Buyers Guide

Appendix A

Transporting

Electric Bikes


When trying to transport an ebike, weight, shape, and size are some of the most important factors that need to be taken into consideration. And while in the past it may have been difficult to find ways to transport an ebike, manufacturers and bike rack companies today are developing new transportation solutions in response to the rising popularity of electric bikes. Below we outline some of the best, most convenient methods currently available for transporting electric bikes.

Car Racks

There are three main types of car racks: roof racks, rear racks that strap onto the trunk or rear window, and hitch racks. When transporting electric bikes, it’s best to use hitch racks, as these are typically the strongest and therefore the safest way to haul ebikes. Since whichever rack you’ll eventually be using will be carrying a decent amount of weight—especially if you’re hauling multiple ebikes at once—you should probably stick with racks that mount to the car using a 2 inch hitch, which is sturdier than the 1-¼ inch hitch size.

The next thing to think about is weight. Since many car racks are designed to hold and carry conventional bicycles, which are typically much lighter than ebikes, it’s important that you pay attention to the weight capacity of a rack when figuring out which one to use. In general, go with racks that can hold at least 60-pound bikes. Most racks are made to hold more than one bike at a time, so be sure that if you’re getting one of these it’s rated to carry multiple 60-pound bikes.

Today, it’s becoming more common for rack manufacturers to sell racks built specifically for ebikes. But even if a rack isn’t necessarily designed for ebike use, if you get one with the proper hitch size and weight capacity you should be fine. Here are two of the most popular racks currently available, both of which are good options for carrying electric bikes:

1. Hollywood Racks Sport Rider SE2 (the HR1450E model is Hollywood’s ebike specific version of the popular Sport Rider SE2 rack)

2. Küat NV 2.0

Now, there are even good options for those considering an electric trike, which is obviously more difficult to transport. Hollywood now makes an sturdy, e-trike specific car rack (model HRT330) that can carry an electric trike up to 100lbs and another ebike up to 80lbs.


Folding E-Bikes

Another possible method for transporting electric bikes is to use a folding ebike. Folding bicycles typically use some sort of hinged joint and quick release fasteners to allow riders to quickly change the bike between rideable size and collapsed transporting size. This type of ebike could be a good option if you know you’ll be using your bike in conjunction with some other form of transportation—a train, boat or RV—or if you have very limited storage space at your home or office.

Folding electric bike design has improved significantly over the last couple of years. Electric folders used to have an awkward frame design, tiny motors and a very limited range. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. Many of today’s folding ebikes feature comfortable ergonomic frames, fully-integrated batteries and even powerful mid-drive motors on par with their full-size siblings. In other words, technology innovation has largely eliminated the necessary tradeoffs between size and capabilities.


Whichever solution best suits your needs and lifestyle, the popularity of electric bikes means now there is a myriad of options when it comes to transporting your electric bike. So go ahead and take your new ebike on that road trip or bring it along in your RV to explore new areas you visit.


Chapter Ten

Conclusion: The Future of

Electric Bike Transportation


There has never been a more exciting time than now to become an electric bike owner. Having established itself as a hugely popular, effective, and important mode of transportation in countries around the world—most notably China and several nations throughout Europe–the electric bike is beginning to take off in the United States as well.

The primary appeal of an electric bike is its unique ability to combine pedal power with motor power, giving riders an unprecedented level of control over their riding experiences. By allowing riders to choose precisely how much power the motor will provide, ebikes have quickly become some of the most flexible and accessible vehicles in the world.

Whether it’s used to go on recreational rides with family or friends, as a way to get back into shape, or as a vehicle for completing your daily commutes, an electric bike is the key to easy, comfortable, and convenient travel.


An Up-and-Coming Technology

By becoming an ebike owner in 2019 you place yourself at the forefront of a transportation movement that’s revolutionizing cycling, especially as it becomes increasingly important for Americans to find affordable, quick, easy, and convenient ways to get around. With a huge jump in ebike ownership in the last 7 years and plenty of room to grow, the U.S. electric bike market will continue to expand quickly. Some analysts predict that within 10-15 years, U.S. will become one of the largest electric bike markets in the world, with millions of ebikes sold each year.13

One of the key reasons for the rapid growth in ebike use is improved technology—as batteries and motors have become more efficient, durable, and lightweight, electric bikes have become increasingly viable vehicles for everyday travel. These improvements are also what make now such an opportune moment to become an ebike owner. With today’s super efficient, lightweight components, an electric bike can empower you to travel conveniently and affordably, all while having a good time.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve completed this buyer’s guide, you should have all the knowledge you need to make a smart and well-informed decision as to precisely which ebike is right for you. As you start looking at specific ebike models, talking to retailers, and figuring out which bike you should buy, be sure to keep in mind your specific needs, interests, and expectations. These should include the type of riding you want to do, your current health needs, your goals for getting an ebike, and what sort of terrain you’ll be riding across.

With all this in mind—and equipped with your expert knowledge—you can confidently dive into the exciting, dynamic, and rapidly expanding world of electric bikes. Good luck and enjoy the ride!



13 “If an Electric Bike Is Ever Going to Hit It Big in the U.S., It’s This One,” Nate Bert, CityLab,
https://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/07/if-an-electric-bike-is-ever-going-to-hit-it-big-in-the-us-its-this-one/375167/. Accessed 3 January 2019.

Chapter Nine

Electric Bikes:

Pros and Cons


As we begin wrapping up our discussion of electric bikes, it will be helpful to provide an overview of some of the most important information we’ve covered so far. To do this, Section 9 will summarize much of what you’ve read, bringing it all together into a comprehensive list of the pros and cons involved with owning an electric bike. As with everything else in this buyer’s guide, this list will be helpful to you as you navigate the world of electric bicycles in search of the perfect bike.

Pros

• Cheap transportation - Especially when compared to other types of transportation, electric bikes are very clearly one of the cheapest ways to get around. With an electric bike, you don’t need to worry about paying for any sort of special license or registration, you don’t have to pay for parking, and the cost of recharging a battery is immensely cheaper than both public transit fares and a tank of gas.

• Improved health - Using an electric bike as part of your regular travel is a great way to introduce some physical activity to your everyday routine, and can contribute significantly to improved overall health. By using an electric bike, you guarantee yourself time and space to exercise your muscles, lungs, and heart while enjoying a bit of fresh air.

• Exercise that’s right for you - Electric bikes can be especially empowering for those who would like to exercise more, but who have a health condition that limits the amount of physical activity they can perform. By controlling the amount of assistance they receive from the motor, ebike riders can tailor the difficulty level of their rides to meet their unique health and fitness needs. This can be especially helpful to those with joint pain, exercise-induced asthma, heart or lung problems, or who are overweight.

• Enjoy time with friends and family - For many people, electric bikes make it possible to spend more time having fun with friends and family members, allowing them to join in on recreational bike rides. If you’re new to cycling or struggle keeping up, an electric bike may be the key to getting out more often to enjoy leisure rides with those you love.

• Travel further - The assistance provided by the electric motor enables ebike riders to go further than they might otherwise be able to. The amount of effort required to cover 10 miles on a conventional bike, for example, can carry riders closer to 20 miles when combined with the power generated by an ebike motor.

• Sweat-free commutes - One of the biggest drawbacks to using a bicycle for your daily commutes is showing up at your destination hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. By using an electric bike, however, you can complete the exact same rides while exerting only a portion of the physical effort. Electric bikes make two-wheeled commuting a much more viable possibility for many people, letting riders enjoy all the benefits of commuting by bicycle while eliminating many of its messiest drawbacks.

• Tackle obstacles - The extra boost of power provided by an ebike’s motor make it possible to zip up hills, plow through headwinds, and tackle any other obstacle you might encounter on a bike ride without wearing yourself out or getting burned out. As a result, electric bikes provide a convenient, accessible, extremely enjoyable cycling experience to a wide and diverse range of riders.

Cons

• Significant upfront investment - It’s not uncommon for people learning about electric bikes for the first time to be surprised by the cost of an ebike, which typically ranges anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. And while there’s no getting around the fact that using an ebike requires a significant upfront investment, the good news is that once you’ve spent the money to purchase a high quality electric bike, there are relatively few expenses required to operate it. Similarly, the cost of purchasing an electric bike is actually not too bad when compared to what it costs to buy a car or even a high-end bicycle.

• Heavier than conventional bikes - Even after dramatic improvements in ebike technologies and components, electric bikes remain noticeably heavier than conventional bicycles. This becomes a problem primarily when you’re trying to transport the bike or when you’re out on a ride and the battery dies.

• More specialized, complex parts - While the majority of ebike parts are standard bicycle components that are easy to find, replace, and repair, there are also a handful of highly specialized components that are unique to ebikes. Because these parts tend to be a bit more complicated and can sometimes be harder to find, it can often be more difficult and more expensive to repair a specialized ebike component than a more conventional bicycle part.

• Confusing legal status - Because electric bikes are still relatively new to the U.S., there can be a bit of confusion when it comes to the way they’re viewed by the law. In general, electric bikes with a maximum speed of 20 mph and motors rated at less than 750 watts are treated the same as any other bicycle, which means they can be ridden on bike paths and in bike lanes and don’t require any special licensing or registration. There are some places, though, that have a different set of rules that may limit or change the way you’re allowed to use your electric bike. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to check the rules in your specific city and state when riding an electric bike.

The table below summarizes the primary advantages and disadvantages of using an electric bike, giving you a quick, at a glance resource to use as you consider becoming an ebike owner:

Pros Cons
Cheap transportation Expensive initial investment
Improved health Heavier than conventional bicycles
Tailor exercise to your needs Specialized, complex parts
Time with family and friends Potentially confusing legal status
Increased range
Sweat-free commute
Tackle obstacles for easy ride

Final Thoughts

Electric bikes can help riders of all ages, skills and physical abilities live more active lives but they are not perfect. Being aware of the ways that ebike use can be incredibly beneficial, as well as some of the challenges involved with buying and using an ebike, will make you a well-informed, savvy consumer, ready to make the best possible decision when it comes time to select and purchase an ebike of your own.

As you make this decision, keep in mind that while there are certainly disadvantages to owning and using an electric bike, it seems that many people have decided that the advantages of riding an ebike far outweigh any potential drawbacks. Perhaps this is one reason why ebikes are fast becoming one of the most popular and widely used forms of transportation in the world today.


Chapter Eight

Preparing to Buy

an Electric Bike


At this point, you’ve become much more familiar with what electric bikes are, how they work, and why many people see them as a particularly appealing way to travel. Equipped with this foundation of knowledge, it may be time to start preparing to actually purchase an electric bike of your own. Below are some tips and pointers that will help you navigate the electric bike marketplace so you can find the right bike for you.

Where to Buy an Electric Bike

Electric bikes have become much more widespread in the last several years and there are now more options than ever when it comes to purchasing one for yourself. If you are in a market for an electric bike, there are three types of places you can buy from - traditional bike shops, specialty electric bike shops or online direct-to-consumer brands. Let’s consider each one in turn.

Traditional bike shops - While initially resistant to the idea of an electric bicycle, many bike shops now carry at least a few electric bike models from which to choose. The two big advantages of buying through a traditional brick-and-mortar shop is that they are local and you can test ride one of their ebikes. On the other hand, the selection is likely to be limited, compared to other channels, the value is not always there, and the store associates are unlikely to have a deep knowledge of the components and the technology.

Specialty electric bike shops - In response to the increased popularity of electric bikes, there is also a small but steadily growing number of shops dedicated entirely to selling ebikes. If you’re interested in checking out and purchasing an electric bike from a brick and mortar shop, this is a good option. An ebike store is likely to carry a much greater selection from many different brands and they’ll have the knowledge and expertise needed to answer your questions. They’ll also be best equipped to deal with any repairs or warranty issues that may arise.

The biggest drawback is a very limited availability of dedicated electric bike shops around the country. Major metropolitan areas are lucky to have one or maybe two electric bike shops, which means that if you rely solely on these brick and mortars, you’ll have access to only a very small range of ebike options—you’ll see only what that store happens to carry.

Online direct-to-consumer brands - With most consumers now comfortable purchasing big ticket items online, the direct-to-consumer market for electric bikes is thriving. There are now many options to choose from and increased competition between manufacturers has resulted in a better value for the consumer than what you’ll likely to find at a brick-and-mortar bike shop. In fact, some of the most successful ebike manufacturers in the U.S. are direct-to-consumer brands that sell primarily online.

Of course, shopping online also has its disadvantages. One potential drawback to buying an electric bike online is the difficulty of test riding a bike before you buy it. While a brick and mortar store makes it possible to immediately hop on a bike and give it a test ride, shopping online requires that you contact the manufacturer or retailer to see if they can arrange a way for you to test ride a bike. The other drawback is the paradox of choice. Shoppers can get overwhelmed with the multitude of brands, components and other options. In fact, that is the reason we’ve put together this buyer’s guide - to help you become a more educated consumer.


The Details: What You Should Ask Retailers

Whether you buy your electric bike online or from a brick and mortar retailer, there are a number of important questions you need to ask to figure out if a particular ebike model is right for you. The familiarity with electric bikes you’ve gained by reading this guide will help you have meaningful conversations with ebike retailers since you’ll go into these conversations with a strong foundation of knowledge already in place. This foundation will ultimately become the base from which you make your purchasing decisions.

When you start talking to e-bike retailers, here are the ten most important questions you should ask:

1. Does the bike have a hub motor or a mid-drive motor? As discussed earlier, the two dominant ebike motor configurations are the rear hub and the mid-drive. The two types of motors are suited for different applications.

The mid-drive motor generates significantly more torque, resulting in more power to climb steep hills. The power also comes through the chain, resulting in a more natural feel. However, ebikes equipment with the mid-drive motor are usually more expensive.

The hub drive motor often has a comparable power output rating but does not benefit from the torque multiplication and gearing reduction of the mid-drive motor. As a result, the hub drive ebikes are typically less capable of climbing steep hills. That said, hub drive equipment electric bikes are more affordable and can be a good first ebike for a new owner.

2. How powerful is the motor? The power of an ebike motor is described in terms of how many watts it generates; most electric bike motors fall somewhere in the range of 250 - 750 watts.

In general, if you’re riding in an area that doesn’t have a lot of steep hills, if you plan on using motor assistance sparingly, and if you weigh less than 200 pounds, a 250 or a 500 watt hub or mid-drive motor should be enough to give you a great riding experience. If, on the other hand, you’ll be riding up a lot of steep hills, if you plan on using primarily motor assistance, or if you weigh over 200 pounds, a mid-drive motor in the 500 to 750 watt range is probably a good idea since it will provide the extra torque needed to quickly motor up hills and respond to changes in your riding conditions or needs. A hub motor, even with a 750 watt power output rating, might not generate enough torque to climb hills seamlessly.

3. What type of electric assistance does the bike provide? The main thing you want to know when asking this question is whether the bike offers electric assistance only while the pedals are being cranked or if it also offers a power on demand option. If you know there will be times when you want to stop pedaling and let the motor take over, then be sure the bike you’re looking at offers a full throttle mode.

4. What’s the bike’s maximum speed? In most places in the U.S., electric bikes cannot legally go faster than 20 mph, but beneath that threshold there is still some significant variance in the speeds different ebikes can reach.

The speed you need your electric bike to travel depends on where you live, how quickly you’d like to ride, and how heavily you plan on using the bike’s motor. In general, though, e-bikes capable of hitting the top legal speed of 20 mph prove to be the most convenient and helpful, allowing riders to run errands, complete commutes, and get from here to there as quickly and efficiently as possible.

5. How do riders engage and control the motor? Ebikes come with a variety of different mechanisms for engaging and controlling the motor, including sensors that gauge a rider’s speed or pedaling torque and then trigger the motor to respond accordingly, throttles or triggers that give riders manual control of the motor, digital control panels, and any number of combinations of sensors, controllers, throttles, and triggers. Understanding exactly how any particular ebike engages the motor is an important factor in determining whether or not it will give you the kind of riding experience you’re looking for.

6. What sort of drivetrain does the bike have? Effectively combining the mechanical efficiency of the bike’s drivetrain with the power and torque of its motor is one of the best ways to fully maximize the overall performance of an electric bike. You’ll want to know whether the bike is a single speed—which limits your ability to fine-tune your riding experience and may force you to rely more on the motor—or if it has multiple gears—which gives you a broader range of riding options and makes it easier to climb hills.

You’ll also want to know if the bike uses a derailleur to shift through gears or if it comes with an internal-gear hub like the NuVinci. Derailleurs require riders to have a good grasp of how to shift through gears to respond to changing terrains, while something like the Enviolo NuVinci transmission offers a more seamless, intuitive approach to adjusting to changes in terrain, weather, or other factors.

7. What type of battery does the e-bike come with? Currently, lithium batteries are the lightest, most efficient, best batteries to use on electric bikes, so be sure the ebike you’re looking at uses a high quality rechargeable lithium battery.

8. What’s the battery’s range? Once you know that the bike you’re interested in uses a high quality lithium battery, it’s important to figure out what the battery’s range is. In the electric bike industry, this is generally described in terms of how many miles a rider can go before needing to recharge the battery.

The range of the battery you need depends on the type of riding you plan on doing. If you plan to use more motor power than pedal power, then you’ll be using your battery’s charge quicker and will therefore need a larger range. If you plan to pedal a lot and use the motor assistance only periodically, you can probably use a battery with a smaller range. The length of your rides similarly impacts the type of battery you need: if, for example, you have a long daily commute then you probably need a larger range than someone who only goes a few miles each day. In short, be sure the range of the ebike you’re looking at will conveniently cover the distances you plan to travel.

9. How long does it take to charge the battery? This information is helpful in figuring out more concretely what the actual experience of using an electric bike will be like. This will also help you figure out if a particular ebike model realistically fits your lifestyle and how well it meets your riding needs.

10. What sort of warranty does the e-bike come with? One of the great things about riding an ebike is that the majority of repairs can be done quite easily using conventional bicycle parts by a mechanic at your local bike shop. However, because electric bikes also include their own unique components, most obviously the motor and battery, it’s a good idea to buy an ebike with a strong warranty—just in case anything goes wrong. Shoot for an ebike that comes with 3 to 4-year comprehensive warranty.


As electric bikes have proven their usefulness as incredibly efficient, convenient, quick, and fun vehicles for everything from leisurely rides with friends and family to daily commutes and weekly errands, they have become more widely available to consumers in the U.S. And while the number of brick and mortar ebike stores is still relatively small, there is already a huge variety of ebikes available online.

Regardless of where you end up buying your electric bike, it’s important that you know the right questions to ask before making a purchase. Doing so will ensure that when you do finally buy your own ebike, you’re getting the one that best meets your unique needs, interests, and expectations.


Chapter Seven

Should I Buy a New

Electric Bike or Convert



My Existing Bike?


While many people find it easiest and most convenient to simply buy a new electric bike, others might find it more appealing to convert their existing bicycles to electric by adding a motor and battery. This option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately, whether you convert your conventional bicycle or buy a complete electric bike depends on your unique needs, interests, and expectations.

In this chapter, we’ll highlight some of the best methods and products currently available for converting a conventional bicycle into an electric bike. We’ll also provide a brief discussion of the pros and cons of this type of conversion, especially when compared to purchasing an electric bike.

Converting to Electric

By far the most common method for converting a conventional bicycle to an electric bike is to add a hub motor to either the front or the back wheel. This method is generally the easiest, most seamless way to make a conversion, as it leaves the huge majority of the original bike and its components intact—you’re adding only a new hub and some sort of controller, nothing else on the bike is affected.

The seeming simplicity of this type of modification can be a bit misleading, however, since making the change from a conventional hub to a motorized hub is actually a fairly complicated task. To begin with, taking apart and rebuilding wheels is always a challenging project, involving intensive work installing spokes and truing the completed wheel. Similarly, the extra weight of the motorized hub and the additional torque it will generate means that, in most cases, the entire wheel will need to be upgraded to include a rim and spokes sturdy enough to handle a motorized hub. In the end, you would end up with not only a new hub, but an entirely new wheel.

Recognizing this, a number of manufacturers have begun building and selling all-in-one electric wheels, which combine the rim, spokes, motorized hub, and rechargeable battery into a single, self-contained unit. These all-in-one wheels generally come with some sort of control system that riders use to turn the motor on and off, and to control how much assistance it provides.

As with the hub motors discussed in chapter 5, the all-in-one electric wheel either replaces the front or the rear wheel on your existing bicycle. To use a typical electric wheel, simply take off your bike’s original wheel, install the new wheel, and download an app that usually comes with the product and turns your smartphone into a control panel.

A good example of a rear all-in-one electric wheel is the Copenhagen Wheel. It uses a built-in 350 watt motor and a battery with a range of roughly 30 miles. The Copenhagen Wheel is designed to work with Shimano and SRAM drivetrains.

An alternative to the rear setup is the front all-in-one electric wheel, which as one would expect, replaces the front wheel of your regular bike. There are a number of brands on the market today, including Electron and GeoOrbital, with motors in the 400-600 watt range and batteries that go 20-30 miles on a single charge.


The Pros and Cons: Is a Conversion Right For Me?

The two biggest advantages to converting the bike you already own are familiarity and cost: converting a conventional bike to electric allows you to continue using the bike you already know and love, and buying a conversion kit is generally going to be a cheaper option than buying a complete electric bike.

On the other hand, though, there are some significant disadvantages to converting a conventional bike, especially when compared to buying an electric bike. In the early days of electric bike manufacturing, a complete ebike was not that much different from a DIY conversion. Today, most manufacturers are building purpose-built frames to neatly house various electric bike components, like the battery, the controller, and in the case of the mid-drive configuration, the motor. A conversion will not be as smooth or efficient as a complete electric bike, which has seamlessly incorporated the motor, battery, and controls into every aspect of the bike’s design.

Similarly, all-in-one wheels rely on hub motors, which tend to produce a less natural and less efficient riding experience. As discussed in chapter 5, adding a heavy motor to the front or the rear wheel without carefully considering the overall balance is likely to result in an ebike that is difficult to ride and maneuver.

Whether you decide to convert your existing bike or purchase a complete electric bike depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your motor assisted bicycle. Either option will significantly increase what your bike is capable of, giving you a convenient, fun, fast, and affordable way to travel. In the end, though, while a conversion kit offers a quick and easy way to completely transform your bicycle, many riders have found that there’s simply no way to replace the high level of performance provided by a complete electric bike, designed from the ground up to be a uniquely convenient, efficiently motorized hybrid vehicle.


Chapter Six

How Much Do

Electric Bikes Cost?


Now that you’ve become familiar with what electric bikes are, how they work, and why they’re a unique and effective mode of transportation for many people throughout the world, you may be wondering what the actual costs are of buying, using, and maintaining an electric bike. This section will give you an overview of what these costs look like and will attempt to answer the questions people typically have as they begin thinking about the possibility of buying their own electric bike.

The Cost of Purchasing a New Electric Bike

• Motor - The power and performance capabilities of an electric bike’s motor play a key role in determining the overall cost of the bike—in general, the better the motor the more expensive the bike.

As discussed in the previous section, there are two main types of motors, hub motors and mid-drive motors. While both have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, when it comes to a motor’s price tag, power is the primary factor. Most standard electric bike motors come with a power rating of 250 watts and typically go up from there to as high as 750 watts. Higher rated motors generate more power than those with lower ratings, and as a result provide a snappier, more responsive, more versatile motorized riding experience.

Whether or not you need a more powerful motor depends primarily on the type of riding you’re planning to do and the terrain on which you’ll be riding. If you live in a city with a lot of steep hills, for example, and you need a motor that will propel you up hills quickly without having to pedal, then paying a bit more for a more powerful motor may be a good investment.

Keep in mind, though, that the power output is not the only specification worth consideration. For example, a rear hub and a mid-drive motor can both be rated for 750 watt but have very different abilities to get you up a steep hill; that’s because a mid-drive motor will have a mechanical advantage and typically generate higher torque than a hub motor. Always pay attention to torque in additional to watts.

• Battery - Along with the power of the motor, the battery used to fuel an electric bike motor is a key factor in how expensive a particular bike is. Most electric bikes use lightweight, efficient, rechargeable lithium batteries, and the primary variable differentiating one battery from another is how many miles of riding a battery can provide before it needs to be recharged.

As explained in chapter 5, the exact number of miles a rider gets out of a battery charge depends on a number of different variables such as the weight of the bike, the rider’s weight, whether or not there’s a headwind, the number and steepness of the hills the bike is climbing, and the proportion of human-generated and motor-generated power a rider uses. If, for example, a cyclist pedals for most of the ride and uses a low level of motor assistance, she’ll get more miles out of her battery charge than she would if she uses the motor as the sole source of power throughout the entire ride. Similarly, a rider whose trip to the grocery store is entirely on flat ground will get more miles out of his battery then a rider who has to go up two steep hills to get to the store.

Since there are so many variables affecting the number of miles a battery can provide, electric bike manufacturers and retailers usually describe batteries in terms of mileage ranges that attempt to account for a variety of riding styles and conditions. A good quality electric bike battery should provide, on average, somewhere between 20 and 50 miles of riding per charge.In general, the more miles a battery can provide, the more expensive it will be, so before deciding which electric bike is right for you, it’s important to consider the type of riding you plan on doing.

• Drivetrain - Just like a traditional bicycle, a basic electric bike configuration comes with a derailleur and mechanical gears. Upgrading to a mid-drive configuration creates room in the rear wheel for a more sophisticated transmission, like an internally geared hub.

An internally geared hub transmission is factory-sealed, requires less maintenance and has fewer components sticking out and at risk of being damaged. Of course, these benefits come at a premium and can add hundreds of dollars to a cost of an electric bike.

Finally, the electric bike technology has evolved to the point where a fully automatic transmission is now a reality. Internally geared hubs, like the Enviolo NuVinci, can be upgraded with automatic shifting controllers, removing the need to shift gears at all! Once again, these advanced features are more expensive than a regular derailleur or a standard internally geared hub.

• Bicycle Components - Because an electric bike is fundamentally a bicycle, the mix of all the other non-electric, non-motorized bicycle components used on an electric bike is another important factor affecting the bike’s overall cost.

When you pay to upgrade bicycle components, you’re generally paying for components that are lighter weight, that have greater strength and increased durability, and that work more effectively and efficiently than cheaper, lower quality parts. High end derailleurs, for example, shift quicker and smoother, and are usually lighter weight and more sturdy than cheaper derailleurs. Likewise, more expensive suspension forks will generally be stronger, more rugged, and will respond to changes in terrain more smoothly than cheaper suspension forks.

As with everything else, the type of components you need on your electric bike depends largely on the kind of riding you plan to do. If you know you’ll be using your electric bike exclusively on well-paved city streets to run errands and commute to work, then you probably don’t need the same type of heavy, rugged parts a cyclist might need if he plans on using his electric bike for off-road riding or riding on rougher bike paths.

In short, it’s important to buy an electric bike with high quality components that match the type of riding you plan to do. This will ensure that your bike is reliable, efficient, and fun, and will also help limit the need for repairs.

• Materials - The fourth and final factor that affects how much an electric bike costs is the actual material used to build the frame. Low quality bike frames made out of heavier, less durable materials will generally be cheaper than higher quality bike frames, built from lighter, stronger, more durable metal alloys.

It’s important to invest in a high quality bike frame since the frame is, quite literally, the skeleton of the entire bike. Frames that are sturdy, reliable, and lightweight ultimately provide a better riding experience, giving you a bike that handles well, that’s comfortable and responsive, and that you know you can depend on.


The Costs of Using and Maintaining an Electric Bike

After the upfront cost of purchasing an electric bike, there are some additional ongoing costs associated with regularly using and maintaining an electric bike. Fortunately, though, these costs are relatively small compared to both the upfront cost of buying the bike and the cost of using other forms of transportation.

The most frequently recurring cost of riding an electric bike is the cost of charging the battery. Interestingly, this is also the point at which electric bikes distinguish themselves as a particularly affordable and efficient vehicle. In fact, multiple studies have confirmed that electric bikes are the most cost-effective motorized vehicle currently available.

To be more specific, one study reported that, on average, it costs roughly 8 cents to charge an electric bike battery. Given that most batteries get somewhere between 20 and 40 miles per charge, that’s a total of 250 to 500 miles on just $1 worth of electricity.11 In a similar project, ElectricBikeReport.com determined that it costs between 0.0625 cents and 0.245 cents per mile to operate an electric bike, depending on the time of day a rider charges their battery.12

The other primary expense associated with using an electric bike is the cost of periodic repairs, which will arise from time to time as parts wear out or break. Fortunately, since the huge majority of electric bike components are standard bicycle parts, nearly all repairs can be performed at a local bike shop for a relatively low price. To put the cost of repairing an electric bike into perspective, think about how much it costs for even the most basic car repair—clearly, paying a local bike mechanic to replace worn out brake pads on your electric bike is noticeably more affordable than a comparable repair at a car garage.

While riding an electric bike requires an upfront investment, the incredible cost- and fuel-effectiveness of using it pays out huge dividends in the long run. When the low cost of operating and maintaining an electric bike is combined with the convenience, pleasure, and ease of using an electric bike—whether it’s as a vehicle for running errands and commuting, as part of a workout routine, as an accessible form of recreation and leisure, or something else entirely—it becomes obvious why people around the world are relying more and more on electric bikes to meet their everyday transportation needs.



