How Does an Electric Bike Work?
Cycling is one of the most effective ways of getting around the city. It helps reduce carbon footprint; it’s economical and great for your health. However, pedaling up and down the hill on a regular bike can be tiring, especially for seniors. That means that cycling on a standard bike isn’t for everyone.
That’s why we have electric bicycles. Unlike a scooter or an electrical motor that go on their own, e-bikes can’t operate on their own. An electric bicycle is just like any other bicycle. It has pedals and drivetrain with the addition of an electric motor and a battery.
These components work together to generate the power necessary to augment the rider’s power. In turn, this makes pedaling uphill, downhill, or under heavier loads much easier. Most electric bicycles have different levels of pedaling assistance, allowing you to take advantage of combined human plus electric power.
You can switch gears as the terrain changes which can make cycling even more effortless. Also, most of these eco-vehicles have a full-cruise mode, allowing you to take a break and let the motor do all the work.
If you’re an e-bike enthusiast, or you’re just looking to inform yourself before purchasing your first e-bike, it’s vital that you understand how they work.
Electric motors are what make the bike an electric bike. It's important to know the different types of motors found on electric bicycles.
There are three types of electric motors found on these vehicles: front hub, rear hub, and mid-drive motors. It's a smart idea to have a sense of advantages and disadvantages of each one when selecting your electric bicycle.
Front hub motors are found in the hub of a front wheel. They are quite easy to install and remove and offer relatively easy maintenance. Front hub motors create the sensation of the bike being pulled forward.
While offering ease of access and repairs, they do tent do “spin out,” as the most of rider’s weight is located behind the front wheel.
The rear hub, in contrast to front hub motors, pushes the bike forward, instead of pulling it. This, in turn, gives a more natural feeling to those accustomed to riding standard bicycles.
They have less chance of "spinning out" since the bulk of the rider's weight is in front of the wheel. However, they are tricky to install and repair since you have to work around the derailleurs, chains, and cassettes.
The mid-drive motor is usually found somewhere around the bottom bracket. They directly power the bike’s cranks and work with bike’s existing gears, amplifying the mechanical advantage they provide. Mid-drive motors are centrally located on the bike, making for the most natural riding sensation.
The frame of an electric bicycle has to be slightly different than that of a standard bicycle. The main part of the body is usually made from a lightweight aluminum alloy. This means less overall weight, and a lighter bike can usually go further than the heavier one. The spokes on the wheels need to be stronger because the electric motor in the hub spins the wheel with a lot of turning force.
Batteries on electric bicycles usually have a range between 20 and 60 miles per charge. Some e-bikes offer upgradeable battery, increasing the travel range. The range mostly depends on the rider's style, whether the rider uses only pedals, different levels of pedals assist, or a full-cruise mode.
Batteries also affect the weight, playing a huge role in how the e-bike works. For this reason, batteries are an essential choice. They are divided into two basic categories: SLA or lithium ion/polymer/manganese.
SLA batteries used to be a standard type for most electric bicycles. They are quite inexpensive but offer shorter riding range. They are also quite bulky and require more maintenance.
Lithium batteries are the newest technology in the battery market. They are much lighter, offer longer riding range, a long lifespan, and are maintenance-free. However, they are quite expensive, compared to SLA batteries.
You can still get decent exercise using different levels of pedal assist since the motor carries only a part of the load. A full-cruise mode makes the bike operate more like a scooter. Since there is no input or assistance from the driver, this mode tends to drain the battery’s power.
Keep in mind that the battery type and quality significantly affect the cost of an electric bicycle.
This refers to a system that provides power and torque necessary to turn the wheels. Most drivetrains are made of the chain, crankset, and gear system that’s almost always attached to the rear wheel.
Electrical motors usually work in conjunction with the already existing drivetrain, providing efficient, convenient, and accessible transportation.
Charging the electric bike’s battery is pretty easy since all you have to do is just plug it into the wall outlet. Most batteries are charged in-bike, while some allow being charged separately.
The quality of the battery determines the time necessary for a full charge. Higher quality batteries are usually charged faster, with a lifespan of 600 to 1000 charge cycles. Cheaper batteries take more time to charge, from 6 to 8 hours, with a lifespan range from 300 – 700 charge cycles.
It’s up to you to choose the type of charging. Generally, those charged separately are a bit easier to maneuver with, but still, in-bike batteries are also relatively easy to use.
Electric bikes combine components and technologies from different industries to provide a truly unique cycling experience. They are simple to use, ride, and maintain, and as such, they give a completely effortless experience.
However, it’s important to note that e-bikes usually require a little more maintenance beyond that of the standard bike.
Becoming familiar with the essential components and technologies empowers you to choose a specific electric bike. You should consider several models and choose the one that meets your cycling needs and expectations, as well as the one you’ll have fun riding.