Electric Bike Frequently Asked Questions
Electric bikes are a relatively new type of bicycle and there are often many questions that come to mind when first learning about them.
Here’s summary of some of the top questions about electric bikes.
What’s the point of an electric bike? Electric bikes add power to your pedal power enabling you to do more with a bicycle and have more fun! For many people eBikes help them:
- Ride faster when compared to a conventional bike. You may be surprised how quickly you can get around even compared to a car. With an eBike you can avoid traffic using bike routes, maintain a higher average speed than a conventional bike, and then park (for free) extremely close to where you are going.
- Enjoy riding uphill and into headwinds because the electric assist helps you along.
- Don’t sweat it; ride with higher assist to get to work quickly and with no sweat. Then ride home with less assist to get a workout if you want.
- Safety. Safely get through intersections by being able to accelerate quickly from a stop.
- Save the joints. eBikes can make bike riding fun again by making putting less pressure on knees, hips, and other joints.
- Enjoy the ride together. You may have a riding partner that rides at a different speed than you. An eBike can even out the pace for both of you.
- Leave the car at home. The convenience, the ease and the speed of an electric bike make it an alternative to an automobile more often than a regular bike. A study by Portland State University shows that eBike owners ride more frequently and farther than when they relied on their traditional bike.
- Have more fun! Riding a bicycle is already fun and when you add electric assist it becomes even more fun. Notice how many people come back from an eBike test ride with a huge smile on their face!
Here are just some of the ways electric bikes can be used:
- Commuting to work
- Taking the kids to school with kids seats or trailer
- Running everyday errands; groceries, post office, shopping, etc.
- Exploring new parts of the city, countryside, forest, or beach
- Bicycle touring
- Mountain biking
- Business deliveries: restaurants, postal services (FedEx, UPS, DHL, and others use them)
- eBike share programs: Birmingham, Alabama has an eBike share system where you can easily rent an eBike for a couple of hours.
How fast can they go? Most electric bikes in the U.S. will provide you with assist up to 20 mph. There are some, called speed pedelecs, that will assist you up to 28 mph, but you need to be providing a significant amount of your own pedal power to get to that top speed.
Why can’t they go faster? The intent of an electric bicycle is to be very similar to a conventional bicycle and that includes the speed that it can travel. If eBikes provided higher power assisted speeds then they would be regulated like a scooter/motorcycle which requires registration, licensure, insurance, etc. In addition, this would limit where eBikes can be ridden.
Bicycles and electric bicycles are great vehicles because they do not require registration, licensure, insurance, and there are so many places they can be ridden.
How far can they go? Most electric bikes have a range of 20-30 miles and that depends on the riding conditions (hills, headwinds, etc.), how much pedal power you are providing, and how much weight you are moving (yourself + cargo). You can get eBikes with more range (up to 100 miles) but they are generally more expensive and weigh more because of the larger battery pack. Quick tip: charging your battery at work will help to increase your daily range.
How much power do they have? Generally electric bikes in the U.S. will range from 250 watts to 750 watts. 750 watts is the maximum power to still be a considered a bicycle and that equates to 1 horsepower.
How long does it take to charge the battery? Most electric bike batteries will fully charge from empty in 3 to 6 hours depending on the battery size.
How much does it cost to charge the battery? In general it will cost $0.03 to $0.10 to charge an electric bike battery pack. This will depend on what your local electricity supplier charges. With this in mind, most employers will not mind if you charge your battery at work.
Can I charge the battery by pedaling? Some electric bikes have this feature but this requires a substantial amount of your pedal power, so be ready for one heck of a workout! Some of these same eBikes have regenerative braking that will charge the battery as you are braking, similar to the way electric cars do.
Throttle or Pedal Assist, Which is Best? It depends on your riding preference. Some people like throttle because it allows them to cruise along with or without pedaling. Pedal assist adds assist as soon as you start pedaling and people who are used to riding conventional bikes tend to prefer this system. Many eBikes in the U.S. have both throttle and pedal assist so you may not have to choose between the systems. If you have to choose between them, make sure you spend a significant amount of time riding both systems to determine what works best for you.
How much do they cost? Electric bikes range in price from $500 to $10,000+ but the average price range for quality electric bikes is $1,200 to $3,500.