11 “The Power of $1 for Transportation,” EVELO, https://www.evelo.com/blog/power-1/. Accessed 3 January 2019.

¹⁴ “How Much Does it Cost to Charge Your Electric Bike?” Electric Bike Report.com, https://electricbikereport.com/how-much-does-it-cost-to-charge-your-electric-bike/. Accessed 3 January 2019.

Chapter Five

The Nuts and Bolts:

Understanding How



Electric Bikes Work


While the electric motor is most definitely the defining feature of an electric bike, it cannot exist or operate on its own. Rather, it works in cooperation with a number of other important components, most notably, the battery and the bicycle’s drivetrain.

In order for you to become an electric bike aficionado—ready to make a fully informed decision about which specific electric bike model will best meet your needs and objectives—it’s important that you understand how these components work together as well as the various ways they’re configured on an electric bike. This section will outline and describe the primary types of motors, batteries, and drivetrains currently used on electric bikes so that you can begin figuring out what your ideal electric bike might look like.

Motors

As mentioned throughout this guidebook, the motor is the single most important feature of an electric bike—it’s what makes an electric bike an electric bike. For this reason, it is extremely helpful to become aware of the different types of electric bike motors currently available, and to have a sense for the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

• Hub Motors - A hub motor is situated in the hub of one of the bike’s wheels, providing propulsion by spinning whichever wheel to which it’s attached. As electric bikes first began gaining popularity, these were the most frequently used type of motor, and while the increasingly widespread use of mid-drive motors is beginning to shift this trend, hub motors continue to be a dominant component in the electric bike industry.8

Hub motors are described primarily by whether they’re located in the hub of the front wheel or the back wheel: front hub motors provide additional power directly to the front wheel while rear hub motors give extra torque to the rear wheel. Hub motors are generally a bit lower in power and torque, but their advantage is that they are less expensive to manufacture - which results in a less expensive bicycle.

Front hub motors create the sensation that the bike is being “pulled” forward. Because front hub motors don’t impede in any way the bike’s drivetrain, riders can benefit from combining both the mechanical power generated by having multiple gears on the rear wheel and the motorized power in the front wheel. Front hub motors are also quite easy to install and remove because they don’t have to work around chains, derailleurs, or cassettes, which also makes it relatively easy to perform repairs.

On the other hand, front hub motors have a tendency to “slip” or “spin out” since the bulk of the rider’s weight is located behind the front wheel. Additionally, the extra torque introduced by front hub motors typically requires the use of more sturdy forks, rims, and spokes than may be usual.

In contrast to front hub motors, rear hub motors “push” the bike forward, which often feels more natural to those accustomed to riding conventional bicycles, since they also generate power at the rear wheel using a chain and gears. Similarly, because the bulk of the rider’s weight is above the rear wheel, rear hub motors tend to spin out less often than front hub motors and, in certain riding conditions, can provide a smoother, more efficient riding experience.

However, rear hub motors can be tricky to install or remove since they have to work around derailleurs, chains, and cassettes, which can also make it difficult to perform certain types of repairs. Despite the familiar feel of power being generated at the rear wheel, the added bulk of the rear hub motor can negatively affect the overall handling of the bike, making it a feel bit back-heavy. Finally, like their front hub counterparts, rear hub motors introduce extra torque to the rear wheel which means they should be used with particularly strong spokes and rims.

• Mid-Drive Motors - It’s becoming more and more common to see mid-drive motors in use on a variety of electric bike models, and for many riders, these motors provide an especially versatile, balanced, and powerful riding experience.

Instead of being located in the hub of one of the wheels, mid-drive motors drive power to the bike’s drivetrain, typically at the crankset. By directly powering the bike’s cranks, mid-drive motors work in tight coordination with the bike’s already existing gears, amplifying the mechanical advantage they provide. This becomes particularly helpful when it comes to climbing steep hills or navigating extended inclines. On this type of terrain, mid-drive motors “can leverage the lower gears of the bike and keep their RPMs in an efficient range without getting ‘bogged down’ like a hub motor.”9

In addition to efficiently complementing the bike’s existing gears, mid-drive motors often allow for more intuitive and user-friendly designs. Typically attached to the bike somewhere around the bottom bracket, mid-drive motors leave the huge majority of components untouched, which makes it easy to repair or replace parts as needed. Similarly, the placement of mid-drive motors means that the additional weight introduced by the motor is located closer to the bike’s natural center of gravity, creating a more natural riding sensation than hub motors. Lastly, having the motor drive the crank allows some design flexibility for the rest of the bike, such as allowing the use of an internally-geared hub and/or a belt drive transmission.

With all that said, however, mid-drive motors typically use more proprietary drivetrain components. Additionally, most mid-drive motors come only on complete electric bikes, and in many cases are harder to use when attempting to convert a conventional bicycle to an electric bike. Lastly, the advantage of the mid-drive motor come at a premium as most electric bikes with this motor configuration are more expensive than the ones with the hub motor placement.

