36 volt vs 48 volt electric bike batteries

#1
I'm noticing in the threads that many riders are going straight for the 48v bikes. It drives me crazy. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with choosing a 48v bike, but you're doing yourself a disservice by not considering a 36v.

Granted, I'm a little biased on this one. I was a bicycle commuter for 6 years before I got my ebike. I had a 10 mile round trip through the streets of China to get to my workplace. It was a 20-30 mile round trip if I felt like taking the scenic routes along a coastal road. The scenic route was one of the most beautiful rides I've ever seen (see attached picture to get an idea). Don't get me wrong. I'm not a hardcore cyclist. You wouldn't want to see me in lycra. Let's leave it at that. Moving to a different country made me a cyclist out of necessity and that necessity quickly became a passion. Bicycle commuting contributed my physical health, mental health, my sense of exploration and my sense of community.

China's infrastructure made cycling easy. Cycling lanes were commonplace and the drivers were more aware of bikes on the road. Ebikes were everywhere (30 million sold a year). They were ugly and they were cheap, but they were a perfect vehicle for low or middle-class workers to get to work. They quickly became pace-setters for my rides. Everywhere I went, I felt like I was racing a mid-forties Chinese woman on the hot pink, plastic, lead acid ebike. I usually won, unless they pedaled with assistance. Then those ladies could give Armstrong a run for his money. I rarely saw that though. Most ebike commuters in China turn the throttle and take it easy. They purchased ebikes for their utility and efficiency. Not for the joy of riding them.

When I moved back, I tried to continue commuting via bicycle and ran into some problems. Our cycling infrastructure and culture isn't as good as I was used to. American drivers lacked an awareness of cyclists and there weren't any bicycle lanes. Commuting by bicycle, my favorite thing in the world, had become stressful. I knew upgrading to an ebike would remedy my immediate problems. If I could hit a higher speed off the line, drivers would be more aware of me and less frustrated. A good battery would assist in the longer commutes typical to America. However, my time in China made me wary of ebikes. I didn’t want to become the “ebike drone” that I had seen on every block of every city of China. I’m a cyclist, damn it. I love my bike.

Still, I bit the bullet and bought an ebike.

This is the difference between a Chinese ebike and an American ebike: ours are built for the joy of riding. Well, ours are also about a thousand dollars more expensive, but that’s beside the point. All of the things that I loved about my daily commute in China, I’ve rediscovered with my electric bike in America. I’m exploring my community, meeting people, staying in shape and getting the additional rush of riding faster and farther than ever.

Having gotten back into my groove, I’ve decided I like a 36v ride more than a 48v ride. Barring torque sensors or 48v configurations that are intended to increase range (like Bionx kits), I feel like 48v ebikes accelerate too quickly to retain the qualities of a bicycle. I’m not saying they aren’t fun. They’re great fun. I’m simply saying they quickly take the rider out of the equation. The intrinsic joy that I get from riding a bicycle doesn’t commute these bad boys.

I want my pedaling to contribute to my cycling experience. I want to get a work out. I want to sweat a little (but not a lot). While hitting warp speed at the twist of the throttle is great fun, it’s not really like riding a bicycle. The discrepancy between pedaling and throttling is too large. I would eventually rely too much on the throttle and become a “drone”. With a 36v ebike, I can find that nice balance between motor and muscle. No distance is too far. No hill is too steep, but I’m still finding that joy of riding a bike.

It’s like comparing a stick shift to an automatic. One’s about getting to a destination, while the other is about enjoying the drive there. Actually, I think this analogy draws a larger correlation between European and American mindsets with ebikes. While a 25 km/hr limit is silly, I find the nuance in European design far more attractive than what we’re getting here. They’re building ebikes for a bicycle culture. We’re building ebikes for a fast food culture. Just because we can build a 48v 750w monster on two wheels with a throttle, does it mean we have the better bicycle? I’m all for American muscle, but most European motorists can look at a 67’ Ford Mustang and call it a driver’s car. Would a 48v throttle bike garner the same respect in European bicycle culture?

There are other advantages to buying 36v. For most brands you’re saving $400 by going 36v. Or you could spend $200 less and get a 15 amp hr battery and have better range. While 48v bikes do pull the hardest, 36v configurations can still offer lots of power. Trying a BH NEO or an E3 Zuma will quickly attest to that. But once you’ve set aside concerns about power, you’ll discover some true gems that offer great value and engaging rides, like the little known e-Joe Anggun.

In a year of working with ebikes, I’ve discovered that everyone has a different opinion no matter how obvious a choice may seem to me. Any bike that gets someone out of a car is a good thing. Every ebike offers a fun experience to its owner. It’s simply up to you to decide what kind of experience you want. Before settling on the biggest, baddest option available, give the little guy a try. He might just impress you.

As for my next purchase, it’s going to a 48v cargo bike for my wife. She needs something to get her from point A to point B.

