What is an Electric Bike?

Court

Administrator
Staff member
#1
Hi guys! I'm moving some content off of the main site and into the most relevant categories of the forum. This post was originally made on September 22nd 2012:

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I meet a lot of people who have never seen or heard of electric bicycles. Actually… maybe a few have seen them but just didn’t realize it. In any case, I want to help spread awareness for these vehicles because I believe in what they offer and am excited to help other people benefit from using them in the same ways that I have.

Electric Bikes consist of a modified or custom bicycle frame with pedals but include an electric motor, usually in the form of a hub motor, mid-drive motor or belt drive connected to the rear wheel. They allow a rider to either pedal the bike or leverage the power of a battery and motor drive system.

To use an electric bike you have to charge the battery, turn the controller system on and then twist a throttle, pull a trigger or pedal the bike forward to initiate the motor drive system. Throttle only drive behaves much like a traditional gas powered scooter because the rider doesn’t have to pedal, the bike just goes! By contrast, pedal-assist mode uses the rider’s input as the throttle signal and is more popular in Europe where bicycle laws are a bit more restrictive regarding motor and battery power. European bikes are usually limited to 250 Watt motors whereas the US has many bikes with motors as strong as 500 or even 600w. These bikes go faster and can power up steeper hills more easily.

Video introduction to electric bikes and my daily commute to work:


The benefits of electric bikes are many and often go unrealized by car and scooter owners. In my opinion they include the following:
  • No drivers license or insurance required to ride
  • Can be used on sidewalks and to cut through parks
  • Lighter, cleaner and more reliable than gas powered vehicles
  • Less expensive than gas powered vehicles, especially over the long term when using electricity vs. gasoline or other fuel source
  • Safer than street-legal scooters or motorcycles because they run slower and are not fully usable on highways or high-speed intersections
  • Easily avoid and skip through congested traffic areas
  • Environmentally friendly, no exhaust created on site for the user to enhale. Easily use locally produced solar or wind power to charge
  • Efficient and affordable parking options, fits on any normal bike rack or to a pole/railing
  • Easy to use with public transportation like busses, trains and light rail systems
  • Provides an opportunity to exercise and practice balance
  • Social opportunity to get in touch with your community and become more social
  • Relaxing and focusing because you cannot use your cell phone or eat at the same time
To get a really good electric bike that will last for many years and be strong enough to act as a full vehicle, you may end up spending in excess of $1,500 and it is true that there are some downsides to electric bikes. I want to cover those to be fair here and to help you understand the trade offs:
  • Harder to take passengers, there are tandem electric bikes and those with rear seats and trailers but there is definitely a limit on passenger capacity
  • Cannot be used on highways or other high speed roadways
  • More expensive than a traditional bicycle and more complex
  • Exposes the rider to the weather and makes them more vulnerable to injuries than if they were in a fully enclosed car
  • Slower than a full powered car, moped or motorcycle
  • More physically strenuous to drive than a car or some scooters based on body positioning
An electric bike is not the perfect tool for every transportation occasion but I have found that car rentals, borrowing from friends or family, using bus systems, Car2Go or Zip Car and other public transportation options compliment electric bike ownership very well. I own a Subaru Outback and regular bike in addition to an electric bike and use each of them on different occasions. What I have found however, is that my electric bike is perfectly suited for commuting to and from work; it actually gets me there faster than driving because I work downtown in a big city with lots of traffic and I don’t have to pay for parking!

I love riding my electric bike for many reasons but I think these are the top three:
  • It is less expensive than buying gas and is environmentally friendly.
  • It is easy and affordable to park.
  • It exposes me to the fresh air and friendly faces of the community.
I used to drive a lot more and I’m not a huge fan of busses so that meant I was alone a lot and being alone in traffic is stressful. Once you’re outside seeing people’s faces the world gets a lot friendlier and it’s easier to have little adventures and meet new people.

Electric bikes are catching on in America but are already in widespread use throughout Europe and Asia where gas and vehicle ownership is cost prohibitive. Explore this site to find reviews on electric bikes and more articles covering their use and maintenance. There are many to choose from but I’m happy to answer your comments or have a conversation if you want to contact me. To stay up to speed with new reviews, Like Electric Bike Review on Facebook.
 
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Court

Administrator
Staff member
#2
Following are some of the original comments that were made on that post:

ANNETTE LARWOOD
Thank you for this introduction. I am just starting to look at electric bikes, and your introduction was excellent.

COURT
Thanks Annette! I do my best, glad to hear it helped you :D