When we think about technologies that have changed the world, and how we function and exist in it, there are certain ones that come to mind. The automobile, the computer, and most recently, the smartphone.

There is, however, another technology that is quietly flourishing and spreading around us without getting nearly as much attention. One that has the world-changing potential – the Electric Bicycle.

In fact, the technology is so popular that in Asia, the world’s largest e-bike market, there are two hundred million of them in use. They account for over a quarter of all the bicycles in the country.

In the United States, the numbers are smaller for now. Yet, more and more people are becoming aware of them, and adoption rates are increasing.

20 years from now, as we reflect back on our search for the personal mobility solution, we are likely not going to remember the world before e-bikes just as it is becoming harder to remember it before the smartphones came along.

The Back Story

Electric vehicles have been in existence for over a hundred years. They predate the gasoline-driven versions by several decades. In fact, if someone in the year 1900 had to bet on the future of cars, they’d have put their money on electricity.

Although the first patents for something resembling today’s bicycle date to the 1890s, the modern electric bike is only about 20 years old with the most popularity gained in the past few years. The early modern e-bike suffered from the same issue it’s vintage counterpart did – both used heavy, short-lived and expensive batteries – like lead-acid technology making them heavy, unreliable and impractical.

One of the side effects of the technological revolution of the recent past is finally shaking things up. Thanks to the rapid scaling of laptops, cell phones and other mobile electronic device production, a much lighter and durable battery became affordable – lithium-ion. Battery packs that used to weigh 20 lbs and provide only a few miles of range now weigh less than 10 lbs and provide up to 60+ miles of range. Today, most electric bicycles use these cells.

Finally, after a century of being little more than a fringe idea, e-bikes are starting to boom and come into the mainstream. The technology is maturing, and we are starting to consider e-bikes as reliable daily transportation and recreation for the masses.

This led people to wonder what separates an electric bike from a regular bike.

Why people choose to get an electric bike.

Once they find out about electric bikes, many people wonder why someone would buy one instead of a regular bike. These doubts revolve around:

  • what’s the technical difference between the two?
  • what are the advantages of an electric bike?
  • isn’t the point of riding a bike to get exercise?
  • why are they much more expensive than regular bikes?

These are all compelling and valid questions that we often find ourselves answering to customers. After all, there is a lot of misunderstanding around them. As they are a whole new type of transportation, people aren’t that familiar with them yet.

But don’t worry. By the end of this post, you’ll know the difference between an electric bike and a regular bike. And what is more important, you’ll know if an electric bike is for you.

What are the technical differences between a regular bike and an electric one?

So, now we come to the question: How are they different, technically?

It’s simple!

An electric bike is a regular bike with the addition of an electrical drive system. This consists of a battery, a motor, a way to integrate the motor’s power into the drivetrain, and a way to control that power.