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Electric Bicycle Question and Answers

How do you make an eBike go?

Aren’t eBikes just for lazy people?

Who are customers for (pedal assist) electric bikes?

Why do ebikes use Lithium batteries?

Do I need to 'break in" my batteries?

How long does it take to charge a discharged battery?

How long will my batteries last before needing replacement?

What is "Pedal Assist" (PAS)?

Do eBikes have throttles?

How far can I go?

How fast can I go?

How do I differentiate between the battery and motor options available?

What do ebike battery and motor ratings mean?

How important is motor wattage?

Electric bikes offer motors that vary from 250 Watts to 500 Watts or more. Which one is best for me?

What is the difference between a Hub Drive and a Center Drive system?

What is regenerative braking?

Do electric bikes have regenerative braking?

What special care do eBikes need?

Why not just get an eBike conversion kit for my old bike?

NEW What impact do mountain bike style eBikes have on trails?

What is the current status of eBike legislation?

Tell me about electric bikes

Electric bikes are a great form of transportation and recreation. They provide all the advantages of a regular bicycle: fun exercise, free parking, zero emissions, and freedom from gridlock, while eliminating one of the bicycle's more serious drawbacks, lack of power. Imagine pedaling up a hill as comfortably as riding down, that's what the e-bike experience is all about. In most situations in the city, riding an electric bike will be faster and cheaper than either car or public transit. Fundamentally, an e-bike is just a regular bicycle with an electric motor to provide additional assistance. You can pedal normally and just use the motor to help out on hills and headwinds, or use the motor all the time just to make riding easier. The experience is entirely different from riding say a gas scooter or motorbike. Here the electric assistance is perfectly smooth and silent, and it complements rather than replaces human power.

How do you make an eBike go?

eBikes are propelled by the rider as any regular bike, can have a throttle to help get you going and/or pedal assist where the rider pedals and the bike assists your effort.

Aren’t eBikes just for lazy people?

Not at all, eBike riders actually ride more often. More time on the eBike makes for a healthier and happier you! Our eBikes give you the options of more or less assist and can be used as transportation as well as a means to easily improve your fitness. There are commuters who take full advantage of the assist to get to work without needing to shower/change, then use little or no assist to get a workout on the way home – others take advantage of the assists in both directions. Hills are a breeze and parking is no problem. You might have a type A cyclist in your family who makes enjoying a ride together difficult because you can’t keep up. An eBike can give you the extra boost you need to stay together.

Who are customers for (pedal assist) electric bikes

  • Aging baby boomers
  • Cyclists who would ride to work but don't due to hygiene concerns (no showers, changing facilities)
  • Urban commuters
  • Families wanting to ride together
  • RV and camping enthusiasts
  • Students

Why do ebikes use Lithium batteries?

Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries repesent the very best in current battery technology. They are long lasting, light weight, and provide more power. The electric vehicle industry as a whole has embraced Li-Ion batteries as the best power source for eco-friendly transportation.

Do I need to 'break in" my batteries?

Yes, the batteries used in our eBikes will need to have a 'break in' cycle consisting of 3 discharge/charge cycles before they reach optimum performance. This involves three complete discharges and three complete recharges. After this initial "break in" cycle, the batteries will have maximum possible performance and less line voltage fluctuation under load.

How long does it take to charge a discharged battery?

Depending on battery capacity and charger output, batteries will typically take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to charge. Li-Ion batteries take 70% of their charge in the first 1 to 2 hours.

How long will my batteries last before needing replacement?

Average battery life depends on use and conditions. Even with proper care, batteries do not last forever. Li-Ion batteries will last about 700+ cycles before losing capacity. A partial charge/discharge counts fractionally; running a battery down to 50% then recharging it completely uses one-half of a charge cycle.

What is "Pedal Assist" (PAS)?

When you pedal the ebike, the system senses your speed, cadence and/or torque (depending on eBike model) and adjust motor speed to match. You also have several power modes, from Eco to Turbo. Turbo mode will use more battery power than Eco mode, but you'll get more of a boost. PAS yields the best range and rider experience, giving you the 'magic carpet ride' feel!

Do eBikes have throttles?

Some models do have throttles. Throttles can help to get you moving and can keep you going. Throttles cut out at a maximum of 20 MPH.

How far can I go?

That depends on terrain (flat or hilly) rider weight, tire pressure, rider input, wind. Under normal conditions and rider participation, you can expect 20 to 40 miles per charge for the average eBike.

How fast can I go?

Legally, an ebike cannot exceed 20 mph under motor power alone. All eBikes conform to this regulation. Some ebike can get up to 28 mph with rider's pedaling using pedal assist, but will not continue to assist above 28 MPH. The bottom line is you can pedal an eBike and make it go as fast as any other bike.

How do I differentiate between the battery and motor options available?

The best way to understand the battery/motor combination is to ride the eBike. While battery and motor specification is important, the ride-ability of the ebike and the ability of the power system to provide the rider with usable power is the real test. Our bikes are engineered to provide the best balance of performance, range, and value for the particular ebike it is designed for. Higher wattage and higher voltage usually result in higher performance, however the type of motor and how the battery and motor work together can be more important than raw ‘power’ numbers.

What do ebike battery and motor ratings mean?

  • Volts (V): A measure of the strength of the electric power. Most eBike batteries are 24V, 36V or 48V
  • Watts (W): A measure power output, the way motors are rated. Most eBike motors are rated between 250 and 500 watts.
  • Amp Hours (Ah): A measure of battery capacity
  • Watt Hours: The total energy in a battery (V x Ah)

How important is motor wattage?

