What are Electric Bikes: A Complete Guide 2023
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As cities become increasingly crowded, getting by and running errands can become a true challenge. Additionally, using gas-powered vehicles will have its toll on the environment, making it a somewhat inconvenient means of transport in the long run.
On the other hand, bikes are excellent for daily transportation, but operating one with your power limits their functionality, and that’s where electric bikes come in handy!
We received a lot of questions like “what are electric bikes?” and “how do I pick the right e-bike for me?”, and in today’s article, we’ll provide you with a complete guide that walks you through everything you need to know about them, so you can pick the right one for your needs. Let’s dive right in!
How Does an Electric Bike Work?
When people hear the term “electric bike” or “e-bike”, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s a bike that’s entirely operated using its electric motor power. However, this is not quite the case.
It’s true that an electric motor powers electric bikes. However, what sets them apart from mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles is that they’re designed in a way that allows you to operate them both manually and through electric motors.
An electric bike will have the standard look of a regular bike, all with a frame, handlebar, seat, and pedals. However, the pedals in electric bikes are supported by an electric motor that provides “power assistance”.
In electric bikes, you’ll pedal just like you normally do, but there’s an electric motor attached to the pedals that will provide some extra power, which gives you the necessary speed or push required to make the job easy for you.
In other words, when you’re riding an electric bike, the motor is only assisting you as a secondary source of power rather than completely cutting you out of the equation.
The Stellar Rise of Electric Bikes
Although electric bikes may seem like a new invention, they’ve been around for much longer than you think! In fact, the first-ever patent of an electric bike dates back to late 1895 and 1897 under patents US552271A and US596272.
However, electric bikes were quite primitive and inconvenient at that time, so they were quickly outshined by motorcycles and mopeds. Fast forward one hundred years, the electric bikes are making the comeback of a lifetime!
The advancement in technology helped electric bikes to be much more reliable and easy to operate. The motors got stronger all the while getting cheaper and even lighter, which led to e-bikes’ popularity exploding in the last decade!
Today, electric bikes are all the rage in the two-wheeled vehicle market, and according to reports by Statista, the e-bike market is expected to grow from 26.73 billion USD in 2021 to 53.5 billion USD in 2027.
Types of Electric Bikes
Just like regular bikes, the electric counterparts evolved into different types over the years. Each one of these types will have certain features and specifications that suit each category.
To help you pick the right one for your needs, let’s have a quick look at each one of these types and what they have to offer:
1. Cruiser Electric Bike
Cruiser electric bikes are among the most popular types of e-bikes out there. As the name suggests, these bikes are meant for enjoying a ride around town but they still have enough motor and battery power for a casual rider, which is why they’re also known as “recreational e-bikes”.
The design of a cruiser electric bike is heavily inspired by its non-motorized counterpart. For example, they’re characterized by having an extra-wide saddle for comfort as well as a step-through frame to make it easy to ride and get off the bike without raising your legs too high.
When it comes to cruiser electric bikes, comfort and enhanced maneuverability are the two design priorities, so they’re ideal for those who mainly ride the bikes on flat terrains around town.
2. Mountain Electric Bikes
Mountain electric bikes are designed to give you the maximum thrust while pedaling. They’re mainly used in difficult terrains and bumpy rides that would require a lot more effort to pedal through, which is why they’re also known as “off-road electric bikes”.
Ascending and climbing hills on a slope is much easier on an electric bike. They also have a high-voltage battery that’s capable of supporting their relatively powerful motor.
Similar to cruiser bikes, they’re also considered recreational bikes, especially if you enjoy cycling on off-road trails. Additionally, they’re equipped with all-terrain wheels that provide a more powerful grip, although they may lack the speed of other types of bikes.
3. Hybrid Electric Bikes
Hybrid electric bikes take elements from both cruiser electric bikes and mountain electric bikes. On one hand, they have an easy-to-ride frame with a relatively comfortable saddle to make it easier to use the bike for a long time.
They’re also built with a decent battery that strikes an excellent balance between speed and stability. As a result, hybrid electric bikes will have the longest range and the highest speeds. They also have storage baskets to carry your essentials as you go.
For these reasons, hybrid electric bikes are commonly used for commutes, and many call them “commuter e-bikes”.
4. Utility Electric Bikes
Utility electric bikes are bikes that are designed to make a specific task a lot easier, focusing mainly on all the aspects that serve this function.
For example, there are hunting electric bikes. These e-bikes are equipped with a motor that offers high torque for uneven terrains while staying quiet to keep you stealthy. They’re also equipped with storage compartments for your gear.
There are also cargo e-bikes, which are designed mainly for hauling a lot of weight, so they’re also optimized for power, maneuverability, and weight capacity over speed.
