Electric Bike Battery Types Explained

Last Updated on January 9, 2023 by Igor Karni

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You would likely agree that most of us are seeking a not expensive, reliable, and powerful e-bike for a Sunday ride or even to commute to work. It’s not a secret that these types of e-bike have taken the market completely. E-bikes are a reliable, environmentally healthy, and fun alternative to other transportation methods.

If you have decided it’s time to pick up your new e-bike from the store, then understanding how e-bikes batteries behave is something essential for picking up the right e-bike for you. An e-bike battery is one of the most essential elements of the entire e-bike machine. The battery provides electric power for your ride. And without a battery, an electric bike becomes just another regular bicycle.

Would you like to know more about an e-bike battery? You’re in the right place and please read on.

How long does an e-bike battery last?

Or another way to ask this question – How long can an e-bike go on a single charge?

This a tough one to answer because it depends on the power granted to your e-bike (normally, 24v, 36v, and 48v), the power of the motor (limited in most parts of the world to 250W or 500W). Or up to 750W in the United States. It also depends on the riding habits you have and of course, the energy management system on the e-bike.

One of the most dynamic options is the energy management system that reduces or increases the amount of electric assistance you are getting while riding. Remember that almost all e-bikes have their own energy management system. This is essentially a feature that allows you to control or regulate the levels of electric assistance.

Same battery, two different scenarios

In fact, that exact same energy management system will dictate the battery life of your new e-bike. Fundamentally, the system allows you to choose between prioritizing the battery life.  Thus reducing the assist or a full-power mode, which will assist you at full-speed, but will also significantly reduce the battery life.

Let’s consider a couple of examples:

Case A: Let’s suppose you are in the UK and you typically use your e-bike for a sweet and effortless ride, which means you won’t pedal that much. Essentially, you are going to be fully assisted during the entire trip. In this case, you can expect a battery life between 15-25 miles with the limited 250 W and 36V motor.

Case B: You want to stay fit, burn some calories, and use the assist on your e-bike to help you half of the trip. Let’s say you are using the assist while going uphill, then you can easily get between 25-35 miles for a charge. Of course, this e-bike employs a 250 W and 36 V motor. You only use electric assistance to ride uphill.

Read also: Can e-bikes help go up steep hills? And, How to switch electric assistance levels on an e-bike?

In general, e-bike riders would expect a battery life between 25 and 70 miles of travel with a single battery cycle. 15-25 miles for the most demanding riders, who use a lot of electric assistance, and 70 miles for riders who don’t like to be assisted that much.

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How should I look after my battery?

After every ride, there are some habits you can adopt in order to increase the lifespan of your battery as well to ensure your battery is in top-performing condition and ready for each ride. It’s really similar to other devices’ batteries such as a smartphone or a laptop.

Let’s take a look at how to care for your e-bike’ battery:

  1. The first step is making sure you tightly clip the battery to the frame. You need to fully lock it for the battery to function properly and prevent it from sliding out while you ride around.
  2. Every time you are going to clean your e-bike, detach the battery and remove it prior to cleaning to avoid damage and preserve your battery lifespan.
  3. After every ride, it doesn’t matter if it’s short or a long ride. You always have to charge it up to the top to ensure maximum performance in your next ride.
  4. A lithium battery is generally best in terms of longevity when it is kept always fully charged. Unlike waiting to be totally discharged to charge it up, keep it always charged (no matter how long was the ride) will not reduce its ability to hold a charge.
  5. Avoid water and wet, but if you do, try to dry out every component to avoid oxidation and corrosion to certain contacts and electrical parts.
  6. Have you ever heard that heat kills batteries? That’s true and it’s the same history for your next e-bike battery. When a battery is warmed up, its battery cells decrease its electrical resistance, thus your battery will discharge quicker and reducing its performance.
  7. If you are traveling in your car and you want to take your e-bike with you, it’s best to detach your battery and store it inside your car. So you can basically throw up your e-bike on your rack and have the peace of mind of having your battery secure.

