I am excited to be able to help people get by with their ebike journey. Here at ebikewizard.com, I share my expertise and over a decade of experience riding, testing, and troubleshooting ebikes of all kinds.
As Humans, we are all accustomed to have a vision of future developments. A reference to the word vision here should not be construed in the most quintessential way in this context. Think of vision, as imagination. We have all at some point in our lives imagined a future. It may be our own self, future technological developments, means of transportation, political scenarios and so on. It was during the times of landline calling, when someone imagined a cell-phone which in today’s era has broken all barriers of distance and made the world virtually a smaller place. Similarly, in the case of road transport, the Wright Brothers had a vision of aircraft in mind, which they executed based on their fundamentals of science and today you can fly all over the globe. The underlying consequence of this discussion being, “Imagination leads the Innovation”. The first step to innovate is to imagine and it is the constant and recurring cycle of imagination which leads to innovation after all.
Technology is more or less about problem solving. You identify a problem and if you successfully create a solution, your product is bound to break barriers and achieve phenomenal results. The former problem-solving technique also requires imagination being put into use. It is the result of this recurring cycle of imagination that inventors of E-bikes must have put into use. They identified the problem of growing global pollution and further noticed the increasing number of emission-based conventional vehicles. The knowledge of scientific fundamentals made it clear for them that the next generation of vehicles can be based on electric emission and the environmental benefits arising out of them would be remarkable. Similarly, the users must have imagined the electric vehicles too. Today we have electric cars and motorbikes, which more or less look like the conventional cars and bikes but a little more futuristic. They sound different, their drive feels different, they are easier to maintain and the list of features goes on. Similarly, the market is also now versed with Electric bicycles but when someone imagines or hears about an electric bicycle, the first thing that they imagine is a scooter or electric motorcycle like structure. We believe it’s completely reasonable and fair, since an electric cycle runs on several electric components like motor, battery and a controller and it is slightly unimaginable to think of these heavy equipment being installed in a compact and light bicycle alike structure.
Contrary to the popular imagination, these electric bicycles look quite different. Consider a standard bicycle and then add several electrical components to it, such as a motor, a battery, and a controller – all of which are integrated seamlessly into the design. These are the essential components of all electric bicycles on the market. Of course, subject to cost and usage type, there are additional components (mostly an upgrade of the regular component) that are installed but the earlier stated three components form the basis of any cycle that you would consider an electric cycle.
What goes into making and Electric Cycle?
So far we have established the basis on an electric cycle. However, in this section we intend to offer our reader more details on the specifics of the components we stated above.
Motor is the heart of an E-bike as this is where the bike derives most of its energy from (apart from the rider’s paddling effort). Electric bike motors are available in a wide range of power ratings, ranging from 200W to 1,000W and beyond. The legal limit in the United States is 750W, although individual states may impose higher limits. Consider this limit in terms of horsepower. A higher rating indicates that the bike can easily pull more weight – but at the cost of using more battery capacity. As a result, a 750W motor will deplete the battery significantly faster than a 250W motor, but it will be more powerful. However, one additional factor must be considered that the motor’s design and location are critical to the operation of electric bikes.
The most common type of electric bike motor is referred to as a hub motor. Generally, it is integrated into either the rear or front wheel. When engaged, it acts as a pulley or pushes the wheel forward. While this system works well, it does have one significant disadvantage. Due to the fact that it is not connected to the bike’s gears, it performs poorly on hills and varied terrain. Consider spending an entire day driving a vehicle in only one gear. It will get you places, but not at the optimal torque or speed that a full gear range provides.
Some companies have even started offering mid-drive motors, which are integrated with the crank and gears. Such arrangement offers several advantages including but not limited to;
- Increase in performance with decrease in battery energy, since the mid-drive motor relies upon the bike’s existing gears;
- Improved hill-climbing powers, since the gears offer the ability to switch as and when required; and
- Improved handling, since the motor is positioned closer to the ground, keeping the weight centered and low.
