What Is The History Of Electric Bikes?

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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.

The first electric bike was made around 1881 and was a modified tricycle made by Gustave Trouvé
from France. For the next 100 years, electric bikes were experimented with but were almost
always seen as oddities until the late 1980s, when technology finally caught up to the idea.
(Source: Electrickbike)

Understanding the entire history of electric bikes can be a challenge and requires us to dive deeper
into what has happened. Many bikes and solutions have been thought up to try and make the best
possible electric bike with only modern solutions working the best.

What Is The History Of The First Electric Bikes?

The first electric bikes were some of the most impressive pieces of engineering of their time, with
many people that made them overcome the challenges of their times in creative ways. Many of
these machines were still large and bulky, but they were fantastic to see in operation.
Understanding how these bikes worked and what made them so unique from the other things being
made will help you understand modern bikes. It is always important to remember that the first
electric bike beat the first motorbike by almost 15 years.
(Sources: Wikipedia, Electrickbike)

Why They Were Made?

Gustave created the Trouvé Tricycle to find a better way to improve the bicycles already in
existence. Later electric bikes that were available only after the 1890s used similar designs, all
working and relying on helping someone peddle the bike rather than driving the bike entirely.

All of these early electric bikes were made to try and revolutionize the transportation industry at the
time. These bikes were all made when cars, motorbikes, and anything else was still in their infancy,
with the only transportation that was well known and developed were trains and carriages.

When They Were Made?

The first one was made in 1881, with the second one made in 1892; looking at patent offices,
these were rarely made into large-scale production. The first actual production electric bikes were
made around the 1980s and 1990s when battery and motor technology were made sufficiently

For the longest time, patents were made for electric bikes, with most people trying to either create a
direct drive to power the rear wheel. Several others also built gear systems to help drive the chain.
However, all of these had on or off switches with no torque-sensing abilities.

What They Were Capable Of?

These bikes rarely had hours of range on them and were made more to help you peddle a little
easier up a hill. Many electric bikes during the early periods were not easy to use when the
batteries died, causing more problems than they solved due to the drive system’s weight.

While electric bikes could take you quite a distance or even help drive up a mountain, they never
gained widespread popularity. Further, many other options at the time were more affordable and
allowed you to go a lot further than the clunky electric bikes of the eras.

When Were Modern Electric Bikes Made?

We all know what an electric bike looks like; just the name already sparks the thicker chassis and
drive system that we all know and love. However, this design is relatively recent, with many electric
bikes that never made it not share this same design.

Modern electric bikes started appearing around the 1980s when technology provided what was
needed to allow the bikes not to be too cumbersome. Several things define what modern electric
bikes are and how they work, all influenced by the history of electric bikes.
(Source: Electribike, Wikipedia)

The First Models

Around the 1990s, the first modern electric bikes were made available, using rudimentary
batteries and motors; the most significant thing that was added was the torque sensors. These
bikes are most recognizable to what we know today because the torque sensor allowed for easier

As batteries decreased in size and increased in power, the motors did the same, allowing smaller and
smaller housings to fit onto a bike. The modern bikes we know today as electric bikes first appeared
around the mid-2000s when the bikes no longer had to try and replace motorbikes.

Why It Took So Long?

The simple answer is that technology could not get small enough to power the motor for long
correctly enough. Older electric bikes could only go a few kilometers without the battery dying
completely, making them nothing more than a novelty.

Once the technology finally caught up to the idea of electric bikes, they quickly became popular,
with most people that can afford them having one. As they move to greener, technology has
increased. Naturally, electric bikes have increased in popularity, with some of the best-reaching car
travel distances.

Were Early Electric Bikes Dangerous?

Modern-day electric bikes are not dangerous, even when shorting out and having electrical issues.
Which has caused many bike enthusiasts to forget that this was not always the case, with many of
the early electric bikes specifically being quite dangerous if not used properly.

Early electric bikes used dangerous voltages and had batteries that could be flammable if
damaged, which is part of why they were not popular. Many bikes made with electric motors were
made to see if it was possible and not if it was safe to do so. (Source: eBikes)

Some electric bikes got the image of being unsafe, which further meant that the bikes had trouble
being popular. However, as technology improved, the motors and batteries became so safe that
there was barely any need to consider how safe the actual electric bike was to ride down the road.

When Did Electric Bikes Become Popular?

