Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, are a relatively new category in the cycling industry. While they are gaining popularity, they’re still a mystery to some.
From battery life to bike lanes, we’re attempting to demystify this latest, two-wheeled technology.
WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?
It might look like a regular bike, but an electric bike provides pedal assistance via an electric motor for extra pedaling power. Most e-bikes won’t provide much power unless you’re pedaling, so you’ll still get a workout and burn plenty of calories — you’ll just go faster than you would by yourself.
E-bikes are generally a little heavier than normal bikes, which is necessary for handling higher speeds and heavier loads. Most e-bikes are capable of cruising at 15-miles-per-hour with an on-the-bike load of up to 400 pounds for a limited time period. Mid-range e-bikes can typically cruise around 20 mph, while higher-powered options can get up to 30 mph.
WHO ARE E-BIKES FOR?
While e-bikes are acceptable for just about everyone, they will be a better fit for certain riders. If you’re dealing with a longish commute with hills or are looking for a way to carry gear without crawling along at a snail’s pace, an e-bike is a suitable solution. E-bikes are also an excellent way to get in shape if you’re a beginner or someone who has a hard time pedaling a normal bike because of injuries. It will also allow you to cover a greater distance than you would on a regular bike.
Currently most states require users to be at least 14–16 years old to operate an e-bike on the roadways, so it’s not an option for most youngsters.
ARE E-BIKES ALLOWED IN BIKE LANES?
Bike lane use depends on the state. There are currently 22 states that categorize e-bikes as mopeds and require a license to operate them. In these states and districts, riding in the bike lane is not allowed. In most other states, e-bikes can be ridden in the bike lane or on a bike path as long as the max speed of the bike is capped at 20 mph, like it is in California.
WHICH E-BIKE SHOULD I GET?
Just like regular bikes, e-bikes come in all shapes and sizes. There are mountain, hybrid, fatbike, road and utility options. Which one you choose depends on your style of riding and your intended use. Cost will also be a factor, though as the market for e-bikes increases, so will the price ranges.
As of today, it’s possible to purchase an e-bike for less than $1,000, while higher-end models like this new e-mountain bike from Specialized comes in at $9,500. Most mid-range options from reputable manufacturers cost around $2,000.
HOW FAR CAN AN E-BIKE GO ON A CHARGE?
The bike’s range depends on the type of battery on the e-bike and the level of assistance you need. On most electric bikes, you can switch modes to provide more assistance to maintain a greater speed or a lower level of assistance to prolong the battery life. Terrain, the rider’s weight and cargo load must also be factored into battery life.
In general, most batteries run for 25–70 miles. Some long-distance models have a range of more than 100 miles before they need to be plugged in.
HOW IS THE BATTERY CHARGED AND WHEN DOES IT NEED TO BE REPLACED?
E-bikes do not need a special charging station the way cars do. Almost all e-bike batteries can be plugged into a normal wall socket. For convenience, most batteries can simply be removed from the bike to make charging easier. Charging time for most batteries is 3–5 hours, and can be partially charged in an hour or two if you’re in a time crunch.
When it’s time to replace your battery, it won’t be cheap. The good news is most batteries come with a warranty. Bosch, for instance, offers a two-year warranty or 1,000 cycles for its e-bike batteries. Keeping your battery in moderate, dry environments when storing and charging it regularly will prolong its life. The cost of a new battery varies depending on the manufacturer, but expect to spend between $500–$1,000 when it’s time to get a new one.
CAN I CONVERT MY BIKE TO AN E-BIKE?
There are several different conversion kits that will allow you to convert your current bike into an e-bike. The motors fit into a specialized wheel hub or bottom bracket with an attachable battery pack and controller so you can use the pedal assist when desired.
Here are a few different conversion kit options: