Everything You Need To Know About Electric Bikes

Electric bikes are bicycles that do not solely rely on human power, they run on electricity in the same way as an electric car. In the last few years electric bikes have come from nowhere with the advancements in technology that electric transport has benefited from, now offer seriously compelling options for those looking for personal transport or sporting fun for use locally and further afield. 

The types and power outputs of electric bikes legal for road use vary from country to country. The UK currently permits 250 watts of electrical assistance up to 15.5MPH whilst still being viewed as a bicycle. These electrically assisted bikes are called Pedelecs. 

There are off-road electric bikes available that are not restricted in power output or top speed; these give a unique and exhilarating rider experience.

With our planet now looking for answers to transport emissions, electric bikes offer an affordable fun way of doing your bit to save the planet. 

How Do They Work? 

All electric bikes use batteries to store the energy needed to power them a bit like a fossil fuel car uses a tank to store petrol. Most batteries used on electric bikes are now of the efficient lithium-ion type. This is the same battery chemistry that has revolutionised the car industry, making possible very fast long-range vehicles from manufacturers like Tesla. 

Electric bikes have an electric motor to turn the energy stored in the battery to physical power to move the bike. Like the batteries that power them these motors have seen advancements in technology. Rather than the traditional direct current electric motor like you might find powering everyday battery-powered gadgets, electric bikes now generally use brushless motors. Brushless motor technology offers greater efficiency than traditional motors. Brushless motors have higher torque and lower weight than traditional motors and can be controlled intelligently to provide the right assistance level right when you need it.

Electric bikes differ in how the rider controls the power applied to the bike. Pedelec electrically assisted bikes work just like a standard bicycle. When you want to move off just pedal forward as normal and the electric motor controller senses your pedalling effort and adds electrical powered assistance to your own cycling efforts. Those efforts don't have to add much, or anything at all in the way of pedal power to engage the electrical assistance. Just keep the pedals turning to experience controllable intuitive assistance on your journey. You are of course able to pedal to increase the rate of acceleration and keep yourself fit at the same time.

Higher-powered electric bikes aimed at sports and off-road recreational use often do not have pedal-assist to control the power. They are fitted with a hand-operated twist grip throttle or lever. This means power can be applied at any time. 


Where Is The Motor?

On an electric bike there are 3 different approaches to positioning the motor. Which one your chosen bike will be fitted with depends on its purpose. The electric motor can be placed in either the front or rear wheel hub of the bike. These are called hub motors. They can be of either the direct drive type where the motor is directly driving the wheel, or of the geared type. Often the pedelec UK legal electric bikes employ a geared hub which increases the torque available from the motor. This means that even the modest 250 Watt electric bikes give a great performance. With a professional cyclist unable to produce much more than 400 Watts for 20 minutes and an average cyclist much closer to 150 Watts for the same period. It's easy to see how having 250 watts in addition to your own power can make cycling a fast and fun experience for people of all abilities. Geared hub motors can be mounted on either the front or back wheels. They are fitted with a freewheel mechanism so when they are not in use they disengage from the wheel and don't cause additional drag. The second type of hub motor is a direct drive hub motor with these tending to be used in higher-powered electric bikes where they will be taking the full brunt of driving the bike forward. They are available in much higher wattages, so high that the couple of hundred watts able to be provided by the rider becomes insignificant. 

The third type is the mid-drive electric motor. These are not mounted on the wheels of the bike. They are located near the bike's crank and drive the crank directly. This means the assistance available from the motor is supplied to the rear wheel of the bike using a chain or sometimes a belt drive. These hub drives can be combined with either a familiar derailleur set up on the rear wheel or fitted with hub gears. This gives a different riding experience, one where assistance is available directly in each gear. Hub drives can be fitted to pedelecs where turning the crank is required to engage the assistance. Or in higher-powered versions with a twist grip throttle.

How Far Can They Go?

Electric bikes can travel surprisingly far, further than most people would consider a cycling distance. The range of an electric bike is limited by the size of its battery. A higher-powered electric bike will use its battery quicker than a lower-powered version. Most electric bikes generally have an adequate range for commuting. If you are after further range some manufactures have different battery capacity options to suit longer-range cyclists.

Should I Consider An Electric Bike? 

Almost certainly, most of us, even if not cyclists would benefit from an electric bike. They open the world of cycling to many more people, whether someone wants to

or just have an easy mode of transport.. They offer a genuinely viable fun and easy way to reduce our emissions and save money on transport whilst doing so. As more people look at transport in a modern way, electric bikes are taking off quickly and show no signs of slowing growth.