What is an Electric Bike?
Electric bikes have been around for quite a while. They are changing the landscape of the bicycle industry. Today, riding a bicycle is not only simple and easy. With an electric bike, a cyclist can even extend the range of the bike at a minimal cost and with minimum effort. Because of the convenience electric bikes promise, its sales have skyrocketed. Even though this is true, many people still do not know much about them or have even heard about them.
An electric bike uses an electric motor to create force that propels the bicycle. A battery of varying chemistry and capacity, a display to show battery level and sometimes speed and an odometer, and either a method by which the rider can activate the power of the motor, usually to assist with pedaling. Normally the amount of power provided to the rider from the electric components is about equal to their pedaling effort, making riding much easier (also depending on your settings). Some off-road electric bikes have much more power than this.
Electric motors can come in either brushed or brushless. Brushed electric bike motors are the most simplest and economical type of electric motor. Brushless motors are more efficient and last much longer without maintenance. Brushless motors are generally the preferred type of motor in electric bikes and electric bike kits.
What are your options for electric bike batteries?
One of the main factors to consider when buying an electric bike is the battery. There are several different battery types and they come in various shapes and sizes. The most common types are the SLA (Sealed Lead Acid), Li-Ion (Lithium Ion), and Li-FePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate). They have the most stable chemistry and industry standard.
The main differences between these two are price and weight.
- Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) – This is the most affordable option for electric bike users. However, it is the heaviest and has the least amount of battery life. It is best suited for beginners and electric bike lovers who have limited financial resources. SLA batteries typically weigh around 7-8lbs per 12V, and last from 300 to 500 charges. SLA batteries are quite sensitive and can be easily damaged if they are regularly dropped below 75% battery charge.
- Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) – This is long lasting and very lightweight. However, these advantages come at a price because Li-Ion batteries are more expensive than SLAs. Li-Ion has several subcategories.
- Li-Manganese (LiMnO2) – This is the most common Li-Ion battery used in electric bikes. It can perform well and last from 500 to 800 charges.
- Lithium-Phosphate (LiFePo4) – This is the most expensive Li-Ion battery. It lasts longer than other Li-Ion batteries and weighs the lightest. It can last from 1500 to 2000 charges. It can provide full power as long as it is charged and does not weaken at the end of a charge cycle.
What are electric bike motors?
Electric bike motors come in a few configurations – hub, mid drive and axial mid mounted. Each has its own pros and cons. The most popular is the hub motor. This has been around for a long time; it utilises a brushless motor and is completely sealed – making it very reliable. It is located in either the front wheel or the rear wheel hub depending on the type of kit or bike.
Performance wise, there is no difference between the front and rear hub motors. The front hub, however, is quicker to set-up and easier to handle. It is best for pre-built electric bikes or conversions. Moreover, a front hub motor assists in equalising the weight of the bike. On the other hand, a rear hub motor is more common on pre-built electric bikes because it is easier to install in a factory. It is a bit difficult to install a rear hub to a conversion electric bike because it needs chains, gearings, and derailers. However, a rear hub motor can provide more torque.
Mid drive electric bike motors are starting to emerge as another option mainly due to the extra low-speed torque you can achieve. The motor is powering your bike’s crank rather than just the wheel. This means your bike’s gear set can vary the ratio of the motors output, just like a car’s transmission.
Imagine getting to an impossibly steep hill, just change down gear and power your way up as if you are riding a seasoned mountain goat!
Axial mid mounted motors are great for people who just want to cruise down to their local shop and zip about. Being brushed motors – they are a low cost option for people who just want something as an alternative to walking to get there milk or newspapers in the morning. These motors are more basic in design, but they are super reliable.
Why Use an Electric Bike?
- Easy to "refuel"
Unlike a car, you can ‘refuel’ your electric bike even while you sleep at night. All you need is a socket. Plug it in while you do something else. When you come back, it is all charged up!
- Enjoy shortcuts
Electric bikes, though motor-powered, are still considered as bicycles. Hence, you can enjoy the routes specifically made for cyclists. These routes are shortcuts and less congested than city streets.
- Sweat less
The motor in an electric bike will help you in pedaling. Therefore, you will be exerting less effort in riding it compared to cycling a conventional bike. The less work you exert, the less sweaty you will be. You can even wear your suit and use your bike to attend a meeting at the next block.
Choosing your first electric bike, whether it is a complete electric bike or an electric bike conversion kit, is very exciting. To install a kit on your existing bike is very rewarding and develops your knowledge of electric bikes, giving you a lifetime passion. Purchasing a pre-built electric bike is definitely easier. They come boxed up and 100% assembled except for pedals and seat, which have been unattached so that the electric bike can fit into a sensibly sized shipping carton. Either way you decide – you will definitely fall in love with electric bikes and never look back.