What is an electric bicycle?
To understand better what an electric bike is all about, start with the image of a regular bicycle. Then add several electrical components to it, such as a motor, a battery, and a controller – all seamlessly integrated into the design. These are the fundamentals of any electric bicycle on the market.
It's important to realize that an electric bike will function normally just like a regular bicycle. An electric bike will pedal, handle and use the same parts as a regular bicycle.
An electric bike is meant to augment human power, not completely replace it. It makes riding easier, helps to deal with various obstacles such as hills and headwind and gives you the flexibility to go even further and longer without getting tired or sweating.
What do I need to know in order to choose the right electric bicycle?
Comfort and quality of the components are still as important on an electric bike as they are on a regular bicycle. But when it comes to an e-bike, there are a few more things you need to consider.
- The Motor
- The Battery
- The Controller
Electric bike motors come in a wide variety of power ratings, from 200W to 1,000W or more. The legal limit in the EU is 250W, although different countries can set their own limits.
Think of this limit kind of like horsepower. A higher rating means that the bike will be able to pull more weight with greater ease but at the expense of using more battery capacity while doing so. Hence, a 400W motor will drain the battery much quicker than a 250W one, but it will be more powerful.
The design and location of the motor is very important. The most common type of motor for electric bikes is called a hub motor and it is generally integrated into the rear or front wheel.
Throttle control vs. Pedal assist?
Throttle control works just like operating a motor bike. Turn the throttle to accelerate and hold it to maintain speed.
On pedal assist bikes or pedalecs power is generated automatically. Once you start pedaling, a torque sensor picks up your movement and automatically supplies power to the bike.
For people who prefer to have complete control of the bike, throttle may suit them better, as they generate power themselves whenever they want via the throttle.
If you want a more simplified system, pedalec is the way to go. All you have to do is pedal, and the automatic sensors supply just the right amount power you want.
How fast do electric bikes go?
The European Union speed limit for electric bicycles is 25km/hour. This means you don’t need a licence, insurance or licence plates to operate your electric bicycle.
Most electric bicycles are rated up to 25km/hour by their manufacturer, however the actual speed will vary depending on the weight of the rider, the terrain and the weather conditions. Heavier riders will usually go a bit slower than lighter riders and flat roads will help you gain speed better than hills.
The one thing EU law does not restrict is how fast you can pedal. This means that with your own power, you can bring the bike up to 35km quite easily on flat terrain.*Some bikes can reach speeds of up to 60km/hour, but they are illegal and dangerous. At Clean City Project we feel electric bikes should bring fun and functionality for the rider, not stress and danger. We recommend electric bicycles that respect the law and create a better driving environment for you and others around you.
How far can my electric bicycle go on a single charge?
Just like cars, the range of electric bicycles can vary. Most riders are able to go about 35-45 km on a single charge. This however can be passed easily depending on how much assistance you yourself provide. Without pedaling, the ride will almost certainly be shorter than the average range.
Another important factor on your bikes range is the terrain. The more hills you encounter, the less distance you will cover. Of course as mentioned before, weight also plays a factor on not only speed but distance. The heavier the rider, or the more weight you carry on the bike, the shorter the maximum distance is to be.
At Clean City Project we have a variety of electric bikes, many with larger capacity batteries that can take your further on a single charge. Tell us your needs, and we will match the correct bike and battery option for you.
How long does it take for the battery to charge?
Battery charge times will vary depending on the three following factors.
- the manufacturer
- the model type
- the battery type
The average time for a higher quality battery (like the ones on Clean City Project bikes) is anywhere from 4-5 hours. This is typical for Li-Ion and NiMH batteries. For cheaper sealed lead acid batteries the charge time are 6-9 hours.
What are the different types of batteries available?
Battery technology continues to improve every day, so it is hard to keep this list up to date. However as we speak there are 3 main types of batteries used in electric bicycles:
- Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) – These are the highest quality batteries on the market today. Although their cost is greater, they have the lowest weight and longest lifespan of all other batteries. In addition, as they will last 3-4 times longer than other batteries, they higher cost will be negated over time.
- Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) – This is a mid-range battery that isn’t as common as they others. Their light weight and longer lifespan over SLA batteries, make them a more reasonable choice that the cheap batteries. They most often used on conversion kits.
- Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) – most large bicycle shops carry electric bikes with SLA batteries. They are the cheapest form of battery technology and so appeal to a more mass market that is concerned with only price. They have the shortest lifespan and are extremely heavy compared to all other battery types.
How long does a single battery last?
Battery lifespan depends greatly on the type of battery technology. The cheaper SLA batteries last between 300-500 charges. The mid range NiMH batteries last between 500-700 charges. The top quality Li-Ion batteries typically range between 700-1000+ charges.
In order to keep your battery in good shape and extend its lifespan, charge the battery regularly and promptly after each use. When storing your bike for longer periods of time, remember to charge it once every 4-8 weeks. The longer a battery sits uncharged, the shorter its lifespan.
Will an e-bike charge while pedaling?
This is one of the most common questions people ask us at the store. Some e-bikes do charge while we are riding, most don’t. We do have one that charges, but not while you are pedaling, while you are applying the brakes.
The energy it produces however is only about 5-7% more, so the technology has not progressed enough in this instance to make a great difference. We will keep you posted if anything changes in the coming months.
How much does it cost to ride an electric bike?
This is another great thing about electric bicylces. Not only are they fun, good for your health, save the environment and get you around quickly, they are also very very very cheap to operate.
It only takes about 20-25 cents to charge the battery, that will take you an average of about 40km. With gas prices reaching almost 1.90/litre, it is over 34 times cheaper to use an electric bike.
If you add in license costs, adia kikloforias, service fees, insurance and KTEO, it becomes even cheaper to use your electric bike. In times of economic crisis, there really is no better alternative for commuters than an electric bicycle.
Can I ride my electric bicycle in the rain?
For the most part, every electric bicycle we sell is water resistant. But this does not mean you can submerge them in water! These bikes are ok for light rain or damp conditions, however they are not recommended for heavy down pours or riding regularly in the rain.
If you do live an an area with a lot of rain, we recommend you further waterproof your electric bike using electrical tape on all connections and clear silicone on any openings.
Do I need a license to ride an electric bicycle?
EU law regulates electric bicycles, and has imposed a limit on motor power and the speed limit. This means if you want to ride an electric bicycle without a license it must have a 250watt motor max and reach speeds of 25km max.
You can ride more powerful electric bicycles, but they will require a license just as motorcycles do.
Generally speaking the EU limit is fair, and a 250watt electric bicycle has enough power to get you safely from A to B without needing a lot of pedaling. Ask us about your options when you are ready to consider which electric bicycle is right for you.