Read also: What is the best way to store an e-bike? And, How to prepare an e-bike for winter?

Should I completely drain the battery before charging?

One of the most common questions asked in the e-biking community, but one of the simplest to answer too.

As we have briefly mentioned above, the best way to preserve your battery life is by holding it with a full charge between rides. Lithium cells are best when they are kept on a full charge, as constantly and completely discharging greatly reduces their ability to hold full charges. The general rule is never getting your battery life down to 30%.

However, it doesn’t mean that if you run out of battery your lithium cell will immediately decrease its longevity. It’s even recommended to fully discharge your battery once a year or so.

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Types of e-bike batteries: which is the best?

As you can tell, there are a bunch of different types of batteries for your next e-bike. Some of them are different and less commonly found than lithium batteries. Lithium batteries have taken the market as the best batteries all-round.

Let’s take a look at various types of batteries:

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries

These are some of the worst batteries you can get; simply by the fact, they are no longer a good choice. Yes, they do last longer than many other options you are going to see further on this list. However, they are rapidly becoming a technology of the past due to their expensive nature and difficulty to recycle.

Both components – nickel and cadmium, are really expensive and nasty pollutants that are also pretty hard to recycle.

Nickel-metal hydride (NiMh) batteries

These types of batteries are more efficient than the nickel-cadmium ones, but as expected they are more expensive. Even though these batteries are expensive, they are becoming a rarity due to lithium’s success from the past years. Such batteries are cheaper and offer better performance.

The improvement vs nickel-cadmium is insignificant, but what makes it better is the fact they last longer and are easier to recycle properly.

Read also: How much does an e-bike weigh? And, What is e-bike range on a single charge?

Lead-acid batteries (SLA)

These are the cheapest on the list and also the easiest to replace and dispose of. However, they are also the most sensitive and delicate batteries on the list because they do not last very long. They are simply not reliable if you are pretending about getting a serious method of transportation.

They are commonly used for not very high-quality e-bikes and casual riders.

In comparison, they are at least 2-4 times heavier than nickel and lithium batteries. These batteries also last for half as long as nickel or lithium batteries.

Lithium batteries

There are plenty of reasons why lithium batteries have taken the market completely. They are lighter while also providing double power. On the flip side, they require top-notch security procedures to prevent them from self-destruction and even catching fire. However, you don’t have to worry about it as the latest trends in technology and high-quality manufacturers have solved those problems in security.

Almost 90% of e-bikes are suited with Li-ion batteries. It doesn’t mean they are cheaper because Li-ion batteries are the most expensive batteries on this list.

Lithium-ion (Li-pol) batteries

A new trend of technology into the e-bike movement that offers excellent performance in terms of range, weight, and price. However, these batteries are not better than traditional lithium batteries. They just feature the absence of free liquid. This means these batteries don’t need to be protected by a heavy case and they can be molded into many different shapes.

Lithium Cobalt (LCO) batteries

Lithium batteries have taken the market because they offer a solution for every need. Take this variation of Li-ion battery as an example. It claims to produce a higher density of energy in a smaller area. Thus it offers a compact, lighter and powerful battery package.

Read also: How far can e-bikes go? What is e-bike range on a single charge? And, How fast are e-bikes?

Lithium Manganese (LiMg204) batteries

The most cutting-edge battery of the market right now is probably the same exact battery you may find on a hybrid car such as a Nissan Leaf. It’s the best performer overall. It’s the official battery on Nissan Leaf for something, isn’t it? This type of battery produces more power, lasts longer, but obviously, it would cost more than a traditional lithium battery.

A few words in conclusion: which e-bike battery should I buy?

At the end of the day, all comes to tastes and budget.

It doesn’t matter which one of the list above you choose, what is really important is choosing a lithium battery which is proving to be the top performer overall and with an outstanding price-value.

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).

Now, which of the lithium batteries should you take? I don’t know. In fact, your e-bike will be suited with either of the options we have given to you. Remember, as long as it’s a lithium battery, it is okay.

The budget will determine which one you will get, as some batteries of the list above are cheaper than others.

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