Electric bicycles, also known as e-bicycles or e-bikes, are not to be confused with motorcycles. Rather, they are bicycles that are equipped with an electric motor, ranging from low to high-level driving force, but yet still maintain the capacity to be pedaled by its rider.
The rise in the popularity of e-bikes has steadily increased in a relatively short amount of time. In fact, so steadily that according to the market research team NPD Group, sales of e-bikes in the United States have increased by 91% between 2016 and 2017, having grown “more than eightfold” since 2014.
Are electric bikes worth it? Are e-bikes worth the money? E-bikes are certainly worth the money, given the advantages they provide – a healthy dose of exercise, free parking, no gas emissions, and the rectification of the “lack of power” drawback that is associated with a traditional bicycle.
This article will outline what e-bikes are and are they worth the money that they cost. It will hopefully provide you with the answers you need to put you at ease!
So how do e-bikes work, anyway?
Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, offer an intriguing middle ground between traditional bicycles and motorcycles. With the infrastructure of a traditional bicycle, e-bikes utilize rechargeable batteries and an incorporated electric motor “[that is] used for propulsion” (Wikipedia link).
Essentially, e-bikes offer an environmentally friendly way to ride. They do not cause the pollution that gasoline-powered vehicles do. This also enables bicycle riders to ride more quickly and further with less effort than manually pedaling.
Known as being “quiet” and “non-polluting” with a way to enhance your own pedaling, e-bikes are becoming more and more known for being a faster and more efficient way to transport oneself.
Actually, there isn’t a massive difference between the feel of a traditional bicycle and an e-bike. This is because physical manpower is still the driving force behind steering an e-bike.
Types of e-bikes
The latter uses a throttle, a mechanism that is used in motorcycles and other vehicles with engines. However, these e-bikes do not have the same rules and regulations applied to them as are applied to pedal-assist (pedelec) e-bikes.
If you are planning to use or purchase a power-on-demand e-bike, be sure to consult your place of residence’s driving laws before maneuvering this vehicle.
According to Emmo and other major e-bike companies, no driver’s licenses are necessary for pedelec e-bikes, nor is purchasing insurance. This makes them extremely easy to purchase, use, and access!
Safety concerns with speed and road laws
Certain safety concerns surrounding e-bike are in regards to the lack of road laws currently associated with e-bikes. This is likely due to the fact that they are a fairly new classification of vehicles.
Depending on the motor that is used, e-bikes can reach up to 30 miles per hour (or 48 kilometers per hour). One of the road rule hazards, a problem that has been increasing in China in particular, is that riders using e-bikes typically still use bicycle lanes and are more likely to break road rules.
Due to the faster speed and motorized nature of e-bikes, they travel faster than conventional bicycles and pedestrians, which increases the possibility of accidents.
In North America, Ontario Safety League President Brian Patterson says, “I don’t think today’s level of speed or this type of vehicle was envisioned when the discussions (regarding possible regulations) around e-bikes started about 7 years ago.”
Patterson’s concern seems to stem from the fact that the popularity of e-bikes is growing much faster than Ontario’s laws can keep up with. Their accessibility, such as not needing a license to maneuver them, is a point of contention, as there is no screening process as to who is driving them.
A major positive, though, is that the rising popularity of e-bikes brings about a very real capability that pollution and traffic issues (particularly in cities that suffer from car congestion) can be lessened exponentially.
However, do not be discouraged: just because e-bikes have the potential to be faster than traditional bicycles doesn’t mean they allow you to speed at hazardous levels. The maximum speed limit for most e-bikes, as mentioned before, is 30 mph (or 48 km/h) but some of them are programmed to be even lower.
If you plan on purchasing or using an e-bike, be sure to use necessary caution when ordering one, and be aware of your speed in relativity to traditional bicycles, pedestrians, motorcycles, and cars. When used correctly, e-bikes are a wonderful way to lessen your carbon footprint, and to get some exercise in, too!
How environmentally friendly are electric bikes?
