An eBike, or electric bicycle, is basically a regular bike with an integrated motor that provides the rider with electric power. eBikes handle, pedal, and look very similar to regular bicycles but offer electric assist. This allows you to exert less energy and travel longer distances as well as at faster speeds more easily than with a regular bike.
Typically eBikes also come with a boost or throttle option as well. The major components of an eBike are the drivetrain, motor, battery, and controller that are fully integrated into the bike’s design. These bicycles are designed to complement human power and not to replace it. On flat roads, most electric bikes and reach speeds of up to 20 to 25 miles per hour.
Main Components of an eBike
The most important feature of the electric bike is its motor. There are three main types of motors that are found on eBikes:
– Front Hub Motor: the motor is located on the front tire. Propulsion is provided by spinning the tire and pulls the bike forward.
– Rear Hub Motor: the motor is located on the back tire. Propulsion is provided by spinning the back tire to push the rider forward.
– Mid-Drive Motor: Power is sent to the drivetrain on the bike rather than a hub. The central location of the motor generates a riding sensation that is more natural for the rider compared to hub motors.
Most modern batteries provide 20 to 60 miles of riding per charge. The range will depend on the style of the rider:
– Pedal only: The bike is powered by the rider like a regular bike
– Pedal-assist: The motor is activated only when the bike’s pedals are in motion. That allows the cyclist to get an added boost of power and to make the ride easier.
– Electric-only: The throttle is twisted so that all of the power is supplied by the eBike without any help from the rider.
To charge the battery an eBike, you simply plug it into a wall outlet. A high-quality battery will take 2 to 4 hours to fully charge and have a lifespan of around 700 to 1,000 charges. Lower-quality batteries will take 6 to 8 hours to charge and have a lifespan of 300 to 700 charges.
The drivetrain provides the torque and power needed to turn the bike wheels manually. Mid-drive motors directly send power to the drivetrain, which makes chain cranking much easier. Also, most drivetrains allow the cyclist to shift gears which makes it easier or more difficult to pedal.
Controllers are available in different styles and allow you to use the electric assist on your eBike. It located on the bicycle’s handlebar. There are two major styles of controllers: throttle-based controllers and pedal-activated controllers.
Pedal-activated system: Electric assistance is provided when you press down on the bike pedals. You just need to pedal and it is not necessary to engage a throttle. The controller is mounted on the bike’s handlebar that allows you to make adjustments to the amount of assistance you receive as you are pedaling.
Throttle-based controller: The throttle is either in the form of a thumb-press or twist-grip. You either press or pull back the throttle for electric assistance. Some eBikes allow you to activate the throttle and ride the bike without having to do any pedaling.
In the United States, eBikes are considered under Federal law to be in the same class that regular bikes are, as long as they meet the following two conditions: (1) the motor power is no higher than 750W and (2) the “electric-only” top speed is 20 miles per hour.
Therefore to operate an eBike does not require any special insurance, license or registration. They also enjoy the same driving privileges that regular bikes do, including being able to use bike lanes. However, be aware, that different states do have special requirements of their own that must be adhered to.
Pros and Cons of an eBike
- Allow you to ride faster and longer more easily.
- Easy to operate
- Less expensive than operating a car
- Load hauling – the electric assist system allows you to maintain a decent speed while hauling extra gear and belongings.
- Same advantages of regular bikes: provides exercise, zero emissions, bike lane privileges
- Ideal for individuals with chronic pain, the disabled, and seniors
- More expensive than regular bikes. The cost can range from $1,500 to $3,000 and up.
- Must be aware of state and local laws which may differ from regular bikes
- eBikes are heavier than regular bikes
- An electric motor and more parts mean an eBike can potentially have more problems
For most cyclists, the pros significantly outweigh the cons. eBikes provide riders with extra power and flexibility while still allowing them to use their pedal power and enjoy the advantages and privileges of regular bicycles.