Electric technology is fast developing, and e-bikes are becoming an ever more common sight on our roads, helping people reconnect with the bike and cleaner, healthier transport again.
HOW DO E-BIKES WORK?
E-bikes, also known as pedelecs, are like ordinary pedal-powered bicycles, but with an electric motor and battery fitted that provides assistance, reducing effort, and in lots of cases makes your journey faster.
E-bikes offer powered pedal assistance, supplementing your effort that you put in each pedal stroke. This is where the term “electric-assist” comes from.
In the UK, e-bikes are governed by strict laws. The bike must be pedal powered, while the motor can deliver a maximum of 250W of additional assistance up to a maximum speed of 25km/h (15.5mph), after which it cuts out.
A popular term for our kinds of bikes is ‘city bikes’ – is in fact a bit of a misnomer. These bikes are equally capable of riding in and between rural towns in the country, as they are for a commute or trip to the shops in a built-up area.
Folding PERRY EHOPPER bikes offer specially-designed front wheel hub motor systems and contained batteries to fit within the seat post. These offer a great alternative for those needing to take their e-bike with them on public transport, wanting to store it away under a desk at work, or neatly away at home.
MOTOR TYPES - FRAME AND HUB
E-bike motors come in two main forms – either fitted into the central structure of the frame (known as the bottom bracket area around which the pedals and crank arms spin), or in the hub of one of the wheels. There is no clear winner for which is best – rather, each has its own positives and negatives – but all do a good job.
Front hub motors are different in that they aren’t directly attached to the pedalling drivetrain, instead relying on being ‘pushed’ in order to activate and add their own assistance. This sometimes gives the impression that they’re pulling the bike along in response, especially thanks to their position in front of the rider.
They give more equal weight distribution in some models where batteries are mounted in the seat post.
Battery technology is developing quickly, and in the past few years some manufacturers have managed to downsize their batteries so that they fit inside the frame or seat post.
You may see variations on this theme, but battery capacity should be a top consideration. If you need to complete longer journeys, or you know that you’re going to rely upon pedal assistance more heavily thanks to living in a hilly area, a larger capacity battery (or an e-bike that offers swappable or extendable battery packs) will appeal.
Battery capacity is generally measured in amp hours, and the higher the number, the bigger its capacity and potential range.
Note: Battery capacities drain over time and use, as well as in very cold conditions (although lithium-ion battery technology, on which the vast majority of e-bike batteries are based, is constantly improving to mitigate this). Look for batteries from reputable companies, and which carry a warranty.
E-bike motor systems usually come with a selection of power settings. Arbitrarily, these can be set to low, medium, high, plus some kind of ‘max’ setting, although this varies between motor systems and models. PERRY EHOPPER bikes have 5 different power modes.
Ultimately, we don’t think that the number of modes should concern you too much – as long as you can easily switch between modes on the go using a control interface, then you can choose what you need, when you need it. Experience is the best teacher in terms of knowing what works best for you on a day-to-day basis – many even find that they rarely need to use their e-bike’s ‘max’ setting, instead using a lower power mode for much of the time.
As well as metrics that can tell you your mileage, track your use and even offer tips on how to get better range, as well as run system diagnostics and firmware updates. This control unit will also indicate how much battery you have left at any given time.
Much like when you drive your car, e-bike range depends on how you ride it, so claimed ranges by manufacturers should be taken with a pinch of salt. If you ride it in its most powerful mode all the time, then you’ll drain the battery much faster, while hilly terrain will also likely cause the motor to provide more assistance more of the time too, depending on the mode you have it set in.
But, ultimately, your potential range is a simple equation of your battery capacity, the motor’s power output, and how you ride it.
One of the few downsides of e-bikes is the additional weight the motor, battery and electronics bring compared to an ordinary bicycle. This means that, although you can ride them with the motor system off, it is more difficult than it would be without those parts.
Foldable e-bikes, like the PERRY EHOPPER folding bike, stand out because they are designed to be portable thanks to their collapsible design and lower weight (around 14-15kg with the battery attached). However, the smaller wheels and design means that ride quality is generally not as comfortable for longer journeys.
BUILD QUALITY AND RELIABILITY
More established than e-scooters, with more regulations and standards that underpin overall designs, e-bikes can generally be relied upon to provide good standards of build quality (as long as they meet these regulations!) and reliability.
However, although e-bikes might seem expensive, it’s important to consider this against the cost of your current commute or travel habits. Do you spend much of that money each year already on public transport, or on fuel and congestion and parking charges for your car, for example?
Often, when totting up the realistic costs of each, an e-bike can work out significantly cheaper than other motorised transport over a period as short as a year, while there are a host of benefits to being outside in the fresh air and staying relatively active too.