What Are the Top Advantages of Using an Electric Bike?
A lot of people wonder whether electric bikes are a good investment. In this section, we’ll walk you through some of the advantages that you’re going to enjoy if you use an electric bike:
Extremely Easy to Operate
One of the best things about using an electric bike is that you need almost no new tricks in order to ride one. In other words, if you can ride a regular bike, you can simply ride an electric bike.
E-bikes have the same design and dimensions as regular bikes, and the motor is there to assist your pedaling, so there’s no learning curve to the bike, and you should be able to adapt your bike riding skills to electric bikes almost immediately.
Lightweight and Portable
Although the motor and battery pack can add to the overall weight of the bike, they’re still surprisingly lightweight.
Most batteries and motors used in electric bikes will add around 10 to 15 lbs to the overall weight of the bike.
But even then, the bikes are still relatively lightweight and decently portable, so you can attach them to your car using the same bike mounts.
Not only that but there are some modern foldable e-bikes that take portability and ease of storage to a whole new level!
Safer to Ride to Other Means of Transport
While electric bikes are slightly faster than regular bikes, the motorized system makes them balanced and easy to control.
Additionally, since you don’t pedal as hard, you’re able to focus on the road and make decisions much faster on an electric bike, making it one of the safest means of transport out there, especially if you pair them with protective gear.
Do I Need a License to Ride an Electric Bike?
This mainly depends on the laws where you’re riding the bike. However, in most states of America, electric bikes are subject to the 3-class system.
This one classifies electric bikes’ legal situation depending on their top speed and whether they use a throttle. Here’s what you need to know about each bike class:
Class 1 Electric Bikes
Class 1 electric bikes are those that mainly use pedals to propel the bike forward. They can also use a throttle but it’s not necessary for controlling the bike’s speed.
These electric bikes will also have a maximum speed limit of 20 mph or 32.1 km/h. Beyond that speed, the motorized assistance will stop to comply with the description of low-speed e-bikes in Federal laws.
Class 1 electric bikes will not require a special license in most states and also has no age limit in most cases, although rules may vary depending on the state.
Class 2 Electric Bikes
Class 2 electric bikes will include all e-bikes that provide some kind of motorized assistance, except that they use a throttle or a button on your bike’s handlebar. In other words, you don’t need to pedal for the motorized assistance to kick in.
With that said, they still have a similar speed limit to Class 1 electric bikes, so they’ll have a top speed of 20 mph or 32.1 km/h. Beyond that, the motor will cease to assist you.
Another similarity between class 1 and class 2 is that the second one also doesn’t need a driver’s license or minimum age limit.
Class 3 Electric Bikes
This class includes all the high-speed e-bikes that are still within the legal speed limit, which is 28 mph or 45 km/h. However, since they’re the fastest of all classes, rules regarding these electric bikes are usually strict when compared to the previous two.
Similar to class 1 electric bikes, this class will also include bikes that mainly offer pedal-assist boosting, but they can still have an optional throttle or a button on the handlebar.
To comply with Federal laws, class 3 electric bikes are required to have a speedometer installed on the bike and the rider must wear a helmet at all times while using the bike.
Additionally, the rider needs to be at least 17 years old to ride these bikes, although they don’t need to carry a driver’s license to use them.
Things to Keep in Mind While Picking an Electric Bike
If you’re planning on buying an electric bike, there are several aspects that you need to keep in mind in order to land the ideal pick for you. Let’s check them out:
Type of Motor
The motor is the crown jewel of an electric bike and as the bike’s source of power and most critical component, you should make sure that it has the right features. There are several types of motors out there, so here’s a quick look at each one of them:
Rear Hub Motor
Rear hub motors sit on the rear wheel of the bike and provide enough power to propel the bike forward, especially when used on moderate terrain that isn’t too steep.
Rear hub motors are quite balanced motors that are easy to operate and come at an affordable price when it’s compared to other types, which is why they’re the most commonly used motors in e-bikes.
If the bike’s chain snaps with a rear hub motor, you can still use the bike’s pedal to get by, which is a huge plus!
Mid Drive Motor
These motors are usually found inside the bike’s frame where they sit between the pedals. They produce enough torque to support relatively rough terrains and bumpy roads.
These motors drive the crank to increase the power output of your pedaling rather than speeding up the wheels themselves, hence the name.
These motors are slightly more expensive than rear hub motors but they’re ideal if you’re looking for an all-terrain bike with a more relaxed budget.
Ultra Mid Drive Motor
If you don’t mind spending a little more to fit the most powerful and capable motor on your bike, you should consider these ultra mid-drive motors.
These motors will have a wide range of sensors that will increase the pedal assistance as you try to go faster, giving you full control over the electric bike.
