In recent years, the popularity of electric bicycles has increased. More and more cyclists are abandoning traditional bicycles and opting for those also called electric bicycles.
These, since the end of last year increased their sales by 240%compared to the previous two years. It’s a nearly $27 billion industry, growing steadily and showing no signs of slowing down.
Many consider e-bikes to be a threat and that they are going to do away with the traditional pedaling of regular bicycles. However, there is no need to be afraid. E-bikes aren’t here to rob us of our human-powered way of life. In fact, it is very possible that they will improve it, especially when travel and commuting habits need to change.
So let’s dive into this world and find out what they are, how it works, the legislation behind them and much more below.
What are electric bikes?
An electric bicycle, or ebike, is a bike with an electric motor that helps you pedal and move around. The motor is powered by a rechargeable battery mounted on the bike itself.
To classify it as an electric bike, the motor must help you instead of powering you on its own. So you have to pedal to get this assistance. And that’s it, we are facing an evolution of the traditional bicycle.
The power supplied by the engine It is regulated according to how hard you pedal and the level of assistance selected.
E-bike systems offer several modes to choose from, allowing you to balance the amount of power delivered by the pedals with range and battery life.
How does an electric bike work?
As we have already specified, these have a motor, normally housed in the center of the bike. This, being mounted on the axle, will work through the chain and the gears of the electric bike.
When you pedal, a sensor measures the effort provided and adjusts it to the power of the engine. The idea is that the engine does not fully support the displacement, otherwise who collaborate
This energy will come from the battery, which can be mounted outside the frame or hidden inside it. Many batteries can be removed for charging, although others must be charged on the bike.
There will be a controller for the motor, usually mounted on the handlebars or built into the frame, which will allow you to decide the level of assistance you want and monitor the battery level. Some also include a screen with navigation and other features.
Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha, Specialized, Mahle, FSA and Fazua all make very popular e-bike motors. Specifications can vary widely and the type of engine found in a bike will depend on its price and the type of riding expected.
For example, an e-road bike is more likely to favor a lightweight system with smooth power, while a motor on an e-MTB is likely to offer more capability.
Differences between a normal bike and an electric bike
The significant difference between electric bikes and normal bikes is adding electrical components.
Technology is improving and we are starting to see e-bikes as a viable mode of everyday transportation and enjoyment for the general public. These are some of the differences.
1. Electric motor: electrical energy is converted into mechanical energy by electric motors. This provides pedaling assistance and autonomy to the electric bike.
Although having the same basic technology, the electric motors used in these are divided into three categories based on their location on the bike. Mid-drive motors are attached to the center of the frame, where the pedaling area is usually located. The other two are front and rear hub e-bikes.
2. Battery: The battery supplies the electrical energy used by the motor. The amount of battery power influences the distance an e-bike can travel without pedaling.
And for cyclists who care more about commuting than exercise, this is a top priority. Depending on battery power, some bikes can go 50 miles or more on a single charge. Battery capacity, slopes, wind and body size will affect range.
3. Screen: this is an LCD screen, attached to the handlebars, which allows you to provide bike data such as speed, battery level and other relevant information.
4. Controls – Used to manage the amount of power being power the electrical components of the bike. Pedal assist level, motor speed and speed are activated by controls and can be integrated into the display for easy operation.
5. Sensor – This is basically the component of the bike that tells the motor that you are pedaling and that it should start assisting the rider.
Advantages and disadvantages of this type of bike
All these differences, logically, will affect several aspects that can become great disadvantages or not, depending on your needs.
On the one hand we have the cost, something quite logical. If we want upgrades and more value, we have to pay more for it. That is why it is not surprising that the electric bicycle costs more than a regular bicycle.
A few years ago it was true that the price was a little excessive. However, just like cell phones, technology has advanced rapidly.
Compared to other manufacturers, Riverside produces very inexpensive e-bikes that you can find on Decathlon’s website for around €1,200. And it is thatfrom 800€ you can already find quite simple but useful ones.
On the other hand, we may have A disadvantage is the weight. Electric bikes have more weight than conventional bikes. But, to be honest, it makes sense since you have to accept that the batteries, motors and controllers are somewhat heavy additions.
However, we come back to the same thing, with the improvement and advancement of materials technology, manufacturers of electric bicycles are using very light ones, such as aluminum. This compensates for the additional weight of the electrical components. While an average traditional bike weighs around 10 kg or more, some electric bikes weigh around 16 kg.
Maintenance can be a problem. The mechanical components are the same as those found on regular bikes, but the biggest concern here is maintenance of the electrical components.
Controller and motor do not need regular maintenance, True, but the battery is, with which you have to be very careful if you don’t want it to be damaged. In the end, its operation is quite similar to that of smartphones, so if you can leave it inside, all the better. Of course, avoid extreme temperatures and very sudden changes.
European legislation concerning electric bicycles
In accordance with European Union Directive 2002/24/EC, an EPAC (pedal assisted electric bicycle) any electric bicycle that exceeds the speed of 25 km/h or whose motor does not automatically disconnect at 25 km/h, are considered conventional mopeds.
This means that if they exceed it, they must be homologated as such and comply with regulatory obligations, such as insurance, registration, registration for road tax, wearing a helmet, minimum age and driver’s license, etc. .
And it is that, even with all its additional capabilities already explained, the electric bike is still a bicycle, so you do not need a license or permit to drive it. You can use your e-bike on any route, whether for work or an excursion.
Yet it is true that in some countries e-bikes are subject to several additional regulations. Unlike non-electric bicycles, electric bicycles are classified as a type of motorized transport by the government and therefore are subject to certain limitations.
Drivers are not allowed to ride e-bikes on sidewalks and will be fined if caught doing so. In addition, you must have a circulation certificate provided by the manufacturer of your electric bicycle. No license or insurance is required.
Finally, the authorities encourage the wearing of helmets, although it is not compulsory. The same goes for wearing a reflective vest for protection on the road.
How can I convert my normal bike into an electric bike?
An electric bike conversion kit will allow you toadd a motor to your current bike easily and cheaply, at least compared to the purchase price of a new electric bike.
There are more and more kits and they are more and more sophisticated and easy to install, which is a very practical alternative.
An e-bike conversion kit includes the motor that drives it and the battery that powers it, obviously. But it must also include the device to control the power level. This usually takes the form of a bar-mounted display.
Additionally, the kits include sensors that detect speed at which you ride and the level of pedaling to ensure that the power delivered is adequate for your needs.
All e-bike conversion kits must be switched off when not pedaling and must have a speed limit of 25km/h in Europe and most of the rest of the world.
Many of these can be fitted by a mechanic, but if you feel comfortable and have a free afternoon why not give it a try.