Even now, electric bicycles still look a bit unusual on city streets. They ride noticeably faster than traditional bikes, while it seems that cyclists almost do not pedal (and sometimes do not pedal at all!).
What is an electric bike? Do you have to pedal when you ride one? We explain how e-bikes work, how much they cost, and where to buy an e-bike.
How do electric bikes work?
In short, each e-bike has an electric motor that receives energy from the battery and drives the wheel. The battery is mounted on the trunk, on the frame, or built into the frame – depending on the model. There are e-bike models with front and rear-wheel drive. Those models work on the basis of a motor mounted on the front or rear wheel. Another option is a mid-drive motor that engages both wheels and is located in the area of the pedals.
All electric bicycles also have a controller. It controls the electronics and transfers electric current between components. Another important part is the on-board computer. On its screen, you can monitor the battery charge, power consumption, speed, distance traveled, etc.
Do you need to pedal when you ride an electric bike?
This depends on the model you choose. Electric bicycles with a throttle mode can ride without any human intervention. Those e-bikes are similar to mopeds. The rider does not pedal and just enjoys the trip.
Another option is pedal-assist models or pedelecs. Pedelecs do not fully do the job for you. They only help to pedal. The motor kicks in when you launch, during acceleration, and in difficult areas, such as speed hills, for example.
In pedelec models, you need to pedal, but with less effort as compared to traditional mechanical bicycles. So, using an e-bike, you can travel longer distances, climb hills and not get that much tired even without sports training. Electric assistance saves battery power and does not deprive you of the pleasure and benefits of cycling.
How much can I ride on a single battery charge?
This depends on the battery power that is used on your e-bike. To plan your e-bike trip, do this simple calculation: divide the battery power (indicated in watt-hours in the e-bike’s datasheet) by 12.5. The resulting number is the distance the bike will travel without recharging. But keep in mind that this formula is only suitable for throttle electric bikes that ride without human intervention.
If the engine operates in electric assistance mode, one charge will usually be enough for several rather long rides. Bosch batteries, for example, will usually be enough for trips ranging from 40 to 120 kilometers, depending on the terrain. These batteries usually take around three hours to a full charge from an ordinary power outlet.
What to do if the battery becomes flat when you ride?
Keep going! After all, even if the battery is dead, an electric bike does not turn into a pumpkin. You can continue the ride pedaling as you would do on a regular bike. There are some models, though not very popular yet, that have a recovery function that can even recharge a little from your pedaling efforts.
Also keep in mind that e-bikes are usually quite heavy, compared to a traditional mechanical bicycle. This means that it does take more effort to ride an e-bike without electric assistance.
What to do if e-bike breaks?
Then it can usually be repaired by the manufacturer or supplier you have purchased it from. All electric bikes are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty – as are many other products. Check warranty conditions before you buy. They are different from manufacturer to manufacturer and from retailer to retailer.
Often not moving parts, such as frames, for example, have a lifelong warranty. Electronics and motor normally would be guaranteed for one year and can be repaired or replaced while under warranty. If you decide to buy a used e-bike, the manufacturer’s warranty would usually already expire, but you could buy insurance or retailer warranty for peace of mind.
How often do batteries need to be replaced?
It depends on the battery. Lead-acid batteries are the cheapest, but they last only 500-600 charges. Lithium-ion batteries are more expensive and can withstand 1000 charge cycles. There are also lithium-phosphate batteries, but they are several times more expensive, so they are almost never used.
Bicycles with motors, this is probably expensive?
Electric bikes are more expensive than traditional ones. After all, a battery and a motor cost additional money. Therefore, electric bikes can cost several thousand dollars or euros.
The main part of the price of an electric bicycle falls on the electric motor and battery. The remaining amount is divided between a frame, an onboard computer with power control modes, tires, and other accessories.
Some buyers are also willing to pay for uniqueness. And there are many different designs of e-bikes, from futuristic to retro, from city to mountain-ready models.
Do you need a special license?
If you buy a typical e-bike, most likely, you will not need a license. License regulations are different by country, so check with your local authorities, whether a license is required in your case.
Often a registration and a license are needed only for owners of powerful electric bikes – from 250 watts and with speed limits above, usually, 45 km/h.