They also provide extremely smooth rides, thanks to their ability to adjust the power while shifting gears, making them an excellent choice for super-challenging terrains.
The advancement in battery technology is one of the key factors behind the massive success of the electric bike industry in the last few decades.
Modern e-bikes now use lithium-ion batteries as their source of power, which comes with several great features, as they have huge capacities while staying lightweight, which improves the bike’s mileage and speed.
Additionally, lithium-ion batteries can last for several years when used properly and charge up pretty quickly to minimize your downtime!
The capacity of these batteries is measured in ampere per hour (Ah). Ideally, an average e-bike with a battery of a voltage of 36 volts and a capacity of 12 to 20 Ah will give you a range of around 20 to 25 miles.
Pedal Assistance Controller
As previously discussed, the pedal assistance mode in e-bikes is mainly activated by pedaling, but some bikes will also include a throttle or a booster button on the bike, so you can increase the speed without needing to pedal.
A good electric bike controller will offer different assistance modes without various levels. For example, low assistance mode will let you do most of the work while providing little motorized boost while maximum assistance mode can thrust the bike forward without pedaling at all, depending on the model of the bike.
Keep in mind that different pedal assistance modes and controllers will affect your e-bike’s legal class, which can add more road restrictions while using it.
Frame and Suspension
The frame of the bike must be sturdy and hefty enough to handle your weight as well as the added weight of the motor and battery pack.
You should also look for electric bikes with powerful suspension systems if you’re buying using your bike on bumpy and rough terrains.
When it comes to electric bikes, the warranty system will vary greatly from one manufacturer to another.
Since electric bikes are still somewhat pricey, always make sure that the bike you’re going for offers a decent warranty policy for a worry-free purchase and to add more value to your investment.
Different parts of the bike will usually have different coverage times. Ideally, a good warranty should provide the following coverage:
- At least 5 years on the frame
- 1 to 3 years on the battery
- 1 to 5 years on the motor
How Much Should an Electric Bike Cost?
The market for electric bikes offers bikes at a wide range of prices, as there are tons of factors that can play a significant role in the bike’s price, such as:
- Brand and model
- Motor power
- Battery and range
- Materials used
- Transmission system used
- Warranty and after-sale maintenance policy
- Extra features
With that said, the vast majority of electric bikes on the market will cost you anywhere between $1,500 to $5,000.
However, some ultra-premium models can cost you up to tens of thousands of dollars while some cheap options can be found below the $1,000 mark.
As you can see, electric bikes can be a little pricey. However, that doesn’t stop them from being a decent investment if it ticks the right boxes for you.
Additionally, if you’re comparing them to other means of transportation, such as cars or motorcycles, they can still cost you a lot less.
How Much Does an Electric Bike Cost to Operate?
The most frequently recurring cost of operation when it comes to electric bikes is charging the battery. Although the voltage and wattage of each battery may vary, most electric bikes will offer a range of around 20 to 25 miles per charge.
At such capacities, it should take around 7 to 9 cents to charge an electric bike’s battery fully. In other words, $1 worth of electricity can allow you to ride as far as 250 to 312.5 miles, making it one of the most affordable means of motorized transportation out there!
Can I Use Electric Bikes When It’s Raining?
The short answer to this question is yes. Electric bikes are built to handle moisture and wet environments just like motorcycles and other vehicles.
All the electric components of the bike, including the battery and the motor, are enclosed inside water-resistant units to protect them from the elements of weather as well as the splashes of mud and water created by puddles of rain.
Can I Use Electric Bikes to Stay in Shape?
A lot of people enjoy cycling because it’s an excellent method to stay active while traveling around town at a decent speed.
When you’re using an electric bike, you still need to pedal in order to get the bike wheels to move. Even if the motor is assisting you, you still need to do some of the work.
Of course, you won’t spend as much energy or burn as many calories as when you’re cycling on a regular bike.
However, given that electric bikes can be used in many more situations, you’ll end up riding the bike more, and therefore, it can help you stay in shape as long as you pair it with a healthy balanced diet!
What Are the Top Electric Bike Brands on the Market?
There are several brands that specialize in making electric bikes on the market. Additionally, many bike manufacturers started making electric options to suit the needs of a wider range of users. Among the most popular electric bike brands are:
- Rad Power
This wraps it up for today’s guide which walks you through all the essential aspects that you need to know about electric bikes.
As you can see, electric bikes are extremely versatile, portable, and easy to use while keeping you active. All these reasons make them the perfect method of transportation when it comes to daily commutes as well as cruising around town!
There are several aspects to consider before choosing your bike, so make sure that you keep them in mind in order to make an educated decision and pick the one that will suit you the best!