Battery is another very essential component in an electric bike. The thing with battery is that it is a utility driven component of an electric bike and therefore should be bought depending upon an operator’s usage and purpose behind purchasing the bike. If you are a city rider and commute to work or your university or make a grocery trip on your electric bike, you can manage with a smaller battery and may even be able to find a place to charge even in the worst case scenario. However, if you are an adventurer by your heart and take your electric bike off-roading, you don’t want to be lost in the woods, with a discharged bike and therefore it is highly recommended that you take a bike with a high performing battery.
Battery also affects the weight, style and the range of the bike and therefore making a choice in battery is crucial. The majority batteries that you find in the market will fall into one of the two categories tabulated below;
|Type||Unique Selling Point||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Sealed Lead Acid||Old age batteries, not used so much these days. Rarely used in electric cycles but still prevalent in scooters||Inexpensive.||Very heavy and bulky; Low backup; Low life span (100-300 full cycle charges); and High maintenance|
|Lithium (Ion/Polymer/Manganese etc.)||Latest technology in batteries, last 2-3 times longer than SLA battery.||Lightweight; High battery backup (can do up to 40 miles in paddle-assist mode); Lasts twice as long as a SLA battery||Expensive as it starts only at a range of USD 1,500.|
In usual course, the battery on an E-bike can give the user a range anywhere between 20-100 miles depending upon the capacity and quality of the battery. The 20-100 mile range on different batteries can be only achieved on a full-charge. While many brands provide an estimated range for a specific model of bike, and while it is possible to estimate a bike’s theoretical range based on its motor power and battery capacity, the actual range depends on the level of assistance you are using and the terrain. It usually takes around 3-9 hours for a battery to charge completely. More particularly, it depends upon the model, charger and battery capacity. Some E-bikes also offer the operator a convenience to plug-in a second battery. The user can also lower the assistance level to reduce the load on the motor and conserve battery which will ultimately exceed the E-Bike’s range
As stated above, batteries are usually expensive and therefore you will note that bikes with longer driving range are expensive as opposed to the ones with a shorter riding range. The controller provides the operator a battery indication and also the range (in miles) left before the battery runs out, which we believe is a very useful feature, especially for users taking long trips. It exactly works like the gas level indicator on motor vehicles.
The controller, which comes in a wide variety of styles, allows you to operate the electric assistance on your electric bike and is a critical component of how electric bikes work. For added convenience, the controller is mounted on the handlebar. The two primary types of controllers are pedal-activated and throttle-based. Pedal-activated systems provide electric assistance when the pedals are depressed. No throttle is required and simple pedalling will suffice. Electric bikes with pedal-activated systems feature a handlebar-mounted controller that allows you to adjust the amount of assistance you receive while pedaling. You can select the level of assistance you require, ranging from none to a great deal.
Throttle-based controllers make use of a straightforward throttle mechanism. The throttle will be either twist-grip or thumb-press operated. To receive electric assistance with a throttle, you simply pull back or press the throttle. Certain electric bikes allow you to ride without pedaling by simply activating the throttle. Electric bikes are, for the most part, simple to operate, ride, and maintain. In general, they require little more maintenance than a standard bicycle.
How does an E-bike work?
Out of the three main components as specified above, if the working of an e-bike has to be discussed, it has to begin from a motor. Every electric bike will have a motor housed either centrally on the bike, which is also sometimes interchangeably called as mid-drive motor or on the front or rear hub. The mid-drive motor is powered through the cranks. The difference in a hub-based motor and a centrally mounted motor is how they work through the wheel and enhance the movement in an E-bike. Whereas a hub-mounted motor directly drives the wheel, an axle-mounted motor works through the E-bike’s chain and gears.
Usually E-bikes offer the operator an ease with the help of a motor but that doesn’t mean the operator assistance is removed at all. The rider is required to paddle the bike and when the rider paddles, a dedicated torque sensor measures the amount of effort put into by the operator, which it then matches with the power output of the motor. The idea is that the motor will not take over completely, rather, you should experience consistent power delivery that does not cause the bike to lurch forward.