5 reasons e-bikes are so popular
A bicycle with a motor is fashionable, healthy, and environmentally friendly. According to Statista.com forecasts, in 2023 global sales of e-bikes will reach approximately 40 million units. Let’s see why electric bicycles have become so popular over the past couple of years and continue to win the hearts of more and more riders.
More than a traditional bike, but not a car
A bicycle as a vehicle is more versatile than a car. Forest paths, mountain passes, city traffic jams – a cyclist will easily pass. In extreme cases, will carry the bike, where even a jeep will not be able to get through. In this sense, a bike is an alternative not only to a car but also to a motorcycle, scooter, and public transport.
A bike does not need to have asphalt roads, gas stations, and parking lots. You can take it with you in a car, plane or train. When you add a miracle of having an electric motor that can help speed the vehicle to up to 50 km / h and modern batteries with a power reserve of up to 50 km and longer, you will suddenly get the opportunity to travel decent distances without much effort. 30 km from home to office and back is no longer a problem. And compared to a car, an e-bike also saves money on gasoline.
Under the green flag
Electric bike manufacturers have every chance of becoming real headliners to combat climate change. In Europe, officials and civil society organizations have declared a real war on CO2 emissions and are preparing for a complete ban on gasoline engines. So, by 2030 cars and motorbikes with internal combustion engines will be banned from entering the Netherlands, for example. In Sweden, a ban will be introduced on the sale of gasoline and diesel cars. On the threshold of such dramatic decisions is even the cradle of the automotive industry – Germany.
Responsible consumption movement has a big impact on business. Many companies are committed to reducing their carbon footprint. For example, Bosch is investing more than 1 billion euros in environmental initiatives, which will allow all divisions of the company to become “carbon-neutral” by 2020.
Read also: Electric bicycles for Russian-speaking readers (site in Cyrillic).
In Russia, environmental campaigns are also gradually gaining momentum. Moscow is traditionally taken as a sample, where, for example, last year the first route of electric buses was launched. Over time, electric buses should replace traditional public transport running on gasoline and diesel fuel, which in turn should have a positive impact on the environment.
At the same time, in many metropolitan areas, city officials became preoccupied with the construction of bicycle paths. We can expect that in the near future bicycle infrastructure, which is much cheaper than an automobile, will be actively developed. The results are already noticeable: metropolitan bike rentals set records in multiple cities around the globe.
Bikes with brains
Fashion for electric bicycles is also associated with fashion for technological innovation. Modern electric bikes are not just a frame with two wheels, pedals, and a steering wheel. These are smart vehicles. They are equipped with electronic control systems and environmentally friendly engines. Those systems often took more than ten years of development, including, for example, Bosch.
Electric bikes are equipped with on-board computers that integrate with smartphones and mobile applications. This allows you to collect a large amount of data about your trips and yourself. In fact, in one click, a rider gets a navigator, a trip planner, and a fitness trainer which keeps track of cycling efforts.
Following trends in the automotive market, electric bike manufacturers are also developing safety tools, including emergency braking systems with ABS anti-lock mechanisms, which prevent the driver from throwing over the steering wheel during a sudden stop.
Investment in your health
At first glance, an electric bike is in no way connected with physical activity. After all, a motor works for you. However, in fact, an e-bike owner has the option to choose one of several power control modes. They wary from a relaxed trip in a cruise mode to a sports race, which is suitable for various types of terrain. The rider can also completely refuse to use the electric motor, relying only on own legs. Thus, one can turn a trip to work into a daily workout.
On the other hand, electro-cycling removes many restrictions for people for whom traditional cycling was not allowed for medical reasons. Those may include problems with joints, spine, heart, or other. Indeed, on such a bicycle, an electric motor takes over most of the load if you choose so. Now people of pretty much any age and physical condition can move on the bicycle, without stress or risk of injury.
Pedaling is fashionable
Another important reason for the increase in e-bikes converts is that it is fashionable. “Everyone does it and I do too!.” The ambassadors of this convenient mode of transport, are, for example, the British Olympic track cycling champions Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy. Hollywood stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Miley Cyrus, Leo Schreiber, Naomi Watts, and even Charles, the Prince of Wales, joined the movement.
Thanks to the unique combination of cultural, social, and political factors and the perfect fit in the niche between a standard bike and an electric car, electric bikes are steadily gaining popularity around the world.