Motor wattage is only part of the story. What you are looking for is the proper engineering to give you the appropriate balance of battery and motor power for the bike you choose.

Electric bikes offer motors that vary from 250 Watts to 500 Watts or more. Which one is best for me?

To best address it, it helps to look at your riding needs and the type of drive system; hub or center drive. You will benefit from a 500W motor if:

    • You live in a really hilly area and you wish to have a lot of torque and power to go quickly on hills
    • You plan to do little or no pedaling (instead relying more on the electric-only throttle) and maintain a higher cruising speed
    • You would like to have the ability to increase the top speed up to 25 mph (in off-road mode only!).
    • Rider weight is over 200 lbs.

You should find the 250W motor enough for your needs if:

      • You live in a moderately hilly area
      • You plan to use the motor to complement your own power when you need a boost or feel tired, but still plan to pedal the bulk of the time
      • Rider weight is under 200 lbs

As you’d expect, 500W offers more power but generally costs more. A 250W configuration works great for most people, and coupled with a center drive system can deliver more torque than a hub motor because it makes full use of the mechanical advantage of the bike’s gearing. People looking to use “throttle-only” mode more frequently, looking to go faster on hills and simply looking for more acceleration should consider the 500W option. The assisted top speeds of both bikes is limited to 20mph per Federal regulations–and the 500w versions are able to attain this speed with little pedaling effort. Keep in mind that actual speeds depend on conditions such as terrain and rider weight.

What is the difference between a Hub Drive and a Center Drive system?

Hub motors: Most wheel-mounted motors are hub-type motors. These motors sit in the center of the rear wheel, and drive that wheel directly. The hub motor’s axle is held fixed in the rear dropouts, and its shell is spun by the internal motor. The rotation of a hub motor is independent of any bicycle drivetrain components (cranks, derailleur, or cassette). Most hub drive electric bikes use rear hub motors (there are some hub systems that use a front wheel drive configuration). This configuration usually gives the best handling characteristics, which means the bike is easier to control. Hub motors are further classified by whether they are gearless (direct drive), or geared. Geared motors are built with internal planetary reduction gearing. They give high torque at low speeds, and free-wheel without any drag. Gearless motors generally reach higher speeds than geared motors, are quieter, can be rated for higher wattage, and are capable of regenerative braking. They also produce less torque, especially at low speed, and have some inherent drag when freewheeling.

Center drive motors: Centrally mounted motors add power to the bike’s normal drivetrain by driving the chainwheel. These “center drive” systems are ideal for off-road applications because of their high torque, and lower overall weight compared to a hub motor. Because they integrate with the bicycle’s standard drivetrain, center drive motors require more interaction from the rider than a hub motor does. The rider must shift the bicycle’s chain into the proper gear for a given situation: high gear for speed, low gear for torque. This extra rider effort is paid back by a system that is able to excel in a wide variety of terrain.

What is regenerative braking?

Regenerative braking is a system that allows the eBike’s electric motor to function as a generator when the brakes are applied. This allows the motor to recharge the battery.

Do electric bikes have regenerative braking?

Some do, but the charge generated is generally no more than about 10%.

What special care do eBikes need?

The batteries should not be stored in extreme temperatures and if inactive, the batteries should be charged every 90 days. You can ride in all conditions that you would ride a bike in, don't ride under water.

Why not just get an eBike conversion kit for my old bike?

Purpose built eBikes have more substantial frames, above average components such as disc brakes, and quality tires and tubes to minimize flats.

What impact do mountain bike style eBikes have on trails?

Click here for the latest study

What is the current status of eBike legislation?

Federal eBike legislation was signed into effect in December 2002. Succinctly it:

        • Amends the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) to provide that low-speed electric bicycles are consumer products and shall be subject to Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations.
        • Declares that this Act supersedes any State law or requirement regarding such vehicles more stringent than Federal law or requirements.
        • States that, for purposes of Federal motor vehicle safety standards, a low-speed electric bicycle as defined by CPSA shall not be considered to be a motor vehicle within the ambit of Federal transportation law. Full text is here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/house-bill/727 Federal Definition refined by the CPSC
        • ‘low speed electric bicycle’ means a two or three wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph. PeopleForBikes is working with the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA) and International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) to develop model legislation for state use. Currently the focus is on California and New York since they have the largest concentration of users. IMBA is also studying the effects of e-mountain bikes on trails and environment comparative to non-electric mountain bikes and should have a draft report and recommendations complete by winter 2015.

For a full listing of states legislation as of November 2014, click http://ebike.research.pdx.edu/content/e-bike-laws-state-and-province

North Carolina:

        • Identity: Electric Assisted Bicycle
        • Definition?: Yes
        • Bicycle?: Yes
        • License?: No
        • Registration?: No
        • Age: 16
        • Power: 750 W
        • Speed: 20
        • Pedals?: Yes
        • Federal?: Yes
        • Helmet?: Yes, under a certain age
        • Paths?: No data
        • Sidewalks?: No data
        • Law references: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-4.01 (7a & 49)
        • Notes: †  = Horsepower expressed in watts equivalent; 1hp = 745 watts. ‡ = Age requirement; those under a certain age are required to wear a helmet. * = Restrictions apply; e.g., engine cannot be engaged, local ordinances prohibit use, etc.