Bikes, like any other human invention, have their own benefits and drawbacks. The same is the case with electric bikes. You are likely to agree that, in fact, an e-bike and a regular bicycle have a lot more similarities than there are differences between the two.
An electric bicycle is very much similar to a regular bicycle. Significant changes are in the electric system of supporting pedaling and battery to store the charge. Some people may perceive e-bikes to be more dangerous though as compared with regular bicycles. It is both true and false at the same time.
While we will discuss the matter in detail below, let’s have a brief answer first. Are electric bikes dangerous? Are e-bikes more dangerous than regular bikes? Electric bikes are not dangerous and not more dangerous than traditional bicycles. The risks associated with e-bikes may be different than those, associated with regular bikes. The good news is that one can avoid almost all these risks with adequate care.
In order for you and your loved ones to have safe rides, you need to understand how an e-bike may be different from a regular bike. What risks and benefits an e-bike may have to offer to riders. So, let’s get started with gaining the much-needed understanding related to e-bikes.
Riding an electric bike is slightly different than riding a regular bike. As long as you appreciate the specific needs of riding an e-bike, you will be fine. In short, the dangers are there (like any other sport) but these dangers can be easily mitigated with responsible usage.
Now that we have briefly answered the important question, it is time to study the topic in detail for interested readers to gain a thorough understanding of the subject.
What are the dangers of electric bikes?
It is true that certain dangers are specifically related to electric bikes, just like there are specific dangers associated with other inventions. Take examples of solar panels or nuclear-generated electricity. Instead of worrying about the dangers and avoiding the product entirely, the best practice is to understand the dangers and make informed efforts to avoid them.
The same is the case with electric bikes. Let us briefly understand some of the major dangers that are specific to an electric bike. And see how one may control the risks of accidents when riding e-bikes.
1. E-bike battery catching fire
What could be more awful than an e-bike battery catching fire? You might have seen the videos showing electric bike catching fire either while riding or during the charging time. Such a sight would be a big putt-off for anyone. Most electric bikes have Lithium batteries that are highly combustible. Most of these fires usually occur when home built lithium batteries are subject to careless treatment.
These fires present the biggest dangers related to e-bikes. However, nearly 80% of such fires could be avoided with due care and precautions. For example, never build your own battery pack unless you have done adequate research related to it and you fully understand what you are doing. Always ensure to carry your batteries in a protective metal box during rides and use a Battery Management System (BMS) for enhanced safety.
Most importantly, always buy lithium batteries from a trusted dealer to ensure it has the right cell design and structure to support high temperature and over-charging.
The majority of modern e-bike batteries are well designed and safe to use. The battery technology is progressing further and upcoming designs will be less heavy, more performant and less and less dangerous. As e-bikes are electric vehicles, the risk of a short circuit is still present, but the likelihood of one happening is really negligible.
2. Too much acceleration at the start
Too much throttle application or starting from a high electric gear from a dead stop is among the biggest causes of minor accidents related to e-bikes. As such accidents often occur at a very low speed, they don’t usually cause any serious damage. Still, these can be huge mood-shattering.
Again, this major cause can be avoided by due care. For example, if you are using a throttle e-bike, never apply full throttle until your bike starts moving. Also, consider installing a switch to allow you an option of selecting different power levels during rides. Before you start for a long ride, ensure that your throttle and controller are properly dialed up.
If your e-bike is a pedelec one, make sure that you do not start off at a high gear (POWER mode, for example). Always start at a lower electric gear (ECO or even OFF) and then gradually accelerate as you gain speed.
3. Not obeying traffic rules
Believe it or not, most accidents with e-bikes are not because of any inherent fault in the design or idea of the e-bike but how the riders treat their vehicles. For starters, appreciate the fact that an electric bicycle is basically an in-between product of a regular bicycle and a regular motorbike.
Driving of e-bikes in most jurisdictions is not yet as regulated as driving motorbikes. However, it is worth noting that the speed and functions of an e-bike are in many respects similar to a low-performing motorcycle. An e-bike becomes dangerous when its rider forgets this fact. For example, riding an e-bike, you may not have legal obligations to follow certain speed limits or road signs. Still, following them would ensure the safety of riders as well as nearby travelers.