This is exactly when another very essential component, the battery comes into play. The power of the motor comes from the battery. Batteries might be mounted on the outside frame or even hidden inside it. Similarly, some batteries can be charged while being intact on the bike, while others need to removed. The motor derives its control from the controller mounted on the handlebar of E-bike. Mostly it is mounted on the handlebar, but sometimes it is integrated on the frame. The controller lets you decide, how much assistance you require from the motor and also signals on the battery level. The functional aspect of the controller is usually self-explanatory. While the basis controllers will have modes of riding and battery level displayed on them, some of the high-end ones include other functions such as navigation. There are various brands such as Bosch, Yamaha, FSA, Fauzia etc. which manufacture popular E-bike motors. Specification for different motors can vary significantly depending upon the cost of the E-bike and the its intended purpose of manufacture. For example, A on an electric road bike a lightweight system with smooth power delivery is more likely to be preferred, whereas a motor on a high-spec electric mountain bike is likely to offer more torque for off-road capability.
How do you ride an E-bike?
Riding an electric bike is very similar to riding a similar non-motorized bike. You turn on the motor, use the controller to select the desired level of assistance, and then pedal. The motor will significantly ease initial acceleration and then assist you in maintaining speed, which is especially useful when climbing a hill. However, due to the additional weight of the motor and battery, an electric bike may ride a little more slowly than a conventional bike. Additionally, it may have wider tyres to carry the additional weight and provide additional grip, and it will typically have disc brakes due to the increased mass required to slow down and stop.
All electric bikes give you an option to regulate motor power. A bike will usually have between three to five levels of assistance, selected via its operator. These levels range from gentle push of motor to immense amount of power for managing off-road climbs that merely with human effort can be very challenging. Some bikes even have a boost button offering short stints of additional power to the operator. Many bikes even have a walk-assist mode which makes it easier to simply carry the bikes when the rider is off them.
Riding E-bikes is similar to riding a cycle. You will never forget to ride an E-bike, once you learn how to ride one but ensure that you are extra-cautious while riding since it is not an ordinary bike. Considering, E-bikes are heavier and faster, it is important that an operator takes a little extra measures of caution to enjoy the ride safely and make the best use of an E-bike. As a user, you are expected to be very vigilant in traffic since people driving motor vehicles already undermine cyclists (harsh but a common truth). Always remember that since E-bikes are faster and heavier, the braking system works slightly differently than a conventional cycle. It will take you longer to slow down and stop. Use the brake levers well ahead of the intersections. Similarly, the bike will accelerate faster than the normal so don’t overdo on the acceleration in traffic congested areas.
Take your time with your bike and understand its potential. Be very mindful of your purpose of purchasing one, before you make a decision. Most states have a mandate for E-bike operators to use protective head-gear and helmets and as a rider it is important that you are mindful of your responsibilities towards the law and others on road. There is a lot of scepticism in the states regarding E-bikes, more particularly because the laws are not able to categorise them in motor vehicle/non-motor vehicle category, causing a lot of confusion but considering the long-term positive effect on the environment, most legislators are in favour of introducing them and letting them enter the market more extensively. With that advantage, there is a lot of scepticism on the safety aspect of E-bikes. If you identify yourself as an E-bike enthusiast or are environment conscious, follow the rules as that would make the passing of regulations a lot easier, since there would be no concern left for the safety aspect of the E-bikes as is now.
E-bikes are the future of transportation. A lot of major bike manufacturers and plenty of small ones have already entered the market. Car companies like Ford and GM have announced their E-bikes. Considering the E-bike industry is still a young industry and in its nascent stage, a lot more innovation is expected to be seen and until then you should just safely savour your ride.
R E F E R E N C E S
- Intro to Electric Bikes- What they are and How they work?, Accessible At: https://evelo.com/pages/electric-bikes-101
- What is an E-Bike? Here’s everything you need to know, Selene Yaegar, 7th June 2021, Accessible At: https://www.bicycling.com/skills-tips/a20044021/13-things-about-e-bikes/
- What is an E-Bike? How does it work? How do I ride it? Accessible At: https://www.bicyclejunction.co.nz/pages/faq-what-is-an-e-bike-how-does-it-work-how-do-i-ride-it \
- Electric Bicycles, Chris Woodford, 13th January 2021, Accessible At: https://www.explainthatstuff.com/electricbikes.html
- Beginner’s guide to E-bikes: What is an Electric bike and how do they work?, Accessible At: https://www.bikeradar.com/advice/buyers-guides/what-is-an-electric-bike/