The How-To Guide to Electric Bikes

Electric bikes are quickly becoming an alternative form of transportation. A great substitute to the overcrowded bus and SkyTrain system, as well as the congestion of rush hour traffic, electric bikes, or e-bikes, now allow residents to get to their destination quickly and efficiently.

What is an Electric Bike?

An electric bike is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor that must be activated to help with pedaling.

Although electric bikes have been around since the 1890s, they were popularized in the 1990s in China, India, and Europe. In recent years, interest in electric bikes has spread globally, including in the United States.

Types of Electric Bicycles

There is a variety of electric bikes available. These include:

  • Hub Motor Electric Bikes – Hub motors are considered the most straightforward technology for powering electric bikes. Hub motors are placed near the rear of the bike, which makes them perfect for road bikes.

  • Mid-Drive Motor Electric Bikes– Mid-drive motors use mid-drive power systems, which makes them ideal for mountain bikes cargo/delivery bikes, and hybrid road bikes.

  • Pedal-Assist Electric Bikes–Pedal-assist electric bikes have an operating mode that allows riders to turn on a motor to help them pedal. These are sometimes called “Pedelec.”

  • Pedal-Free Throttle Electric Bikes – Pedal-free throttle electric bikes are activated through the throttle rather than a pedaling motion. There are three main types of throttle, including full twist, half twist, and thumb.

  • Throttle Only Electric Bikes – These types of electric bikes offer only throttle, not pedal assist.

Benefits of Electric Bikes

There are various benefits of electric bikes.

  • Improve Fitness – One of the benefits of electric bikes is improving fitness. For example, electric bikes allow riders to reach their health goals. Despite pedal assists, electric bikes still offer riders a great workout, which will benefit them in the long run, both physically and mentally.

  • Lower Expenses – An electric bike will cut back on transportation costs, including gas, as well as bus and SkyTrain fares, and parking costs. Most electric bikes last 18-50 miles after a full charge, depending on the type of model and style.

  • Environmentally Friendly – Electric bikes are also eco-friendly. It is believed that electric bikes only use an average rate of 100 to 150 watts of energy, as opposed to the 15,000 used by many vehicles.

  • Easy to Use and Quick – Electric bikes are also easy to use and allow riders to get to their destination quickly and efficiently. This is especially important in Vancouver during rush hour traffic.

  • Reduce Stress on Joints – Finally, electric bikes are great for riders with joint problems because they reduce stress on the knees and thighs. Now even elderly riders can tackle steep inclines and hills with ease.

Electric Bike Laws

In Vancouver, electric bikes are allowed on roads, as long as the top flat-ground speed is 32 km/h without pedaling. Riders must be 16 years of age and helmets are required. Operators do not need to be licensed, and electric bikes do not need to be insured.

Electric bikes can also be used on protected bike lanes.

Types of Electric Bike Batteries

When choosing an electric bike, it is also important to choose the right type of battery for your personal needs. They each have their pros and cons, so be sure to read carefully to choose the perfect fit for your electric bike. The most common types of electric bike batteries are Lead acid, Nickel-cadmium, Nickel-metal-hydride, and Lithium-ion.

  • Lead Acid Batteries – Lead acid batteries have a reputation for being longest lasting and being the most robust. They are also quite heavy.

  • Nickel-Cadmium Batteries – Nickel-cadmium batteries can be charged very quickly and have a great load performance. However, they also have a low-power density.

  • Nickel-Metal-Hydride Batteries – Nickel-metal-hydride batteries are known for holding 40% more charge than nickel-cadmium batteries. Their downside is that they do not last very long and can make the charging process a little difficult.

  • Lithium-Ion Batteries – Lithium-ion batteries have a great deal of advantages, including their relatively small size, which can give electric bikes an impressive range if installing a few of these batteries. They are also small enough that they can be placed anywhere on the electric bike. One disadvantage of lithium-ion batteries is that they are often more expensive than traditional batteries.

Some examples of lithium-ion batteries include Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4), Lithium Manganese Oxide (LiMn2O4) and Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2), and RC Lithium Polymer batteries (RC LiPo).

  • Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) – This type of lithium-ion battery are the safest and longest-lasting. However, they are also one of the heaviest and most expensive.

  • Lithium Manganese Oxide (LiMn2O4) and Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2) – This type of lithium- ion battery are considered mid-range. This includes their size, weight, safety, lifespan, and cost.

  • RC Lithium Polymer batteries (RC LiPo) – Finally, this type of lithium-ion battery are considered the smallest, cheapest, lightest, and most powerful. However, they have a relatively short lifespan, and are highly combustible.

Cost of Electric Bikes

The cost of electric bikes varies, depending on a wide range of factors. For example, brand name, type of bike, as well as any additional features must be taken into consideration.

Many electric bikes range from $5,000 to $20,000 USD.

Some suggestions to keep costs down include choosing a less prominent or respectable brand. Although inexpensive electric bikes are available at larger retailers, quality may be an issue. It is recommended to purchase an electric bike from a reputable dealer, in-store or online. Many have quality electric bikes for sale, at various price points.

Another tip for keeping costs down is to choose an older year model on sale. For example, there is often not much difference between 2019 and current models.

Finally, choose an electric bike specifically for the conditions you will be riding in.

Electric bikes can be found in various in-store and online retailers. Do not hesitate to contact one today.