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Do Electric Bikes Recharge From Pedaling?


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Charge City Bike Red

Imagine having an electric bike that never runs out of battery. Exciting, isn’t it?

It would be a revolutionary invention in the e-bike industry. But, some e-bike enthusiasts aren’t patient enough, so they keep coming up with new ideas for recharging e-bikes while riding.

One of the most common questions online on e-bikes is:

Do electric bikes recharge from pedaling?

The answer is no. Recharging electric bikes from pedaling is ineffective because of all the lost energy resulting from the energy conversion. However, some bikes have a regen system to help put some energy back into the battery.

If you’re interested in this topic, keep on reading!

Can I Recharge My E-bike While Riding?

Technically, yes. If you’re asking that question, you’ve probably heard about the regen feature on some electric bikes.

This feature refers to the regenerative braking technology we see in electric cars and some electric bikes. With this feature on electric bikes, you can capture some of the energy and put it back into the battery.

To understand this better, let us first explain the difference between a geared hub motor and a direct-drive hub motor.

A geared hub motor cannot recapture any energy whatsoever, while a direct-drive hub motor does have this ability.

The direct-drive hub motor is completely fixed to the rim without freewheeling. If you can see the inside of this motor, you’ll notice that the axle is fixed to the copper coils.

Besides, the magnets are also fixed to the case of the motor, which is directly laced to the rim of your bike.

This means that a direct drive hub motor is always spinning whenever the bike is moving, even if you’re not pedaling.

Back to our original question, only electric bikes with direct drive motors can have a regen system.

You can successfully use your regen system when you’re coasting down a hill. In this case, the motor is forced to turn over.

This is when your regen system recaptures some of that power generated from coasting down the hill to put it back through the motor controller and back into the battery.

How Effective Is the Regenerative Braking System on Electric Bikes?

RadCity4 Motor

The Regenerative Braking system is not as effective as it is on electric cars, but it’s still beneficial. The regen system on your bike can extend the range of your battery within the range of 5% to 20%.

This depends on several factors, including the terrain you’re riding on and your stopping power. So, average riders claim no more than 10 to 12% battery charge.

For a regular ride around town, this is actually not a bad efficiency percentage. You’re getting an extra 10% battery charge, meaning you can ride a further distance.

Why Isn’t Recharging Electric Bikes While Pedaling a Thing Yet?

As we mentioned earlier, a direct-drive motor hub can help put some power back into the battery. But what about pedaling? Can you recharge your e-bike by pedaling? The answer is no. It’s possible using a direct-drive hub motor, but it’s not effective at all.

The pedaling power that you’re putting in through the chain, the derailleur, and your gears moves the wheels forward. Looking at it that way, it’s pretty efficient.

This whole process would be different if we decided to recapture some of this power to recharge the battery.

Instead of using most of the mechanical energy produced by the pedaling movement to propel you forward, you’ll have to convert it twice. The mechanical energy will convert into electrical energy first.

Then, this electrical energy will convert into chemical energy in the battery pack. In addition, all this converted energy will have to come back out again to propel you forward through the motor.

With all these conversions, many losses happen, including heat loss. So, it’s not efficient to do it this way at all.

Say that you’re determined to recharge your bike from pedaling. It’ll take you almost an entire day. Not to mention, it’s definitely exhausting.

Why Can’t We Use a Generator or an Alternator on the Bike?

Many people online suggest putting a generator or an alternator on the bike to recharge the battery. If it does work, why do you think electric bike manufacturers haven’t come up with this idea yet?

It’s because it doesn’t work. Cars do have an alternator that helps produce electric power feeding your battery. However, this electric power doesn’t come free.

You have to use gas to generate this electrical energy. When trying to apply this method on electric bikes, this electrical energy will be robbed from the motor.

As you can see, this will result in a net loss, making it ineffective.

Can I Use Solar Power to Recharge My Electric Bike While Riding?

Let’s say you’re going to fit a solar panel on the rear rack. You’ll be able to generate something like 10 to 20 Watts. However, your electric bike uses way more power than that.

Electric bike motors are at least 250 Watts. So, those 10 to 20 Watts you’ll get from the solar panel are pretty insignificant compared to what your e-bike uses.

Don’t lose hope yet; you can actually use solar power to recharge your e-bike. But only if you’re going to recharge it while you’re not using it.

It’s similar to plugging your bike into the wall. This idea is actually coming strong these days, and you might find manufacturers in the future incorporating this feature in their e-bikes.

What Electric Bike Models Have Regenerative Braking?

Rad Power Bikes Has a number of models that have regenerative braking.

Stormer is another solid company that has regenerative braking on some of its electric bikes.

Specialized is a well-known brand in the cycling world. They may high-end equipment and bikes fit for professionals. So, it is no surprise that they have high-end regenerative braking on their Turbo Brand bikes. The Turbo model bikes range from $3,000 to $15,000.

The Wrap Up

While many e-bike enthusiasts are suggesting solutions for recharging e-bikes while riding, pedaling isn’t an effective one. It causes plenty of energy loss, so you’ll have to pedal for a long time to get a decent amount of energy.

However, with regenerative braking technology, you can recharge a small percentage of your e-bike battery while you’re riding.

We think more of that technology is coming in the future, and maybe one e-bike manufacturer might come up with a better technology to recharge e-bikes from pedaling.

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