Imagine the danger if motorbikes were to not obey traffic rules. The same is the case with e-bikes as certain e-bike models resemble more with a motorbike than a bicycle. Similarly, some riders tend to do stupid stuff with their electric bicycle, such as over-speeding, causing serious accidents. An academic study conducted by Gogola (2018) concluded that “the higher speed of e-bike can lead to a dangerous situation on the road” (source).
A big portion of accidents and dangers associated with an electric bicycle can be avoided by simply using it the right way, i.e. as a bicycle and not as a motorbike.
4. E-bike risks related to age
It has been found that e-bikes may present a higher risk to elderly people than they present to other age groups. Various research studies have concluded that the risk possessed by e-bikes are pretty much similar to risks possessed by regular bikes for age groups 11-60.
So, e-bikes may not be treated as dangerous to ride as compared to bicycles or even motorbikes. However, it is also true that the risk tends to rise and may become double in certain cases for people aged 60 and above.
This can be explained in terms of elderly people having, on average, higher body weight, weaker reflexes, not as strong health, and less understanding of how modern e-bike work in various situations during a ride.
How e-bikes are different from regular bikes?
As noted above, e-bikes present certain challenges that are specific to them. On the other hand, however, e-bikes may also present certain benefits that can make an electric bike ride more fun and entertaining. Let’s briefly discuss these aspects.
1. Traveling at higher speeds
As electric bikes are usually operated at higher speeds, they need a more efficient system of brakes to stop or reduce the speed at crossways and pedestrian crossings. Almost all major brands have equipped their electric bicycles with an intuitive pedal-assist system and very high quality and efficient brakes (mostly disk breaks) for the same purpose.
2. More agility in maneuvers
A good electric bike would provide far greater agility than regular bikes. Hence, allowing you to move with greater power and precision. Moreover, as opposed to regular bicycles, an e-bike will usually come with higher standards of parts, such as tires, frame, and lights. This will not only allow a smoother ride but also ensure better safety standards on all sorts of terrains and weather conditions.
3. Easier on physical fitness
Another way e-bikes might help you is to remove physical obstacles related to cycling. Let it be hills, potholes, or rocks, e-bikes are suitable for all terrains and allow you to have a more comfortable ride along with providing an opportunity for exercise.
A few words in conclusion
The above positive aspects of e-bikes, when combined with the fact that these bikes provide an energy-friendly way of traveling and ensuring the preservation of roads, make e-bikes a very attractive way of commuting.
While one must not forget the dangers usually associated with electric bikes, these dangers should not act as a barrier to using them. One can avoid most of these dangers by having a better understanding and knowledge about the causes of e-bike accidents. And making efforts to avoid the careless routine of handling e-bikes.
With the right approach and mindset, e-bikes may be safer than regular bicycles and motorbikes along with being a cheaper, environment-friendly, and healthy option.
For elderly people, however, one needs to take extra care when letting them drive electric bicycles. Be aware of those specific dangers, related to the speed of reaction, extra weight, knowing the e-bike technology, etc.
How much does an e-bike cost?
A good e-bike would cost around $1,500 or slightly more. However, certain cost savings, such as bus or taxi fares and tax benefits (in some jurisdictions) may outweigh the cost of purchasing it in the long run.
Do I need to register or have a license to ride an e-bike?
As e-bikes are usually equivalent to regular bicycles for regulatory purposes, you do not need to have a license or register your electric bike to drive it. And if you are riding a speed e-bike, you may need to register your vehicle and get a license.
How fast can I drive with an electric bicycle?
It may depend upon the particular model of the electric bicycle as well as the jurisdiction. In most cases, an electric bike will help you up to 16 MpH or 26 KM/H. The motor will cut out at any higher speed and if you want to drive faster, it will all be up to how fast you can pedal.
Here is a quick video, explaining, how to ride an e-bike safely: