Why do electric bikes cost so much?
You have been thinking about getting an Electric bike and recently started shopping around. You may have a little sticker shock after discovering the price of many E-bikes on the market. If you are like me, you have never had a bike that cost over $500. Some basic-level electric bikes direct from China can start as low as $500, but the quality and safety features are not very good, and aftermarket service is nonexistent. Why do electric bikes cost so much?
E-bikes have two main additional cost factors compared to a standard bike. The motor and the battery. The battery will cost about 1/3 of the cost of the bike, and the motor can cost around $500 or more. The additional digital controller is needed to operate the bike and higher end components like the frame, hydraulic disk brakes, and a better class derailleur are often found on an electric bike. These factors all add to the overall cost of an E-bike.
The average decent quality entry level Electric bike is around the $1500 to $2000 range and for more high-end E-bike particularly electric mountain bikes they can quickly go up to over $5000 and even up to $8000 and beyond. The good news is E-bikes are getting cheaper every year, and there are more under $2000 bikes to choose from.
Why do electric bikes cost so much?
Better frame and premium components
A good quality e-bike will generally have better quality components then a standard bike and every year e-bike manufacturers are adding better parts to improve their bikes and stay ahead of the competition. This is good news for the consumer. Better bikes and reduced pricing
An E-bike needs a good quality frame. A typical e-bike can weight more than double a conventional bike. Since an E-bike can easily weigh over 50 lbs and go faster a good quality frame is needed to support the overall weight of the rider and the bike to provide a comfortable, safe ride. A stronger frame that is light as possible will cost more than a standard bike frame.
Also adding to the cost is many manufacturers are building custom designed frames that have the battery built into the frame, and since E-bikes are still not super popular they have only limited production, and this makes the frame more expensive. As with most new technology, it is more expensive when it first comes out and In the coming years as E-bikes become more mainstream, and demand increases the cost will further be reduced.
The motor is the key to an electric bike and provides power. A good quality motor like Bafang is very popular on many electric bikes. This adds another $400 or more to the price of the bike. Power ratings can be 250 watts, 500 watts, 750 watts, and even 1000 watts and more. Keep in mind many countries only allow up to 500 watt motors on an e-bike to remain street legal.
Higher wattage bikes are rated in a different class and will require insurance and licensing. In Canada it's 500 watts and in the US it's 750 watts. In many European countries, the max is 250 watts.
Lithium-ion batteries have been the big game chargers with electric bikes in the last few years. Lithium-ion batteries have a much higher power density and weigh much less than lead-acid batteries that can weigh three times as much for the same power rating. Lithium-ion batteries are low maintenance and do not require and any maintenance to ensure battery performance. This power and weight improvement come at a cost, and lithium-ion batteries cost more.
Safety standards must be adhered to in Canada, and the US and many cheap batteries from China are unregulated, and although the battery may look the same and have the same rating, they are often inferior and downright dangerous. There have been some inferior lithium batteries in the news catching fire.
A battery fire can be very difficult to put out. This is why many airlines will not allow e-bike to be transported on their planes. Taking proper care of your battery is very important. Learn more: How to care and maintain your E-bike battery. North American bike manufacturers generally get name brand batteries like Panasonic or Samsung to ensure quality.
An electronic controller is also another component that needs to be added. It is basically the brains of an E-bike and communicates between the battery and the motor to control the bike. This electronic device controls the operation of the electric bike. It controls the speed of an electric motor but also serves as a effective brake. When you apply the breaks, the controller automatically kills the power.
The controller unit uses power from the battery pack and drives it to the hub motor. Different types of controllers are used for brushed and brushless motors. The controller is used to adjust assist modes and easily shift between the two modes of operation, manual pedaling and assisted pedaling.
On some more expensive bikes, the controller will also be used to control the regenerate power back to the battery when braking. Most controllers have adjustments for tire size, Km or miles and for monitoring a trip and overall mileage on the bike. It is also used to get updates when new software is released.
Good quality fat tires
Most e-bikes come with good quality tires, and many have fat tires. Fat tire bikes have been a new style of bike that was first introduced around the year 2005 in Alaska. Many people find a fat tire ebike is the ideal tire to use when commuting or hitting the trails on the weekend. Fat tires are also good in the snow, and this allows people to ride their e-bike year round. Kenda tires are a good quality tire that seems to show up on many electric bikes.
E-bikes weight more and go faster than a convention bike. This makes good quality brakes very important to navigate in traffic safely or to ride the trails. A good quality E-bike will come with premium disc brakes and in the last year or two hydraulic disc brakes are becoming more common.
Better quality derailleurs and cassette
The derailleur on an e-bike will generally be at least a good quality Shimano Tourney this is a good standard derailleur that will work great with most E-bikes, but with fierce competition, many manufacturers are going a step up and adding the Shimano Acera. The more expensive derailleurs usually weigh less than cheaper models, shift more smoothly and will last longer.
Front, rear or full suspension
Because many city streets can be quite bumpy many e-bikes are including suspension. Many electric bike city cruisers come with front forks suspension and many electric mountain bikes come with complete front and rear suspension.
Lights and extra accessories are often included
Many Electric bike manufacturers are adding more accessories to their bikes each year. Since many e-bikes are used as commuters, lights have been added for added visibility and safety. Fenders are becoming more standard on many e-bikes to protect the rider when riding in wet weather or muddy conditions. Good sturdy bike racks are being added to the rear or front of the bike and a bell is included as well.
New to a smaller niche market
Like most new things they cost more when they are first introduced and as they get more popular the price goes down. A good comparison is with flat screen TVs when they first came out many 42-inch plasma TVs cost 4 to 5 thousand dollars and a few years later can be purchased for under $1000.
This worked a little faster with TVs because they are very popular and everyone wants one. E-bikes are still a specialty item, and not everyone is interested in an E-bike. They are still relatively new in North America but are gaining in popularity every day.
E-bikes are heavier and cost more to ship
Shipping heavy items can be quite costly. Since a typical E-bike weighs more than double a regular bike this reflects on the shipping cost. Not only shipping cost to you but shipping cost from the original overseas supplier. You can often save a little money if you can pick your bike up directly from the manufacture, if you are one of the lucky few that have a e-bike manufacture in your area.
Why are electric bikes so heavy?
As you can see an Ebike has additional components as compared to a regular bike. An e-bike is heavier because the frame has to be more rigid and robust then a standard bike, the addition of the battery adds 7 to 12 lbs to the bike and the motor also adds more weight. Fat tires weigh more than regular tires, and extra fenders and racks and accessories all add up to more weight.
Building your own e-bike
If you still feel e-bikes are too expensive, you can build your own electric bike. If you have a little technical skills and have a donor bike, you can make your own electric bike. There are many electric bike kits for under 400 dollars that consist of a motor and controller, but don't forget you will still need a battery that will cost another 3 to 400 dollars.
This will make the cost of the bike close to $1000. Building your own E-bike can be a fun project.
To keep prices down, many e-bike manufacturers sell direct to consumer to cut out the middleman and reduce pricing. This can be a good thing when initially purchasing a bike but when service is needed you are basically on your own. Many local bike shops will not work on electric bikes, but I have a feeling in the coming years that will change as more electric bikes hit the road.
Despite being a little expensive, prices are continuing to come down, and quality and features are going up. Don't forget, You get what you pay for. If you see a cheap E-bike, chances are it is inferior quality, it does not have many safety features and will not last.
What is the difference between $1000 bike and a $4000 bike?
At a $1000 budget, you will get an entry level bike with low-end components. The frame is likely made of aluminum or steel and is much heavier than a carbon fibers bike. The big difference between a $1000 E-bike and $4000 E-bike is as the price gets more expensive the bike is also likely to get lighter and the general components get better and stronger.
The frame will be made from stronger lighter materials like carbon fibers or special aluminum. A carbon frame bike will ride more smoothly than an aluminum frame bike. Being lighter a carbon frame will absorb road bumps better than a aluminum or a steel frame E-bike.
Similar looking bikes can be priced differently simply by having more expensive components and better quality derailleurs for smoother gear shifting. Better batteries with longer trip range and faster charge times. The back motor hub may look the same but it can have more power and better gear shifting.
- At the $1000 range, you’re basically getting an entry level bike. It’s going to have low-end components, it’s probably going to be aluminum, and it will definitely be heavy.
- At the $2000 range, you’re going to get a decent bike with decent components. More importantly, it’s probably something that you will keep for a while. E-Bikes for under $2000
- At the $3000 range, you’re starting to get into cosmetics. If it’s not carbon, the welds will be nice, the components will be on the high-end, and it’ll be light.
- At the $4000 range the design is getting really special with more carbon fibers. You are now in the premium price range and should be getting a bike with special electronics to monitor your ride and automatically adjust for smoother shifting and range.
If you have an unlimited budget here is a bike that is pushing the limits of E-Bikes. It costs a whopping $25,000.
Trefecta DRT. The world’s most expensive electric bike
The Trefecta DRT is the world's most expensive E-bike. Coming in at $25,000. This military-grade E-bike pulls out all the stops. Powered by a 4-kW motor the Trefecta DRT can produce as much as 184 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheel and carry up to 353 lbs of weight. Getting a top speed of 43.5 mph with a range of over 60 miles without pedaling.
This bike was designed for the military in mind and was intended to be a solid but relatively light dirt-bike/bike. The nonconventional frame is built from 7075 aluminum and was designed to be sturdy and stable. They have included carbon fiber in many areas including the tire rims to keep the overall weight down. The electrical components are all protected inside a carbon fiber housing sealed from the elements to create an indestructible E-Bike.
With this durable bike comes a lot more extras than your average E-Bike. The Trefecta DRT has a fly-by-wire computer system onboard with automatic gear shifting, electronic gear selection and suspension, and shock absorption settings. The computer's display screen mounted on the center of the handlebar allows you to monitor battery life gauge, speed, and other trip recording functions.
The Trefecta DRT also has a few extras that I believe will soon be more common on less expensive E-Bikes, like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi that can be connected to the specialist Trefecta iOS app and other smartphone GPS and fitness programs.
At $25,000 I can't see the average individual buying one of these E-Bikes even if it does have a 31,000-mile warranty. The good news is the more they push E-Bike technology, the better it will be for the average consumer in the long run. This type of technology although very expensive at the moment will become more affordable and available to the average consumer.
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