-Chandlee

weihei-bicycle-rout-china.jpg
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
#5
Great testimonial Chandlee, thanks for taking the time to share and post an image for us! I agree with your points and noticed a change in the way I rode going from a 48 volt Pedego City Commuter to a 36 volt Easy Motion Neo Jumper (and note that the the motor size also changed from 500 watts to 350 watts). Both of these ebikes have pedal assist and both have throttles but I relied more on assistance with the City Commuter because it's so much larger and heavier. It did feel more like a scooter than a bicycle because when I tried to "fly" with it and really use my body to maneuver I felt overpowered by the weight.

I think the big key here is weight. The weight and balance of the bike (whether it can be used as an extension of your body) and the weight of the rider. If you are a large person (not just tall but over weight) then you probably are less in touch with your own body and will not benefit from a lighter ebike. It will struggle to haul you around and you will never interact with it the way that a more athletic rider might and thus, you don't appreciate how agile and responsive it can be. For a person like this, the larger motor/battery combo might be more satisfying and create a completely independent sense of power and speed.

I see a place for both types of bikes and recognize that different people have different body types and transportation interests. I agree with you that any ebike is a great option but I also agree with the initial premiss here that 36 volt 350 watt bicycles can be very satisfying and functional... especially when they are light weight and the rider enjoys pedaling along.
 

Dave

Active Member
#7
Very insightful post by Chandlee. In my case, it is not so much about battery voltage/power but speed limitation in the pedal assist mode. The ebike I may very well end up buying doesn't even have a throttle. I intend to pedal the bike, but I don't want to be limited to 20mph in that mode. Some bikes only allow this with the 48volt battery. The manufactuers that have allowed more then 20mph in pedal assist have got my attention, and one will get my business. I won't even consider a bike where the motor cuts out at 20mph in pedal assist. Battery power, and off the line torque are secondary to top end speed and smoothness, on my priority list.
 
#8
Hey guys, thanks for the feedback.

Ravi: How long will 36v be the norm? Eeesh, I don't know. How long is a piece of string? I think the 36v stuff at the 2k price point is going to get cheaper in the coming years. I think we're starting to see really great 36v geared motor combos around $1500 and there will be a larger market for that in the future. BH will continue to build on their 36v platform, allowing customers to upgrade. 48v 500w direct drives w/ torque sensors will be the other side of the coin. Mid-drives should be fine with 36v for quite some time. In terms of the next year, I think ebikes will hit their tipping point, but don't know when that will be. The product is seriously good right now, but most people still don't know what an ebike is. It's up to guys like us to keep getting the word out!

Brambor: I'm 6'175 lbs with growing beer gut. Seriously, don't feel like you're segmented by your weight. Are you looking to get a little workout? I've got a 300+ lb. buddy who rolls on a 800w (wink) 48v 15a/hr throttle monster. It can do burnouts. That said, he vastly prefers a NEO mountain bike. If you're looking at a 15 mile one way trip, just get a second charger for the office and any bike is going to work. I would, however, upgrade to the highest amp/hr available for whatever bike you get. It will reduce stress and extend the lifespan for long commutes in the future.

Court: Definitely agree with the weight thing. The Neo Race is one of my favorites of all time for that reason. I've gotta say, though, my 62 lb. ST1 is riding great with that torque sensor honed in. I'm getting a bicycle-like ride and very little assist. It just sucks to carry up stairs.

Dave: I'm a fan of the high speed bikes too. My post was really referring to $2k-ish PAS and throttle systems. So in this case, it would be something like a Motiv Shadow and I'd recommend trying a 36v version before immediately putting the cash down for the 48v. Both are over 20mph assist, but I suspect the 36v will have a more organic ride. I'll find out when we get our first one in the shop next week. :)
 
#12
Thanks, @Electric Bike Specialists, for the write-up. Your comment about the rate of acceleration definitely conforms to my experience with the 48V City Commuter. There are no e-bike dealers within 430 miles of me, so I can't say how the 48V compares to the 36V, I can state that the bike accelerates VERY quickly. I wouldn't mind if it was a bit less obvious how much it's helping this 41-year-old, 172-lb guy to look so speedy. :)
 
#13
LOL, @FitzChivalry. Yeah, lovely deceptive bike that one. It was always hilarious when someone wanted to see the "fastest bike we've got" and I would take them to the city commuter. I tended to spend a much longer time prepping people for that bike than the others. It's great.
 
#14
Hi Guys,

I'm new on this forum. I'm trying to get familiar with the details regarding ebikes. The specifications of the motors are not 100% clear to me, so I have a few questions.

I'm not a small guy, 240 lbs, and 6 feet 1 inches. I wish to build my own ebike. My goal is to build a MTB which can climb hills and any terrain easily, and comfortable in urban evironments too.

My focus is torque, not max speed. I'm not intend to go faster than 20 mph on a bike, because it feels dangerous to me. So, max speed is not that important, but the acceleration and the force the motor can produce on hills is priority.