Grin Technologies, an e-bike manufacturer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, states that the environmental footprint of an e-bike actually has the ability to be smaller than that of traditional bicycles (source).
This is due to the fact that traditional bicycles require more human power. Because they require more human power, they require more food energy to convert into pedaling energy, which is where the larger footprint comes into the equation.
What is perhaps the most major concern surrounding e-bikes is not actually about the bike itself, but is in regards to its batteries, in particular, lead and lithium-ion batteries. These must be handled, shipped, and disposed of with great caution and care, as they can lead to hazardous results in certain situations if not handled properly.
Are e-bikes heavier than traditional bikes?
Yes, e-bikes are heavier than traditional bicycles, considering the fact that e-bikes house a battery and a motor. This means you’re looking at around 20 pounds extra, so be sure to exercise extra caution when maneuvering, lifting, carrying, or moving your e-bike.
Due to this heaviness and the assisted pedaling factor, it is imperative to remember that riding an e-bike is slightly different than riding a traditional bicycle. It may be a good idea to practice in light-traffic areas before integrating yourself into major roads.
This will help you to become more mindful of your speed and become acquainted with your brakes. Because your e-bike carries more weight and speed than a traditional bicycle, it will take longer to stop and start.
If you’re worried about the amount of weight you can carry on e-bikes, you’ll be happy to know that their capacities vary from low to high. Refer to your local e-bike store either in person or online to learn about the various types of e-bikes and what their weight capacities are.
You can either convert or buy a pre-made e-bike
There are two options in terms of buying e-bikes, both with their own benefits and disadvantages.
You can buy prebuilt e-bikes, an all-in-one package that includes the bike itself and is intact with the battery, charger, and motor, as well as any additional warranties or information that your e-bike manufacturer/shop provides to you.
Another option is to convert your existing traditional bicycle, if you have one, into an electric, achieved by using a converter kit. These converter kits generally include a controller, motorized hub, and a battery pack. Refer to your local bicycle/e-bike shop or research online as to what the best converter kit is for your bicycle.
So, what is the answer, ultimately?
The pros seem to outweigh the cons… by a lot
The advantages of using an e-bike include a healthy dose of exercise, free parking, no gas emissions, and the rectification of the “lack of power” drawback that is associated with a traditional bicycle.
This is because a large amount of physical manpower is needed in order to maneuver traditional bicycles. This is a deterrent for many people, especially people who are not used to riding bicycles or are not physically fit enough shape to ride them for prolonged periods of time.
E-bikes also allow those who suffer from medical ailments such as arthritis or other joint problems to take on a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation than cars, motorcycles, or other gas-emitting vehicles.
Read also: Can I ride an electric bicycle with knee problems or arthritis? And, Can I ride an electric bicycle with sciatica?
Many e-bike manufacturers also boast that using an e-bike will get you to your destination more quickly than public transit or cars. So really, it’s a win-win for everyone: e-bikes offer a more accessible method of transportation for those who feel they cannot ride traditional bicycles, and the environment benefits, too.
Classified as “just a regular bicycle with an electric motor to provide additional assistance”, an e-bike really is the best of both worlds between the powerful and intimidating motorcycles and the harder-to-use traditional bicycle.
In particular, obstacles such as hills that normally require more than a day’s worth of cardio become exponentially easier with the assistance of a battery-operated motor. E-bikes “complement rather than supplant human power”.
With that said:
E-bike your heart out!
But, be sure to exercise necessary caution.
Road laws and speed regulations vary per country, state, city, and province, so be sure to look up your own place of residence’s laws and regulations on e-bikes before purchasing or riding.
So remember, if you decide to purchase an e-bike or convert your traditional bicycle into an e-bike, be alert and cautious. This includes abiding by your residence’s road laws speed limits, as well as giving yourself the time and researching the information needed in order to ensure that you are ready for your e-bike.
Read also: How to select the best e-bike for your needs? Making your educated e-bike selection choice – and also in this article. And, How much does a good e-bike cost? Comprehensive e-bike pricing guide (with 46 examples).
Here is a quick video experience of buying and riding one’s first electric bicycle: