What is an E-Bike?
Electronic bicycles, or e-bikes, are bicycles that have been equipped with a motor to provide the bicycle with extra assistance or “boost”, often denoted as a pedal assist. There is currently a wide variety of e-bikes available, including fully automated e-bikes and pedal-assisted systems. E-bikes offer easier commutes and extended riding range. While e-bikes are available to people of all age ranges, they can also offer a more accessible ride for people who are older or have disabilities.
Why Consider an E-Bike?
The recent popularity of electric bikes has led to more widespread information on the types of e-bikes available, what to consider when buying one, how they help the environment, and some of the challenges that riders may encounter.
If you are interested in buying an e-bike, click through the following toggles for material to consider before making a purchase. You can also visit this Verge article titled How To Buy an Electric Bike for a break down of e-bike classes, power, motors, and more.
Although e-bikes are not quite as sustainable as a conventional bicycle trip due to the energy they require to power, e-bikes can still have a massive environmental impact if they are used to replace shorter car trips.
More than half of driving trips in the U.S. are shorter than 10 miles. E-bikes provide riders with a convenient option for any trip, ranging from running errands to work commutes, by maintaining higher average speeds than a bicycle. This encourages reduction in traffic and road congestion, all while reducing fossil fuels.
E-bikes can cost anywhere from $500-$9,000 but most cost between $1,000 and $3,000.
Fuel costs are minimal – e-bike batteries are ~0.5-1.5 kWh (compared to 40-80 kWh for an electric car).
Calculate the real range of your e-bike:
Volts x Amp-Hours = Watt-Hours (20 Watt-Hours = 1 mile of travel)
36 V x 10 Ah=360 Wh x ((1 mile)/(20 Wh))=18 mile range
Overall cost to charge = Electricity Cost ($/kWh) x Battery Size (kWh)
$0.12/kWh x 0.5 kWh battery=$0.06 per charge
Even if you fully charged and discharged your e-bike battery every day for a year, your total fuel costs would only be $22. Most e-bike batteries can be fully charged in 4-5 hours with a regular wall outlet.
Cost for new e-bike battery (1,000+ cycles): $500-$800
Cost for new e-bike motor (10,000 miles): $150-$200
When looking at an e-bike, it is imperative to consider the following mechanics:
Motor location. There are normally two main types of motors. Mid-drive motors are normally positioned in the middle of the bike, usually between the pedals. Hub-drive motors are located in the center of either the front wheel or, more often, the rear wheel.
Power. The main measurements for power in e-bikes are watts (W), amp-hours (Ah), and volts (V). Check to see if an e-bike lists battery’s voltage and amp-hours (or continuous amperage). To understand how much range you will be able to get out of an e-bike, multiply the amp-hours and volts. This will give you the number of watts that can be delivered by the bike per hour, or watt-hours.
Bicycle Type. There are many types of e-bike, each ranging in price, battery size, and speed. Some types include: cruisers, mountain, road, city, folding, and cargo.
Class. In the U.S., there are three classes of e-bikes. A Class 1 e-bike has a pedal-assist and no throttle. A Class 2 e-bike offers a throttle assist and maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. A Class 3 e-bike is pedal-assist only and does not have a throttle, and has a maximum speed of 28 miles per hour.
E-bikes generally weigh between 40 and 60 lbs. Standard bikes weigh between 18 and 26 lbs.
E-bikes can’t be carried on roof racks. You’ll need a platform rack that supports the wheels to reduce wobbling and evenly distribute the weight of the bike.
E-bikes can be difficult to maneuver onto racks or up stairs. Some come with stair climb or walking assist functions, but you can usually remove the battery and carry it separately to reduce the bike’s weight.
It is helpful, before making a purchase, to look at the benefits of acquiring an e-bike from a local retailer versus an online retailer. Call your local retailers to see who is selling e-bikes currently in your area or look online to see what options are available.
Certain e-bike manufacturers offer warranties for their e-bikes. Consider if a warranty may be beneficial and, if so, examine the specifics of warranties provided by manufacturers before purchasing.
E-bikes can be ridden even in rain and snow, but should be stored long-term in a cool, dry place.
If your e-bike is going to be stored for long periods outside or in a damp garage, take off the battery and bring it inside. Batteries last longer if stored indoors in a dry, temperate environment.
E-bikes can be more susceptible to theft due to their higher costs and expensive electronic components. Invest in a good bike lock and take the battery off the bike and bring it with you if you have to park in a high-risk area.
At RCEA, customers will soon be able to apply for an E-Bike Rebate. This rebate will be available to purchase one bike per customers that qualify. We are planning to have the application available April 22, 2020. More information to follow; we’re hoping the COVID-19 crisis doesn’t escalate and delay the roll out.
Currently, there are no state or federal rebates being offered for e-bikes. There are efforts being made by bike advocates to push for their development.