, GPS device, heart rate monitor, instructions on the use of these equipment and asked every volunteer to don the monitors and ride his or her new bicycle to and from work at least 3 times a week for the next month, spending at least around 40 minutes in the saddle during those days. The volunteers were directed to choose whatever speed and effort was comfortable for them. Then the researchers made the novice riders go into Boulder’s roads and bike paths.
Results of the Experiment
A month later, the volunteers returned to the lab to repeat the original tests and turn over heart rate as well as GPS data. Everyone had ridden at least the recommended minimum of 40 minutes three times every week and in fact, based on their monitor data, most had ridden more than required, many about 50 percent more. The riders also rode with some intensity. Their heart rates had an average of 75 percent of every person’s maximum, which means that, despite the motor assist, they had been getting a decent amount of workout, which can be compared to jogging or brisk walking. The experiment also revealed, thankfully, that none of the participants had crashed and hurt themselves (or anybody else for that matter). The fact is, the participants rode at an average speed of 12 miles an hour according to James Peterman, the lead researcher. What is most important perhaps is that the riders were fitter and healthier now, with a huge change in aerobic fitness, better blood sugar control and a trend toward less body fat. They also found exercising with electric bikes as fun. Many participants have actually bought electric bicycles since the study ended.
Electric bicycles are least likely to be a solution for someone who is pressed for time or reluctant to exercise. The bikes are seriously expensive and can retail for up to thousands of dollars.
An electric bicycle also provides practical advantages.
- Your commute is quicker. You are going to find that your trip door-to-door is shortened in length due to the extra boost from the motor.
- It is also great for busy urban areas because the extra speed and acceleration mean that you could easily stop and start in traffic and at junctions.
- Biking helps improve your coordination. This helps you keep your mind sharp which could impact all facets of your life from interaction with energetic, young loved ones to general physical ability.
- It also mixes exercise with work as you cycle to work.
- Electric bikes and bike parts are also easy to install, maintain and repair. They are definitely way easier than a car or a motorcycle. There are many DIY kits for electric bicycles and this is the reason why they are also popular with regular people like you and me. It is great for urban areas.
- The extra speed and acceleration mean that you could easily stop and start in traffic and at junctions. They’re very fun to ride and require less effort. You can also turn the motor on or off which means you can turn it into a semi-motorcycle or make it into a traditional bicycle and have some serious leg workout.
- You don’t need a driver’s license to drive one so, yes, it is very practical.
- As you learn to love electric bicycles, you will find yourself spending more time outdoors in the fresh air.
- Your average commute with an electric bike per day will only cost you around 5-8 cents. Over one month, this would only amount to $1-$2.
- If you own a car, you can reduce the wear and tear by overuse on the car and extend its lifetime because you would be riding your electric bicycle for short distances instead of using the car.
- You could also go on a semi-vacation around your neighborhood with an electric bike because it gives you the freedom to go to places such as trails where cars couldn’t go and spend your whole weekend exploring your neighborhood. The experience might be the similar to expensive trips.
- Errands are also something that you can do with electric bikes like taking your child to school or picking up groceries. There are optional rack bags and bike trailers that can give you the carrying capacity that you need.
- Based on a study by the National Household Travel Survey in 2009, half of all the trips in the US are less than 3 miles. Biking makes good sense and an electric bike is definitely your modern horse if this is the case.
- Hills can be a challenge when you are walking or riding a traditional bike but not so with electric bikes as you make slopes seem flat with these vehicles.
- Parking is a major problem with cars and even motorcycles but with electric bicycles, all you need is a safe and secure lock and you can park it almost anywhere you want.
- An electric bicycle is definitely a better option than a crash diet when it comes to staying fit.
- There are simply no limitations to electric bicycles just like traditional cycling. Electric bicycles can withstand the pedaling power of the most powerful cycling athletes and the sky is the limit when it comes to speed as long as you have a helmet and the right safety gear.
- Electric bikes are simply for everybody both young and old and people from all walks of life regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
Another advantage of electric bicycles is that they are smart choices economically speaking.
- Electric bikes don’t require gas so you definitely save money on fuel. Across the entire EU, e-bikes are saving money and time.
- They increase productivity and efficiency as well as provide new jobs.
- A trial project for electric bikes called the PRO E-Bike project gave several public authorities and private companies across Europe with subsidies for the trial of various electric bikes and cargo bikes. The result came out with 4 out of 5 electric bikes tested being continued for usage after the trial period and some companies even purchased more electric bicycles.
- Four vehicles tested by the Croatian Post resulted in an increase of 180 electric bikes bought for a total of 500,000 euros. The bicycles were used all over the country and every one replaced a conventional gas motor scooter, giving improvement for the environment, the employees and the cities where they were deployed.
- The 19 electric bikes tested by city staffers in Sweden were all adopted. They were used by employees for their rounds and delivering home care services throughout the year and required the use of something like an electric bike all the time. When 5 other cities learned of the success, they also purchased electric bicycles for use in their administrations. The end result of the pilot test was that twice as many electric bicycles were now used compared to the number that was originally tested. This is very important with the recent energy crisis and the rise of oil prices across the globe.
- Also, you don’t need to buy a road tax for an electric bicycle. You don’t have to pay for congestion charges and insurance. The batteries are small and you don’t have to pay a lot to charge them.
A Financial Case Study
Let’s take a 3 year period for your electric bicycle so we could do the math and see how much it really costs you to own and use an electric bicycle for a period of 3 years. Let’s say you purchased an electric bicycle for $1,000. Then, of course, you charge your battery and let’s say you ride for 150 miles every week, which is equivalent to 7,800 miles per year and 23,400 miles for 3 years. You will be surprised to know that the electric bike electricity cost is $35.00. That is correct, 35 dollars is the amount on your electric bill for your electric bicycle. How about servicing and repairs? A typical repair service center for electric bicycles charges you $60 for a service plan. You might also have to change your tires, so let’s add another $60 on top of that. This is $120 for parts and servicing. So overall, your 3 year cost for buying and using an electric bicycle is $1,155. This is $7.40 every week, which is of course nothing compared to the expenses that you spend for cars and even motorcycles on account of gas. Does this save you money? You tell me. So, what are you waiting for?
- With the recent Paris Agreement on global warming, now is the best time to buy an electric bike and would help you lower carbon emissions. Car trips comprise 65% of all travelling, and about 25% of commuters live within 5 miles of their place of work.
- It is not very surprising that electric bikes would make these numbers more efficient and environment-friendly. Electric bicycles are zero emissions vehicles.
- A recent study in the US has concluded that electric bicycles are 18 times more energy efficient than an SUV/4x4, 13 times more energy efficient than a saloon car, 6 times more energy efficient than rail and has almost an equal impact to the environment as a traditional bicycle.
- According to National Geographic, motor vehicles produce more than 30% of carbon dioxide, 80% of carbon monoxide, and 50% of nitrogen oxide emissions every year in the US.
- Much of the pollution is generated by commuters who make short trips from home to work and back, and shifting to an electric bicycle for these commutes would cut down on a large amount of harmful emissions and fossil fuel usage.
- It is quite a popular notion that male cyclists outnumber female cyclists wherever you go, except maybe in Netherlands, where cycling is so safe that even small children could commute by bicycle. Research suggests that this has a lot to do with safety: many people see cycling as unsafe, and due to this fact, many women do not want to ride a bicycle.
- An electric bicycle is less dangerous than a regular bicycle in traffic. As soon as you start riding a bicycle, you will experience the quick acceleration and how it can keep you out of danger when you are in heavy traffic.
- You are also less likely going to be rear ended since motorists have more time to keep you visible. Intersections are the scene of many collisions, and the quick acceleration of electric bicycles can easily get you out of the danger zone faster than other vehicles.
- The fewer the cars that need to overtake you, the safer you will be. You also have the power to go up hills and you do not have the temptation to go downhill at high speeds in order to get your speed up for the coming climb. This is definitely a very useful feature.
- Also, cyclists riding electric bicycles have more probability to stop at stop signs and red lights, since they have the power to easily pull off again.
- The power source on an electric bicycle is often used to power lights and horns so it is definitely safer compared to a traditional bicycle especially at night when the lights keep you visible as well as the road that you are travelling.
- With enough power, you can have an electric bike light that is 20 times more powerful than an average bike light.
This Is Just The Beginning
In this guide, our goal is to introduce you to electric bikes, explain what they are and how they work, help you understand different types and which one is right for you, provide tips and advice, and answer some common questions. By reading this guide, you will be able to make a more informed purchasing decision and understand these new trendy electric, human-powered, hybrid bicycles.
Electric Bike Terms
It is also useful to know a few electric bike terms so you can understand articles, discussions, blogs, reviews and forums about electric bikes:
Rear fender/Mud Flap – Fender is the American English term for the part of an automobile, motorcycle or other vehicle body which frames a wheel (the fender underside). Its main function is to prevent sand, rocks, mud, road spray and liquids from being hurled into the air by the rotating tire. Fenders are usually rigid and could be damaged by contact with the road surface.
Saddle rack – A saddle rack is a framework, bracket, or stand where a saddle may be hung when not in use.
Seat stay – On a bicycle, a seat stay is one of the parallel tubes that run from the top of the seat tube back to the rear axle.
