In this post, guest author Carl Turner explains the basics of how e-bikes work, and the different variations of electric bikes available. Learn about the differences between throttle controlled e-bikes and pedelecs, as well as hub-drive and crank-drive motors. And if you’ve ever wondered what regenerative braking is – we’ve got that covered too! Finally, Carl addresses the myth that electric bikes do not give you any exercise.
What Is an Electric Bike?
Electric bikes are becoming more popular, not only in the United States but in many countries around the world. From manufacturers like LEED Electric Bike to EVELO and Faraday Bikes, e-bikes are a good alternative to traditional bikes for people who have a long commute, who are going through physical therapy, who have physical limitations of some kind, or who are inexperienced on a traditional bike. Some of the basic technology for these electric bikes was thought of (and sometimes even patented!) by scientists over 100 years ago.
Electric bikes are fitted with a battery-powered motor that gives a bit of an extra boost while you ride. Some bikes use a throttle, while others are powered through the pedals. But these bikes are not fully motorized as a moped or dirt bike is. Electric bikes, according to Wikipedia, still require you to pedal. This is what sets them apart from a fully motorized vehicle.
They are powered by a rechargeable battery, rather than being gas powered, as well. These bikes are still great for exercise, but they assist riders who need it. And research has shown that people who buy e-bikes ride them much more than people who buy regular bikes.
Research Shows Electric Bikes Make People Cycle Longer and More Often – Especially Women. A study out of Norway… https://t.co/y01O1uJKYY
— Average Joe Cyclist (@AvrgeJoeCyclist) November 6, 2016
The Basic Setup of an Electric Bike: Hub-Drive and Crank-Drive Motors
All electric bikes have a rechargeable battery that powers the motor. However, the motor is engaged in different ways in different types of e-bikes.
Electric bikes can be set up in a couple of ways in regards to how the motor is mounted and how it assists your pedaling. Motors are attached in two main ways. Some e-bikes’ motors are connected to the crank drive. These are called crank-drive e-bikes. When you engage the motor, it powers the pedals directly. This makes pedaling a little easier because you don’t have to exert as much of your own energy to power the pedals.
Other models of electric bike have the motor connected to the hub of the back wheel rather than the pedal gear. These are called hub-drive e-bikes. On bikes with this setup, the power of the motor is applied directly to the wheel itself, causing it to spin faster.
Both kinds of electric bikes typically offer a choice of levels of assistance.
Related Content: Hub Motor vs. Crank Drive Motor – Which is Better for an Electric Bike?
Throttle-controlled Electric Bikes
Some electric bikes are controlled with a throttle on the handlebars, which engages the motor when pressed. This type is called a power-on-demand e-bike. These e-bikes often reach speeds of up to about 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), but higher powered ones may be able to reach 45 km/h (28 mph).
The rider can pedal without any help from the motor, or they can use the throttle so that the motor engages and helps while they still pedal. Some electric bikes actually allow you to engage the throttle without pedaling at all. According to the Vancouver Sun, people find this especially helpful if they have a long commute to work, or if their route has a lot of hills.
This video shows how you can control the levels of assistance on an electric bike, and choose between throttle power or pedelec assistance, on an e-bike that offers both options:
Pedelec Electric Bikes
The term pedelec is shortened from pedal electric cycle. This version of e-bike requires you to pedal to engage the motor. Rather than engaging the motor with a throttle, the turning of the pedals engages the motor.
Pedelec bikes usually use a Hall effect sensor. This type of sensor uses two magnets on opposite sides of a gear. This gear is attached to the gear of the pedals. As the pedals rotate, the magnets interact with the sensor, which in turn engages the motor. In this way, the pedelec motor only runs while the pedals are turning.
The potential downside of pedelecs is that the motor won’t allow you to coast without pedaling at all.
Regenerative Braking Feature on Some E-bikes
Besides giving you a boost while you pedal, certain electric bikes have added capabilities to make the ride easier for you. Among these features is regenerative braking, which works by converting the kinetic energy of the bike’s movement into energy that slows the bike down without engaging the brake pads. This is great for slowing down from higher speeds and for extending the life of your bike’s brake pads.
This feature is typically found on electric bikes on which the motor is connected to the wheel. Rather than applying energy to speed the wheel up, the energy is used to slow down the spin of the wheel.
Converting a Traditional Bike into an Electric Bike
Some companies manufacture kits that allow you to retrofit an electric bike setup onto a bike you already have. According to Momentum Mag, these kits come in a variety of types in regard to the motor and what type of assistance the setup gives you. If you are mechanically inclined, this is a great way to save on the overall cost of purchasing en electric bike.
Guest Author Bio: Carl Turner
I’m Carl Turner, and I have been fascinated by electric bikes for years. I love how my electric bike helps me save gas and use my car less, and gives me a great workout while assisting me on my long commute to work. I encourage all of my friends to give an electric bike a chance.
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