I like riding my conventional bike, why would I need an electric bike? You may find that adding an electric bike to your lineup of bikes expands what you can do with a bicycle. For instance, with an electric cargo bike you can take the kids to school, commute to work, pick up groceries, and enjoy a nice bike ride at the end of a long work day. Remember, you can never have too many bikes 🙂
Also, you may know of family and friends that currently don’t ride a bike but would enjoy riding an electric bike. eBikes can “level the playing field” so that couples and/or friends of different riding ability levels can enjoy riding together.
Overall, the more people on bikes, the better!
Can you get any exercise on an electric bike? Absolutely! You decide how much exercise you want to get by adjusting the power assist level on the bike.
One strategy is to commute to work with higher assist so you arrive with minimal to no sweat and then use a lower assist when riding home to get more of a work out and unwind from a long day.
How much do they weigh? Generally electric bikes range from 45 pounds to 60 pounds. Of course there are the exceptions on both sides of that range.
I like my current bike, can I add electric assist to it? Definitely! There are many electric bike kits on the market that can add electric assist to your current bike. This can be an economical way to test the “eBike waters” before you dive in and buy a whole new eBike.
Are electric bikes popular in the U.S.? They are gaining popularity as many of us are looking for transportation and recreational options that are fun! eBikes have been very popular in Europe and China and thanks to their hard work, we are benefitting from the advances in overall eBike technology.
P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips!
This is a very important beginning article for those who are just being introduced to e-bikes. I used to own a bicycle dealership in the 1970’s and early 80’s, but was hit by a car in ’83 and was told I would never walk again. After much physical therapy I was finally back on my feet, but did not get back on a bike again until 2014. I found my legs could not carry me very far and that is when I discovered the e-bikes. I now own 7 e-bikes and am planning to ride around the world on an e-bike in 2018.
Alaska eBike says
If you need any assistance with logistics (like how to maximize your route to include delicious craft breweries along the way, how not to fall in a glacier crevasse, avoid being bear bait, etc) for the Alaska portion of your world ride, just let us know. We’d be happy to help any way we can. Glad you were able to get back to the joys of cycling again through eBikes.
John Z. says
Great Eugen, I hope to follow you on Electric Bike Report in 2018. I have 5 ebikes myself and I enjoy working and trying to find out the best bike out there for the dollar. My bikes are put away till March as the roads are covered in snow up here in Canada..
I wish you luck Eugene. .
John Z. in Montreal Canada
Alaska eBike says
Have you checked out the All Wheel Drive eBikes from Easy Motion? We have put over 100 miles on our Big Bud fat tire up here in Alaska and it handles the snow and ice with ease, no studs needed (although they would help) They have a fat tire and a 29’r with the AWD options. The fat tire rides great and feels like you are piloting a monster truck. So much fun riding in all seasons!
Thank you for the comments on my upcoming adventure. Since I will be 70 when starting my trip in 2018 and pulling a trailer of almost 70 lbs. ( I don;t plan on riding in too much inclement weather and also will be avoiding major inclines.) My trip will start in Southern California and go across the southern states to Florida, where I will catch a flight to South America. I will ride the northern coast of South America and catch a flight from there to Lisbon. I will ride the southern coast of Europe to Athens and fly from Athens to the west coast of India. I will follow the coast through Asia as far as Indonesia and fly from there to Perth. I will ride the southern coast of Australia on the final leg of my trip and fly from Sydney back to Southern California.
I checked out a whole slew of bikes at the E-bike Expo this weekend and found some very interesting new models, but nothing that could make this trip. What I am leaning towards is a good, strong, lightweight folder with a duel or tandem battery pack with two 160 watt hour batteries.. Hopefully an e-bike that is being mass manufactured or soon will be.
Hi Eugene! Wow I am 70 and just got my first ebike… and have been thinking of outfitting it for a trip from No. California up to the Northwest and BC – never even thought about a ‘World’ class trip. Have you considered approaching the manufacturer(s) of the bikes you are considering as to some sponsorship opportunities?
My question… what brand/type of trailer are you seriously considering to use in this adventure? Thom ‘Tenkara Roadrunner’
I forgot to mention that you might also check with the battery makers… Bosch etc. for sponsorship opportunities – your upcoming adventure is one that many of us will enjoying hearing from and about amigo!