Rear hub motor – A rear hub motor also called a wheel hub motor is an electric motor which is incorporated into the hub of a wheel and drives it directly.
Rear dropouts – Rear dropouts are the two small notches in the rear of your bicycle where the hub rests. It is where your rear wheel goes.
Spokes – Spokes are rods radiating from the center of a wheel, connecting the hub with the round traction surface.
Freewheel cassette – A freewheel cassette is a profiled wheel with teeth or cogs, that mesh with a chain, track or other perforated or indented material.
Rail Derailleur – A rail derailleur is a gear-shifting mechanism on a bicycle which shifts the drive chain from one sprocket wheel to another.
Chain stay – A chainstay is one of the two tube frames which run horizontally from the bottom bracket shell back to the rear dropouts.
Chain – The bicycle chain is a chain that transmits power from the pedals to the driving wheel of a bicycle.
Pedelec Sensor – A pedelec sensor is a mechanism that sends signals to the controller to indicate that the pedals are moving.
Crank arm – is the offset portion of a crankshaft to which the connecting rod and piston are attached.
Pedal – a leverlike part worked by the foot to supply power in several mechanisms as in an electric bicycle.
Down tube – a vertical tube that makes up part of the bicycle frame.
Cable housing – a sheath that provides covering for the electric bicycle’s cables.
Front Hub and Axle – The hub is the center part of a bicycle wheel. It comprises of an axle, bearings and a hub shell. The hub shell usually has two machined metal flanges to which spokes can be attached. The axle is attached to dropouts on the fork or the frame. It is a rod that attaches a wheel to a bicycle and provides support for bearings on which the wheel rotates.
Rim – The rim is the outer edge of a wheel holding the tire. It makes up the outer circular design of the wheel on which the inside edge of the tire is mounted on vehicles such as automobiles.
Disc brake caliper – In a disc-braking system the bike’s wheels are attached to metal discs, or rotors, that spin along the wheels. The job of the caliper is to slow the bike’s wheels by creating friction with the rotors. The bike caliper fits over the rotor like a clamp.
Disc brake – A disc brake is a kind of brake which uses calipers to squeeze pairs of pads against a rotor in order to create friction that retards the rotation of a shaft, such as a vehicle axle, either to reduce its rotational speed or to hold it stationary.
Fork – A bicycle fork is the part of the bicycle that holds the front wheel. A fork usually consists of two blades which are joined at the top by a fork crown. Above the crown, a steerer tube attaches the fork to the bicycle and the handlebars (through a stem) allowing the user to steer the bicycle.
Valve stem – A valve stem is a self-contained valve which opens to admit gas to a chamber such as air to inflate a tire and is then automatically closed and kept sealed by the pressure in the chamber, or a spring, or both, to prevent the gas from escaping.
Brake lever - is a lever on the handlebar that connects to the brake cable and thus operates the braking mechanism.
Handlebar – refers to the steering mechanism for bicycles; the equivalent of a steering wheel.
Twist throttle – is the device, lever or pedal that controls the quantity of energy, electricity or fluid going to the motor and is used to control the electric bicycle’s speed.
Twist Grip Shifter – is a component used to control the gearing mechanisms and select the gear ratio.
Head tube – is the part of the electric bicycle’s tubular frame within which the front fork steerer tube is mounted.
Top tube – the top tube or cross-bar connects the top of the head tube to the top of the seat tube.
Seat post – is a tube that extends upwards from the bicycle frame to the saddle.
Controller - there are two kinds of controllers designed to match either a brushed motoror brushless motor. The controller is the brain of electric bikes. It is connected to all other electronic parts like the battery, motor and throttle. It takes all inputs from other components and determine what should be signaled to them in return.
As an electric bike user or someone who is interested in electric bicycles, you might also want to really familiarize yourself with the important parts, of the e-bike, electric bike jargons along with some accessories.
Hub Motor. This kind of motor exists within an enlarged hub and is built-in directly to the front or rear wheel with special spokes. It drives the bicycle through the application of torque directly to the wheel and is generally more silent and more efficient compared to external chain driven motors. Hub motors could be geared or ungeared and come in many Watt sizes.
Motor Watts. This is the unit of power defined as one joule per second used to measure the size of an electric bike motor. Higher Watt motors mean faster and stronger e-bikes but it also depends on the battery volts.
Battery Volts. It refers to the electric power potential that the battery supplies to the motor giving the bicycle torque as well as hill climbing ability. Just imagine a garden hose and a fireman’s hose. More water could come out at once from the fireman’s hose so that is equivalent to higher voltage and will increase motor performance.
Battery Amp Hours. This is the unit of electric charge a battery can handle and determines how long the battery would last. Higher amp-hours will make the battery go further.