Batteries

Batteries are, in many ways, the fundamental reason electric bikes have emerged as such promising vehicles in the 21st century. The highly efficient, relatively lightweight, and rechargeable batteries currently in use ensure that electric bikes have a reliable source of power that contributes to creating a more enjoyable and effective riding experience.

The evolution of batteries, especially over the course of the last couple decades, has had a direct impact on the evolution of electric bikes. According to ElectricBike.com, “the turning point between electric bike ‘history,’ and our modern era” of widely available and regularly used electric bikes is “the mass production of lithium batteries,” which resulted largely from the explosive growth of the computer industry.10 Once these lighter, more compact, more efficient, and more powerful rechargeable batteries became cheaper and more accessible, electric bike builders began using them to create more visually attractive, lighter, more reliable electric bikes.

The primary consideration to make when looking at electric bike batteries is the range of the battery, which is typically described in terms of how many miles you can get out of a single charge. Obviously, the distance you can travel before having to recharge your battery depends on how much motor assistance you plan to use while riding. The more you pedal and the less you use the motor, the more miles you can get out of the battery. Conversely, if you use more motor assistance and pedal less, then you’ll get fewer miles out of your battery. In any case, though, today’s electric bike batteries are efficient enough to provide any rider the power needed to make their bike rides fun, convenient, and productive.

Today’s high quality electric bike batteries should typically give you somewhere between 20 and 60 miles per charge, and they should be lightweight enough, and compact enough to blend in with the design of the bike—a good battery should not get in the way or in any way detract from your ability to ride comfortably.

Drivetrains

The third piece of componentry that you need to be aware of is the drivetrain. “Drivetrain” refers to a system—typically comprised of several smaller parts working together in tandem—that provides the power and torque necessary to turn the wheels of a vehicle. On most standard bicycles, the drivetrain is made up of the crankset, chain, and some sort of gear system, almost always attached to the rear wheel. Bikes use either a single gear or a multi-geared drivetrain to help convert the power required to turn the cranks into actual propulsion power.

Electric bikes work in conjunction with already existing bicycle drivetrains, and while this means that there are typically fewer variables involved with electric bike drivetrains than with other components like motors and batteries, you should still be familiar enough with them to make a well-informed decision when it comes time to select your own bike. Since electric bikes are focused on providing efficient, convenient, and accessible transportation, we’ll focus only on multi-geared drivetrains, as these mechanisms play an important role in helping cyclists—whether riding an electric bike or a conventional bike—navigate hills and other obstacles.

• Multiple Gears With Derailleur - Having been established as the go-to technology for conventional bicycles, derailleurs mechanically move the bike chain across a range of differently sized gears that change the efficiency of each pedal stroke; some gears are better suited for climbing up hills while others are best for cruising along level ground.

Many electric bike motors work in coordination with already existing gears and derailleurs, allowing riders to shift through their gears to find the best efficiency for any given riding condition, while also utilizing the motor’s power to provide an ultra smooth, convenient, and fun way to ride.

• Internal Gear Hubs - In contrast to drivetrains that use a derailleur to shift through a set of external gears attached to the rear wheel, internal gear hubs or transmissions feature a range of gears housed inside the hub of the rear wheel.

Unlike the traditional multi-geared drivetrains, the internally geared hub transmissions house the gearing inside a factory-sealed hub. This setup completely removes the need for a unsightly derailleur and allows for better shifting under load and while stopped. Instead of shifting from one gear to the next, cyclists using this type of drivetrain turn a knob located on the handlebars to increase or decrease the amount of leg effort required to turn the cranks.

Some internally geared hubs take it one step further. The NuVinci CVT lacks a discrete number of gears and instead offers a virtually unlimited shifting. The NuVinci transmission even offers fully automatic shifting. When combined with a mid-drive electric motor, the NuVinci drivetrain creates an electric bike that is especially flexible and that allows riders to fine tune and tailor their riding experience to meet their specific needs, geographies, and riding styles.

Electric bikes combine components and technologies from various industries and fields in exciting and innovative ways in order to produce a truly unique cycling experience. By becoming familiar with the basic components and technologies that make electric bikes particularly efficient and convenient vehicles, you empower yourself to choose the specific electric bike—equipped with the perfect type of motor, battery, and drivetrain—to meet your cycling needs, expectations, and goals.



8 “Electric Bike Motor Comparison: Hub, Mid-Drive, & Friction Drive,” Electric Bike Report.com, https://electricbikereport.com/electric-bike-motor-comparison/. Accessed 3 January 2019.

9 “Electric Bike Motor Comparison: Hub, Mid-Drive, & Friction Drive,” Electric Bike Report.com, https://electricbikereport.com/electric-bike-motor-comparison/. Accessed 3 January 2019.

10 “Electric Bike History, patents from the 1800’s,” Electric Bike.com, https://www.electricbike.com/e-bike-patents-from-the-1800s/. Accessed 3 January 2019.

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