A few common questions about E-Bikes

As traffic and gas prices increase, many people are starting to consider the possibility of purchasing an E-bike. There are more E-bikes available today than ever, and prices are dropping as more people are buying E-bikes.

How fast does an e-bike go? Is a very common question. In general, an E-bike goes a top speed of 25 miles per hour. They can go faster, in fact, I have seen a DIY E-bike that goes 50 miles per hour. But street regulations generally want them going no faster than 25 miles per hour.

The first question many people ask is. What is an E-bike?

 
Chances are if you are here you know what an E-bike is, but many people are still unfamiliar with E-bikes and the first question many people ask is. What is an E-bike? An E-Bike is much like a regular bike but with a little boost of power to get you going up hills with less effort. An E-bike can give you more speed on flat ground when peddling moderately or when peddling into headwinds. E-bikes can nimbly go through traffic and get you to work in the morning without working up a big sweat.

An E-bike is heaver and built beefier than a standard bike. The extra weight is due to the onboard motor and battery that adds a significant amount to the overall weight of the bike. Newer Lithium batteries are lighter and have a higher power rating than a nickel-cadmium battery. This technology is reducing total E-Bike cost and weight.

Do electric bikes recharge when peddling? In general no, but there are a few E-bike that have this. The E-bike world is kind of like a few years back when a basic plasma TV was selling for $6000, and today a better TV can be purchased for $600. There are many new manufactures making E-bikes, and it is exciting times for the industry. Here are a few common questions about E-Bikes that many people have when considering an electric-Bike.



1. Do you need a license to drive an electric bike?


No a licence is not required on a E-Bike

An electric bike must comply with the same rules as a bicycle. A helmet must be worn at all times, and the motor must not exceed anywhere from 250 watts to 750 watts depending on regulations in your area. Drivers license registration and insurance are not required on an E-bikes in most areas provided the specifications of the E-Bike do not exceed local motor regulations.

  • Insurance
  • Registration 
  • Licences plates

2. Basic E-Bike regulations


Here are the regulations below if the motor is above specified watts the bike is in a different classification and requires licensing insurance and registration. 

Example: 

  • Canada maximum 500-watt power and go faster than 20 mph / 32 km/h
  • US maximum 750-watt power and go faster than 20 mph / 32 km/h
  • Australia the battery is not to exceed the 200-watt power and go faster than 15.5 mph / 25 km/h

Individual city bylaws may also have lower speed limits. So staying informed of speed limits is a good idea.

You must wear a DOT approved helmet

10 COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT E-BIKES
  • You must wear a DOT approved helmet either a good quality bike helmet or for extra protection a full on motorcycle helmet.
  • On an E-Bike you are not allowed to go on the sidewalks and you must follow the basic rules of the road. You must also drive on the right hand side of the road allowing faster vehicles to pass.

As with the growing E-Bike trend so are police officers giving speeding tickets to electric bikes owners


This is just the basic outline of E-bike rules and in your municipality it may vary. Here is a comprehensive post about bike laws in the US from the people at Electric Bike Review. Electric Bike Laws in the United States

3. How long does a charge last on a typical E-bike and how far can I go?


A common question is: How far can I go on an E-bike? On average, many E-bikes on the market go from 30 to 60 miles per battery charge. The range can significantly vary depending on many factors. 

On average, many E-bikes on the market go from 30 to 60 miles per battery charge.

  • This question is not a cut and dry answer and there are many factors that affect battery charge.
    How heavy is the rider? A 150 lb person will get further range on the same bike than a 200 lb person. If you add gear to the bike for longer journeys or to carry items that are needed will add additional weight and further effect battery range. 
  • What level of assistance the rider chooses along with how hard you peddle will greatly vary they battery life.
  • The terrain you will be cycling over. Hilly terrain will use much more battery power than cycling on flat terrain.
  • How often do you stop and start? When climbing hills this can really drain a battery fast.
  • Wind conditions can affect battery range. Cycling into a headwind will require more energy either battery power, peddle power or ideally both.
  • Temperature is another factor batteries do not like extremes they do not like being too hot and they do not like being too cold. A battery near freezing temperature will reduce the battery range by as much as 1/3. Hot temperatures will affect the battery in the same way and have the added risk of doing permanent damage to the battery.
  • Tire pressure is a very important factor in battery range. Under-inflated tires can cause a lot more surface drag and drain a battery very quickly.
  • What type of battery a lithium battery or a nickel-cadmium battery. Lithium batteries are becoming the standard with E-Bikes due to their extended battery life and made from lighter materials. Lithium batteries have a higher energy density than a nickel-cadmium battery
  • The age of the battery will affect its range older battery does not hold a charge for as long newer batteries and will slowly have a reduced range. Taking care of your batteries with proper charging and storage will help ensure longer battery life.
  •  The size of the bike and motor will affect range. Larger motors require more power and will use battery power more quickly. You will either have to peddle more or get a bigger battery. For off-roading E-Bikes higher powered motors are used and often the second battery is brought along for the days riding. A motor with a minimum 200 watts size is recommended.
  • Finally, how fast do you go? Like a gas-powered engine if you ripe around town stopping and accelerating quickly and going unnecessarily fast you will use more gas. The same rules apply to E-Bikes.  Faster means less range example (1/3 faster = 1/2 the range)