Brushed vs. Brushless. This is a description of how the motor is built, brushless means more silent motors because there are no “brushes” rubbing to make the motor go. Brushless also lasts longer.
Geared Motor. Gears are used to convert higher rotations per minute (RPM) in the motor into more or less torque. A lot of bike gears but some cheaper bicycles use plastics that could wear out faster over time or become noisier. Some bikes and trailers use chains and rings instead, like gears on your bicycle. If gears are external versus the inside of a hub motor they could wear out faster because they are exposed to the elements.
PAS or Pedal Assist. Electric bikes with pedal assist options sense the revolutions of your front crank. There is a small plate with sensors and magnets in it mounted right where the pedals go through the bike frame and every time the pedals goes by it signals the bike motor to help you. Oftentimes the bikes have changing levels of aid to either make your ride easier but use up the battery faster or harder and have the battery last longer.
Twist and Go (TAG). Throttle mode or twist and go mode is just the default electric drive mode that only powers the bike as you twist a throttle or push a lever. In this mode, pedal assist is disabled.
Sealed Lead Acid or SLA. This kind of battery is cheaper and easier to recycle. Hence, it is better for the environment and geopolitics because Lithium is often mined in politically unstable parts of the world. The disadvantage is that they are a lot heavier and will only last 1/3 as long as other alternatives such as Lithium ion. They usually last somewhere between 300 and 500 cycles.
Lithium polymer (Li-Poly). This kind of battery is a step up from Sealed Lead Acid and is going to make make your bicycle go further but also cost more. It does not have quite as much surface area as Lithium Ion because the lithium-salt electrolytes which store energy are suspended in a polymer composite like polyethylene oxide or polyacrylonite. The benefit is that this kind of battery is very rugged.
Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4). This kind of battery is another mid-level option which is stable and has a longer lifespan compared to Sealed Lead Acid. It is similar in performance compared to Lithium Polymer but could be heavier.
Lithium Ion. This kind of battery is the most desirable because it gives the most charge cycles, close to 1500 and is also very light. It is also the most expensive and has been unstable in a few applications in the past. Newer Li-ion batteries are everywhere from laptops to cellphones and electric bicycles.
AC Current. Alternating current is used in electrical mains but very rarely used in light electric vehicles.
Advanced battery. A battery using NiMH or Lithium cells, usually needing a battery management system (BMS) with higher performance and higher cost.
After Market Kit. A kit of components to convert a manual bicycle to an electric bicycle.
Amp. From Ampere, it is a measure of the amount of electrical current that passes through any given point given a certain amount of time. It is used to describe the demand or supply of electrical energy.
Auxiliary battery. It is a battery which could provide current to the vehicle, but is optional, or extra, or added on.
Battery, or Energy Storage Device. It is a combination of cells that make a certain voltage and current capability to power an electric motor or vehicle.
Battery Box, or Battery Package. It is the combination of cells which make up a battery which provides electrical energy for the electric bicycle. It is packed into the unique form factor for a certain vehicle. It usually goes with BMS or motor controller inside the same box.
Bottom Bracket Motor. It is a motor located in or adjacent to the bottom bracket or pedal axle. It is sometimes called a central motor or mid motor.
BMS. It stands for Battery Management System and is an electronic circuit which is found on advanced batteries. The BMS protects the battery from damage, and prevents safety problems of battery overheating and also monitors the state of charge.
Brake Kill Switch. It is a device which turns off the motor as the brake lever is applied by the user.
C-Rate. It is a unit of measurement which describes how fast a battery could supply current. A 1c rate means that the battery could be completely discharged in a single hour. Going faster than that will simply not work or could damage the battery. A 2c rate battery could be discharged in 30 minutes, or twice as fast as a 1c rate battery. This is important with regards to the power which could be developed by the motor attached to the battery. For example, a 500 watt motor which is climbing a hill could demand 30 amps of energy. If the battery is a 10 ah battery, then it has to supply energy at a 3c rate to let the motor do its job. If the battery is only capable of 1c, the rider would likely walk on this hill.
Cells. Individual electro chemical devices which create electric current and are combined in packages to give the right amount of voltage and current for a certain function, called batteries.
Ceramic Magnets. They are used in electric motors. It is lower in performance and cost compared to Neodymium magnets.
Connectors. These are the fittings which allow the electrical components and wiring that need to be connected. They are often easily released or unplugged.
Coulombs. Units of measurement of energy. The amount of energy is equal to one amp for one second. Therefore, there are 3600 coulombs in a single amp hour. Since the battery state of charge for lithium is hard to ascertain by the measurement of voltage, sophisticated BMS measure the SOC of lithium batteries by counting coulomb.
Current. A flow of electricity that normally refers to the amount of electrical energy being used by the electric bicycle.