Based on your comments, I should choose a 48v motor? [edit: battery voltage designates battery power] Because 48v motors are more torque focused than 36v motors? [edit: higher watt motors offer more torque]

I understand that the Ah parameter of the batteries is equal with the distance the bike can travel with electric aid, and the motors V is equal with torque. I'm not quite understand is what the wattage is equal in this calculation. W is for max speed? [edit: watts designate power]

I wish to buy a battery thats 48v and 12 Ah. The 20Ah batteries are so big that I cant place them on my bike properly, so I stick with the 12Ah version. As I mentioned, the torque is important for me, the other important part is max distance that the bike can travel with electric aid. So my next question is, which rear wheel hub motor should I choose for this battery when torque and distance is priority, but max speed is not really?
  • 48v 500W
  • 48v 750W
  • 48v 1000W
Could you please help me choose, and explain how should I choose? Thank you very much for advance!
 
#15
Based on your comments, I should choose a 48v motor? Because 48v motors are more torque focused than 36v motors?

Best Regards
If torque is the biggest factor, going with a mid-drive or geared motor should give you better results. Your speed would be determined by what type of controller you're using.

Check endless-sphere forums to figure out what type of configurations would be best for you.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
#16
Hi NeoEx48, I've left a few edits in your original post to help clarify but here's how it works:
  • Battery: Voltage (outflow/power) Amp Hours (capacity/range)
  • Motor: Wattage (power) Geared (more torque, lighter weight and smaller, wears faster) Direct Drive (uses only magnets, large and often heavy, may not freewheel as efficiently, lasts a long time, often delivers regenerative braking)
The other bit consideration here is how the controller is setup with regards to current. Depening on the current draw your bike may go faster and drain the battery more quickly. All complete ebikes in the USA have a top speed of 20mph in throttle mode but many can reach 28mph in pedal assist (as long as you are pedaling along).

Now, if you're going to buy a kit and make your own ebike then it could go a lot faster but may also be illegal in that case (depending on where and how you use it).

Given your height and weight I'd aim for 750 watt motor (or 500 watt if geared) and get a 48 volt battery with at least 10 amp hours of capacity. If you're looking for a good purpose built ebike to satisfy these constraints, check out the Pedego Interceptor which has pedal assist as well as throttle mode and is built on a larger frame that would fit you and be comfortable.
 

Vern

Active Member
#17
Court,
Didn't Neoex48 say that he wanted a mountain bike?? The Interceptor is not really a mountain bike aimed at different terrain and climbing hills??
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
#18
Court,
Didn't Neoex48 say that he wanted a mountain bike?? The Interceptor is not really a mountain bike aimed at different terrain and climbing hills??
My original comment here recommended the Large sized IZIP Dash but that's really ideal for street use with the slick tires and smooth gearless motor. I was called out and corrected by @Steve Cameron You'd do better with an IZIP Peak using the mid-drive or pay a bit more for a Haibike with a Bosch mid-drive. They come in large sizes as well. Alternatively, you could go with a hub motor design but a geared configuration might climb better. Easy Motion makes a bunch that are good for off-road in the Neo line. You can check out Steve's post here with advice based on his experience as a dealer.
 

bikerjohn

Active Member
#19
I'm noticing in the threads that many riders are going straight for the 48v bikes. It drives me crazy. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with choosing a 48v bike, but you're doing yourself a disservice by not considering a 36v....

...I want my pedaling to contribute to my cycling experience. I want to get a work out. I want to sweat a little (but not a lot). While hitting warp speed at the twist of the throttle is great fun, it’s not really like riding a bicycle. The discrepancy between pedaling and throttling is too large. I would eventually rely too much on the throttle and become a “drone”. With a 36v ebike, I can find that nice balance between motor and muscle. No distance is too far. No hill is too steep, but I’m still finding that joy of riding a bike.

In a year of working with ebikes, I’ve discovered that everyone has a different opinion no matter how obvious a choice may seem to me. Any bike that gets someone out of a car is a good thing. Every ebike offers a fun experience to its owner. It’s simply up to you to decide what kind of experience you want. Before settling on the biggest, baddest option available, give the little guy a try. He might just impress you.

-Chandlee
View attachment 128
I like your perspective, Chandlee!
I too share much the same perspective on biking. As a 240 #, 60Y/O cyclist, I have been met with skepticism by other cyclists when I show up at local bike tours. It seems like when the padded Lycra crowd see me biking along side them, they work harder just to try to stay ahead. I love that! I sometimes wear Lycra too... With more than 40,000 bike miles over the past 10 years -I have not slowed up much. Time marches on faster every year it seems...

Loving bike commuting as much as I do means devoting an hour+ to my round trips. Aging, time seems to be ever quickening. The need to accomplish faster commutes without resorting to using 4 wheeled motor vehicles, is my incentive to utilize e-biking.

Purchasing the Leed kit will assist the "all out cadence and pedaling effort" I do on my commutes. The expectation is for a simulation equal to a virtual draft equating to a faster round trip! My thoughts on bike motor size after having read several reviews, is that I could benefit from even a lowly 250 Watt, 24 vol, planetary hub motor. I've also given great consideration for crank motor systems and think they are the future of e-biking -but I can't wait until costs and availability catch up with reality. With a Leed kit I will achieve faster commute times. Perhaps open the possibility of regular double commutes(home for lunch) I should find out very soon how realistic of an expectation that turns out to be. As I write, the kit is "in transit", and will arrive this week.I have decided to install the kit on my Dahon Cadenza.