A FEW COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT E-BIKES

10 COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT E-BIKES

4. What is better lithium or lead acid batteries?


For many years the battery has been the main stumbling block on an E-bike. A battery adds a significant amount of weight to the bike. Older lead batteries weight much more and had poor battery life. To get further range you have to add a larger battery and that adds more weight. 

Newer lithium batteries are very popular as they have a longer charge life and the bonus is they are much lighter than lead batteries. 

Lithium Battery 

  • Weigh less
  • 1000 charge cycles

Lead Acid Batteries

  • Weigh more
  • 300 charge cycles

5.How long does it take to charge a battery?


On average a battery takes from 3.5 to 6 hours to charge a fully depleted battery to 100%. A battery that has a partial charge will take less time.

In the last hour or so of charging time the charger tops off the battery from around 90% to 100%. This is a good idea to do once in a while but leaving it at a 90% charge is better as this can extend the life of your battery and take an hour or so off charging time. Reducing charge time to a couple of hours. See battery care post to understand this practice further.

6. What is the life of a battery?


A battery on an E-Bike will last 3 to 5 years. Depending on how well you take care of your battery. Proper storing at a 60% charge over the winter is important. Undercharging your battery can extend the life of a battery.

COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT E-BIKES

If you charge a battery to 100% you will get around 500 useful cycles and if you charge to only 90% you will get 900 useful cycles from your battery. See more about battery care.

7. Who can ride an E-bike?


In many areas, you have to be at least 12 or in Ontario Canada 16 years old to drive or be a passenger on an E-bike and you both must be wearing a DOT approved helmet.

E-bikes can be ideal for pretty much anyone that knows how to ride a bike. An off-road cyclist can go further and faster on an E-bike with a boost of exhilarating speed and help on hills. 

E-bikes can really help people with COPD or asthma. Older people with minor ailments like bad knees or hips. An E-bike can be easier on your joints and decrease the pressure on knees and hips. An E-bike can get people cycling that otherwise would not be able to cycle up hills or go for very long distances. 

8. Where can you ride an E-bike?


E-bikers can be driven on most residential roads and highways. E-bikes are not permitted on 400-series highways, expressways or other areas where bicycles are not allowed.

Keep in mind in many municipalities some roads, sidewalks, bike paths, bike trails or bike lanes do not permit E-bikes. Check in your area for local rules and regulations. New E-bike laws are being created as E-bikes become more popular and municipalities are making their own rules.

You must obey all the rules of the road and do not go on sidewalks. 

9. Can an E-Bike work in the rain?


Yes. An E-Bike is designed to get a little wet. You cannot submerge an E-bike in water and keeping the battery above water is important.  Many manufactures make ponchos that cover you and your bike to help keep you and your bike somewhat dry when you are driving in the rain. It can later be used as a cover when you park your E-bike. If conditions are extremely wet it might be a good idea to use another form of transportation. 



An E-bike will likely perform great but the brakes and handling become much more sensitive and if you brake a little too hard you can easily skid in wet conditions. Exercise extra caution when driving in wet weather and take your time.

Note: E-bikes can take a little water and splashing but do not submerge an E-bike in water or use a pressure washer when cleaning. 

Over rider and bike ponchos

10. How long does an E-bike last?


Depending on how much you ride your E-bike on average you should get at least three years or more with regular maintenance. Many components like tires, brakes, and cables will require changing more often than a standard bike as you most likely will be braking more and going further distances at higher speeds.

Keeping up necessary maintenance is very similar to a standard bike, but the battery will be the primary concern in a few years time as to how good it will hold a charge and how many cycles it has used.

Lithium-ion batteries, provide a minimum of 500 full charges and some batteries go up to 1200. The advantage to lithium-ion batteries is that they have no memory, so you don't have to worry about charging too often and reduce the battery life. For example, if you recharge your battery when it is at 50%, this will count as 1/2 charge. With most batteries, you can expect to get from 10,000 to 30,000 miles before you half to replace your battery.

Battery replacement is not cheap, and many batteries will cost $500 up to $1000 to replace. So take care of your battery. The good news is hopefully with increased popularity in a few years when you have to replace your battery the price has gone down.


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Streamingpete

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