DC. This stands for direct current or the form of electric current used in almost all light electric vehicles.
DC Motor. This refers to a motor that uses direct current.
Direct drive motor. This is a reference to a hub motor which has no gear reduction. These motors are quieter and simpler. They are often more expensive and larger compared to gear type motors.
DIY kit. This stands for do-it-yourself kit which is a set of components that convert a manual bicycle to an electric bicycle.
EPAC. It stands for Electric Pedal Assist Cycle or European Union law calls an electric bicycle.
Gear Type Motor. This usually refers to a hub motor which uses a gear reduction inside the hub shell. These motors are usually cheaper and have good performance but are noisy and have more wear points.
Human Electric Hybrid. This is an electric bicycle which allows both human and electric power. It is a very efficient system as humans are low endurance, high torque devices and electric motors are lower torque, high endurance devices that are limited only by the battery. Together they are a very efficient and effective propulsion system for a vehicle.
ICE. This stands for internal combustion engine, the propulsion device in petrol powered vehicles. This is a source of pollution, noise, expense and political problems.
Lead Acid Batteries. These are old technology batteries that are less expensive than that used in most of the world’s light electric vehicles. Even if they are heavy, they are very dependable. They also have excellent discharge and charge capabilities and almost 100% recyclable. They are also called SVRLA and Pb A or Pb batteries. They have a nominal voltage of 1.75V – 2.4V.
Low speed electric assisted bicycle. This is what the USA law calls an electric bicycle.
Max Discharge or Max Current. This refers to the discharge rate of the battery.
Manual bicycle. A bicycle propelled by human power only. It is a very old design like sails or manual typewriters or charcoal writing on slate.
Motor. An electric motor that assists the rider. It can be found in various places and styles of placement.
Pb or Pb A batteries. This refers to lead acid batteries.
Neodymium. This is a rare earth metal that is used for the production of high energy permanent magnets. These magnets can be found in LEV motors and are one of the reasons why electric bikes cost a lot.
Ni Cad. Nickel cadmium batteries that are not used for some time by electric bicycles but found on some older models. Toxic and lower in performance compared to Lithium and NiMH.
NiMH Battery. This is short for Nickel metal hydride battery. It is non-toxic, delivers better performance than lead acid but less than lithium. It is not quite common but still found in some e-bikes.
Pedelec. It is an electric bicycle where the rider has to pedal for the motor to run. Variants of this are the PAS design used in Japan, and the EPAC design used in Europe.
Permanent Magnet – It is a magnet that stays magnet that stays magnetized without external supplies of energy. They are used in almost all motors used on light electric vehicles.
Push to start or pedal to start. A few electric bikes need the user to pedal a few strokes or gain a certain level of speed by pedaling before the motor could be activated.
Speed Sensor. This is a device which detects the rate of pedaling and is used to activate power in pedelecs. It does not have a nice feel as a torque sensor system.
SOC. State of Charge is the gas gauge or how much useable energy is available in the battery. It seems to be a simple task but this could be important to user satisfaction and could be quite complicated to establish.
SVRLA. It stands for sealed valve regulated lead acid batteries and are the most common kind of electric bike and electric scooter battery at present.
Tire Scrubber or Friction Drive. It is a friction roller that rides against the vehicle tire and uses the outside diameter of the tire as a gear reduction as well as the point of power application. This is a very simple system that was the main design during the early days of electric bicycles.
User Interface. It is the interaction of the user and the machine that includes controls, pedals and seat but normally refers to the data display of information such as distance, SOC and speed. It has quickly become interactive with the internet and GPS through phone and other gadgets.
Wiring Harness or Harness. This refers to the wires, switches and connectors which carry electric current as well as signals about the vehicle.
Electric Bike Breakdown
An electric bike is simply a regular bicycle with a battery, motor, controller, computer, and switch integrated into the mechanics of the bike to offer an electrical assist and track performance.
There are a few different modes of electric bike operation:
- On-demand throttle-powered "twist-and-go" acceleration: This type of e-bike function allows the rider to send power from the battery to the motor on-demand when necessary. This is the same way a motorcycle works. When you twist the throttle, you go. No pedaling is needed in this mode.
- Pedal assisted power: This option is included in every e-bike now as a standard mode of operation. There is a magnet sensor installed on the downtube and the crankset so that the bicycle controller will know when you start pedaling. After one or two rotations within a short period of time, the controller will tell the battery to send electricity to the motor and the motor will kick in. Some e-bikes have different levels of assist and some have just an on-or-off assist mode. This mode saves battery life and helps you ride further, but also lets you get exercise as your ride.