As old as electric bikes, they only started gaining widespread mass-market popularity around the
1990s, when the first commercially successful bike, the Select, was released. Electric bikes as we
know them only started gaining rapid popularity around the 2010s when they became a lot more
affordable. (Source: Bicycle History)

As such, you will find that modern electric bikes have features that few other bikes will have, with
most focusing on more than just simply adding a motor. Further, the increase in popularity also
meant that more and more people have started creating electric bikes, adding new features.

Today you can easily find electric bikes that fit any purpose you may have for them, with a more
significant amount of bikes focused on-road travel. The popularity of off-road bikes also further
helps to increase the total amount of bikes that can be bought at lower prices.

What Were The First Proper Electric Bikes?

While there have easily been hundreds of electric bikes throughout the years, with patents made for
some and others just backyard inventions, there is a time where modern bikes became noticeable.
There are a few proper electric bikes that date back to the 1980s that should always be

We know these bikes are the first ones that could genuinely be considered electric bikes as they are
the ones that would allow people to peddle even with the motor off or instead peddle with ease.
These bikes all used a bit of technology that can be seen and used in modern bikes.

(Source: Electricbike)

  • Hercules: From an older manufacturer of powered bikes, the Hercules operated more as a
    conversion kit than a powered bike. The bike was still able to go quite far on one charge and
    allowed you to comfortable pedal over hills without feeling like you were about to die.
  • Yamaha: It is hard to choose just one of the early Yamaha electric bikes. However, they were
    dome of the first to use the pedal assist systems effectively. These would help ensure that
    your bike could quickly speed up with the electric motor without using too much battery
  • EV Global: One of the first to use Neodymium magnets inside its motor, the EV Global is
    almost the same as any modern bike we use today. With some bike owners from 1995
    replacing the battery with a lithium one and happily using it to travel the world.

What Makes A Modern Electric Bike Different?

There are quite a few things that set modern electric bikes apart from the older, weaker electric
bikes favored in the past. Apart from the apparent increase in the range, several things affect how
we understand the bikes we have now, with many people not constantly aware of them.

Modern bikes have small, firm, pedal-assisted motors that can power or assist the bike’s motion
thoroughly. Further, modern bikes have significantly smaller motors and may even have batteries
that can be slotted in and out, allowing you to replace them with fully charged ones.

The bikes we have today are all lightweight and robust, capable of taking you extremely far even
with the minimal amount of charge in them. Some of the most expensive electric bikes have
lightweight bodies, tracking systems, and large batteries that can allow you to replace your car with

What Are The Best Modern Electric Bikes?

When it comes to modern bikes, knowing which ones are the best will allow you to enjoy the history
they have. Each type of modern electric bike has been built on by the information used to create the
bikes before it, with many bikes being derivatives.

Each of these bikes uses some of the patents made ages ago, each relying heavily on the drive
systems that are available to them or using unique twists. It is always important to know which part
of modern bikes is only possible because of the older technology made by people long forgotten.

(Source: The Cool List, Forbes)

  • Charge City: Using a standard torque converter and a motor to make you’re pedaling easier,
    the Charge City bike is perfect for only average bike riders. Using the modern system to
    strengthen your power is an excellent example of how technology has improved.
  • Sondors X: Something that was seen as impossible with the older electric bikes, off-roading
    has become one of the most important markets for electric bikes. The Sondors X is a fat bike
    that allows you to enjoy boosted pedaling on and off dirt tracks.
  • Radwagon 4: One of the things that electric bikes were supposed to help solve when first
    invented was couriers and delivery. The Redwagon 4 is the penultimate result of years of
    technology, finally allowing even a bike to carry almost anything without breaking your back.
  • Stealth Electric: The stealth electric is the extreme answer to what is the most that can be
    pushed out of electric bikes. Reaching 50mph and, if used correctly, can last most of the day,
    both things early electric bike builders could not even imagine being possible.
  • Faraday Porteur: In answer to the massive, clunky, and unwieldy electric bikes of yesteryear
    is the Faraday Porteur. Perfect for city riding, this unassuming bike might not be the fastest
    or strongest, but it is easily one of the most well-hidden electric bikes out there.
  • Hanebrink: When Gustav made his electric bike and showed it to the world, he barely
    managed to move it across a flat surface in controlled conditions. The Hanebrink is where
    we see the true answer to just how great electric bikes can be; this all-terrain machine is a
    wonder of technology.


The history of electric bikes is one that is almost impossible long, with a great deal many people
assuming they were only recently invented. However, electric bikes are almost older than cars and
are certainly older than motor bikes, which is why they should always be remembered.

Just, always make sure that the electric bike you are on is properly charged and that you can make it
go as fast as it really can!

kyleOwner at - EbikeWizard

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.

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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.

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