- No assist, human-powered riding only: Every electric bike can be ridden just like a regular bicycle with the computer and battery turned off. This mode can come in handy if you ride your e-bike until the battery is depleted. The bike will still be rideable and you can go anywhere with it, but it will be a bit heavier than a normal bicycle. To preserve the overall battery life, smart riders keep their battery topped-off every day.
There are a few different modes of electric bike operation:
On-demand throttle-powered "twist-and-go" acceleration: This type of e-bike function allows the rider to send power from the battery to the motor on-demand when necessary. This is the same way a motorcycle works. When you twist the throttle, you go. No pedaling is needed in this mode.
Pedal assisted power: This option is included in every e-bike now as a standard mode of operation. There is a magnet sensor installed on the downtube and the crankset so that the bicycle controller will know when you start pedaling. After one or two rotations within a short period of time, the controller will tell the battery to send electricity to the motor and the motor will kick in. Some e-bikes have different levels of assist and some have just an on-or-off assist mode. This mode saves battery life and helps you ride further, but also lets you get exercise as your ride.
No assist, human-powered riding only: Every electric bike can be ridden just like a regular bicycle with the computer and battery turned off. This mode can come in handy if you ride your e-bike until the battery is depleted. The bike will still be rideable and you can go anywhere with it, but it will be a bit heavier than a normal bicycle. To preserve the overall battery life, smart riders keep their battery topped-off every day.
That's it. Electric bikes are very simple. However, there is a lot more to the inner-workings of an e-bike than you may be aware of. We decided to make an entire guide on this topic.
Ten Fast Facts about E-bikes
Before we go to the nitty-gritty, here are some interesting facts about the e-bike.
- The first e-bike documented in United States patents was developed by Ogden Bolton Jr. on December 31, 1895. The bicycle ran on a 10-volt battery that can power 100 amperes max. The battery was installed to a hub motor placed on the rear tire.
- E-bikes started to resurface during the 1970s energy crisis.
- It was about a hundred years later when e-bikes became a fad. By 1993 to early 2000, e-bike sales went on a boom slowly replacing regular bicycles.
- China tops the world in the market for e-bikes with Western Europe coming close in second.
- E-bike, power-assisted, pedelec, power bike are some of the names coined to refer to electric bikes.
- “Electric bike” was documented by eBay as the highest trending search in May 2016 scoring 108,734 clicks and 95,529 views.
- Electric bikes also tops in sales among electric vehicles worldwide.
- You can save around 25 gallons of gas if you use an electric bike for every 500 miles instead of your car.
- Electric bikes can go the distance of 20 to 50 miles of a fully-charged battery.
- According to a study, most of the places you go to for your daily errands and trips are well within 10 mile-zone from your house. These places such as malls and shops can be easily accessed by using e-bikes.
Electric Bike Inner Workings
Now, let us look into the technical aspect of the electronic-bike. You can get a ready-made e-bike in the market. You can also choose to convert your regular bicycle, if you have one, to an electric bike. Here are the things that you need to look into when getting an e-bike.
If you want to buy an e-bike, you should think about what type of motor suits your needs and preferences. There are different types of motors specifically categorized depending on the area where they are mounted.
- Hub Motor
The hub motor is practical and functional. It is usually mounted on the wheel at the front or rear. It is typically the most common type that you see on most e-bikes. The hub motor usually only has one gear. It can run smoothly on flat areas such as cities. If you are looking for cruiser bikes or commuter bikes for short trips, you can do with the simplicity and practicality of hub motor e-bikes.
But, the hub motor is not intended for hilly and sloping areas. Some very powerful hub motors with powerful torque were recently designed to be able to run even on hills. But, don’t push your bike torque to the maximum level with a hub motor or you might break a frame. This is rare, however.
Among hub motors, direct drive motors are becoming standard. Alternating currents go through the stator windings which are attached to the axle to rotate the hub in Brushless DC (BLDC) machines. Modern designs conceal the BLDC by placing the motor in the wheel hub. Meanwhile, a carbon brush provides currents to the windings through a commutator plate in DC hub motor. The windings are inside the hub spinning while the magnets are attached to the axle in the motor.
Pros and Cons of Direct Hub Motor
E-bikes with hub motors look sleek and clean. The hub conceals the parts so that there are no external mounts needed to support transmission.
Some older hub motors are large and heavy compared to their power output. These older versions can slow down your e-bike to a drag. New hub motors, such as BionX, have improved designs that made the motor narrow and light by increasing the diameter of the motor to increase the speed between windings and magnets.
Older designs of hub motors are set as mechanically engaged for regenerative or regen braking. While this could mean savings in battery power, regen braking in bicycles could add to reversal torque even when you are not using it which is quite a drag to your otherwise smooth ride.
Another option that hub motor enthusiasts recommend is the geared hub motor. The geared hub motor has gearing that reduces the speed of the wheel from the power output of the motor. Unlike the direct drive hub motor, the geared hub is wider but is smaller in radius. It is also more light-weight. It has also removed regenerative braking to allow the wheel to spin when you opt to turn off the motor.
Pros and Cons of Geared Hub Motor
Geared hub motors are efficient. However, owners usually complain of the “noise” and the expensive maintenance. This is due to the number of moving parts of geared hub motor. Most geared hub motors also run on single speed.
- Mid-drive motor
You can find mid-drive motors installed in the middle portion of the bike. They are fitted at the bottom of the bracket or the portion where the crankset is attached to the bike frame. The placement offers the bike stability and efficiency. The placement also distributes and multiplies the power of the motor using existing gears. Directly attached to the drivetrain and placed near bike sensors, mid-drive motors also offer better performance and torque compared to hub motors.
Mid-drive motors are ideal for rides on hilly terrains. It works best on single speed as well as geared speed moving the chain and delivering more power and range. It is also ideal for full-suspension designs such as off-road e-bikes. If you live in an urban setting, you can go for the 250W mid-drive motors. For off-roads, you can opt for the 750W mid-drive motors.
The assembly of mid-drive motors is made easy for part maintenance and replacement. If you have a hub motor, you would have some difficulties even changing a flat tire since the motor is mounted on the wheel.
However, mid-drive motors tend to be noisy due to the number of gearing especially with increased RPM. Mid-drive motors also tend to put more strain on the drivetrain. If you do not have electronic sensors, your e-bike drivetrain parts become vulnerable to wear and tear. Gear shifts are also necessary in order to make smooth climbs or accelerations. This is due to the design of mid-drive motors which connect to gears before the wheel while hub motors connect directly to the wheel.
Bosch and Shimano are popular brands that offer mid-drive motor e-bikes featuring automatic gear shifts and varying levels of support for off-road enthusiasts.
- Friction Motors
Friction Motors are old school but very convenient. They are easy to mount on any type of bike. Friction motors use the power to a roller which is in friction with the tires of the bike. The roller is attached to the shaft of the motor or to the actual motor. The roller adheres to the tires and if the roller rotates, the tire propels forward, in turn. These motors are usually mounted on the rear wheel or attached to the seat post.
Friction motors have a number of downsides. This is why many e-bike enthusiasts would prefer hub motors or mid-drive motors. Sadly, friction motors are less efficient compared to the latter two. Friction motors do not provide enough power to run the e-bike efficiently. With prolonged use, the tires get easily worn out due to constant rubbing and scraping with the rollers. Once the motor gets wet, the friction between rollers and tires also diminish. If the friction declines so will the efficiency of the e-bike. Friction motor e-bikes would be a practical choice for kids to use during the summer.
Batteries are an essential part of e-bikes. They are your power source aside from your manual power. If your battery is of low quality, then expect problems with speed and efficiency. Batteries are typically rechargeable by connecting the battery to the main electricity lines or to charging stations along the way using chargers. There are different types of batteries that you can get in the market depending on the voltage, amp hours, number of charging cycles and weight. Among the common battery systems are nickel-cadmium or the NiCad, sealed lead-acid or the SLA, lithium-ion polymer or the Li-ion and the nickel-metal hydride or the HiHM.
SLA and Lithium batteries from X-treme are durable and long-lasting. They efficiently run on hills and rough terrains. But, you have to make sure all the other parts are compatible with your battery before buying one.
The first question that you should consider when getting a battery is how many volts do you require for your trips? The voltage determines the wattage produced to run your motor. Battery voltage for e-bikes ranges from 24-volts to 72 volts. The battery works well with the controller and motor for more efficiency. Thus, the battery must complement with these two parts for rides best performance at the least power.
Another feature of e-bike batteries that you should check out is the Battery Management System (BMS). This system manages the amperage that you can squeeze out of your battery. For high performance, you can choose a 48-volt battery that can crank 50 amps through your BMS. This can give you around 2400 watts to power your motor. BMS helps maintain the life of your battery. If you do not set a limit to the amperage, battery life expectancy tends to shorten overtime. This is because high amounts of amps tend to heat the battery overtime.
The battery capacity is an important factor when getting an e-bike. You want to make sure the battery has enough power to help get you to your destination. E-bikes that feature regen braking also help save battery power. Typically, an e-bike battery needs an average of 8 hours to be fully charged. There are recent innovations that allow shorter charging time.
You can search through the Parts/Accessories section of the Electric Bike City website for batteries, battery replacements and chargers.
Controllers for your e-bikes come very handy for a variety of reasons. Basically, controllers scale the power released by the battery pack to the motor. A controller is connected to the battery, the motor and the throttle for your e-bike. It coordinates the different parts to ensure that the e-bike is operating smoothly.
High performance e-bikes usually have sensors that can help in increasing, decreasing or limiting the power released from the battery based on your pedaling. But the addition of sensors also requires intricate operation of your controllers. In time, you will get a hang of the overall system.
First, your controller must complement your battery as well as the other parts. The controller sets the amount of amps that the battery will release. Sine wave controllers are highly efficient. It cranks out high amounts of amps from your battery but runs smoothly and quietly. But, they are also expensive.
There are basically two types of controllers. The first one is the controllers for brushless DC machines. E-bikes with this type of controller usually have Hall sensors to send inputs on speed and angle measurement. The controller aids in the function of the sensors and the required force to initiate the propulsion of the wheel and run the e-bike.
Another type of controller is the controller for brushed motors. They do not require Hall sensor inputs. These open-loop controllers can handle a number of voltages. They are also cheaper and simpler. But, they are less efficient.
E-bike designs range from ready-made e-bikes, assembled custom-made e-bikes to DIY assembly e-bikes. E-bike assembly kits are available if you want to do the assembly of parts yourself. Or you can buy the parts piece by piece making sure each part is compatible with the other. You can get DIY manuals such as our assembly manual for the X-treme Alpine Trails, Sierra Trails, and X-Cursion. If you are not up to the task, you can have a certified bicycle mechanic. As a general rule, it is always wise to go for high-quality e-bikes especially for beginners. Initial costs may be steep. But, safety and convenience is your top priority.
Among the e-bike designs that we also recommend is the folding e-bikes. The Cyclamatic CX2 Bicycle Electric Foldaway Bike is among our top choices. You can literally fold the bike frame for space-saving measures. The Prodecotech Mariner and Genesis e-bikes also come in folding designs. If you have worries leaving your bike outside, you can fold this e-bike and bring it along inside your workplace or your house.
Electric cargo bikes are also very practical when transporting heavy stuff without the need of a larger vehicle. You can run the bike on electric motor or pedal-assist mode rather than no-assist as with regular bikes. We have catalogued the Bat-Bike Expedir Electric Cargo Bike and the PFIFF Carrier 20/26 Bosch Cargo Electric Bike with options to place your cargo at the rear side or the front side respectively.
Some e-bikes also look like mopeds. They have speedometers, front and rear lights, and plastic cladding. But, they run on 200watt motors commonly found on e-bikes. Electric mopeds from X-treme are also trendy and top of the line.
E-bike Economy and Costs
An e-bike initially costs below $10,000 dollars from cruisers to cargo bikes. Bikes that cost $10,000 are high performance bikes. But you can always settle for less but still efficient.
For cruiser bikes, price ranges from $1,500 to $8,000. Mountain e-bikes, road e-bikes and city e-bikes cost about the same as cruiser bikes. But you can get more expensive bikes of these types. You can also get cheaper e-bikes such as folding e-bikes.
Additional costs in owning an e-bike are charging costs. This will typically be added to your electricity bill. However, you can save on fuel if you use an e-bike instead of a car within an 18-mile to 20-mile range. The costs of maintenance of e-bikes are lower compared to maintenance of used cars at the same price.
Maintenance and tune-ups are also required to ensure a safe and smooth ride. Maintenance includes tune-ups, repair and replacement of parts and brake and drivetrain adjustments. Most of the time, you can do the maintenance yourself. Costs are incurred if replacements are necessary.
E-bikes wear faster, however, than regular non-electric bikes. E-bikes tend to be used more often at longer distances compared to regular bikes. Electronic parts are also vulnerable to damage due to elements.
Legal Concerns of E-Bikes
E-bikes are generally classified by law as bicycles. In the United States, federal laws cap e-bike motors to 750 watts and at 20mph without the need for registration, insurance and driver’s license. At 30 mph, your e-bike should be duly registered and insured especially for fast e-bikes. If you plan to use your e-bike on bike paths, you will have to turn off your motor and pedal. You would also have to slow down to a gentle pedal for safety. Some states do not allow e-bikes on bike paths.
In United Kingdom, pedelecs and hand throttles are allowed but the speed caps to below 20mph. The European Union basically has similar laws with the United Kingdom. The watt limit falls below 750 watt in these areas.
In Canada, hand throttles that run on 500 watt motors are allowed to run up to 20 mph. In Australia, hand throttles and pedelecs are also allowed to 250 watt motors below 20 mph.
If you are planning to have an e-bike, it is best to do some research on local laws governing certification, registration and operation of e-bikes to make sure which ones are road-legal in your area.
That's it. Electric bikes are very simple. However, there is a lot more to the inner-workings of an e-bike than you may be aware of. We decided to make an entire guide on this topic.
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