You probably have heard about the growing popularity of electric bikes. More people around the world are switching to e-bikes for their daily commute, or as an alternative means for transportation and cycling, and there are numerous reasons for that, including saving money, time, improving the fitness level, being eco-friendly and reducing stress from spending miserable hours in heavy traffic every day.
But do you know how electric bikes work? Here are the basics you should know.
In general, e-bikes have absolutely all of the components as regular pedaling bicycles but have some added extras which make them more powerful and easy to get around with.
The e-bike motor
The motor is one of the key components which differentiates an electric bike from a normal one. The different e-bikes have their motors placed in different parts of the bike. Some have front hub motors which are fitted on the center of the front wheel, which provides the feel of driving a front wheel car.
Mid-range electric bikes have rear hub motors which interact with the rear, the gear and other parts of the bike and improve its grip and traction while riding.
The higher end e-bikes feature central drive motors. These are mounted on the bike’s frame, and use the pedaling motion to enhance the energy through the drive system. This central positioning makes the electric bike feel more like a regular one, as it doesn’t cause problems with the balance and doesn’t affect the stability while you are riding your bike.
The e-bike sensor
E-bikes can have either speed or torque sensors. Speed sensors automatically start the motor as soon as you start pedaling to provide you with added assistance as you ride. Once the sensor senses that you start pedaling, the motor of the electric bike starts working and you can start riding much faster and easier on long rides as well as when climbing hills or riding against a strong wind.
Torque sensors are much more intuitive. They respond with lesser assistance when they recognize that you are riding in slow speed such as in slow traffic. Once you hit a free road, the torque sensor will recognize that you have increased the speed and will automatically increase the amount of motor power. It is great and safer for cornering and speed maneuvers.
The e-bike battery
The battery can either be mounted on the luggage rack of the e-bike or under the frame, which helps distribute the weight more naturally and thus adds to the stability of the electric bike.
Most batteries can fully charge for five to six hours and are easy to replace, so riders at strong distances can quickly switch to a spare battery. Different batteries provide various power levels and can cover different mileage.
Here are the basic types of e-bike batteries:
Lead-acid e-bike batteries (SLA)
These are cheap and very easy to recycle. They do not last for long, so if you are planning to use your e-bike for daily commuting, these are probably not the best choice. They have much less capacity than lithium or NiMh batteries and weigh more than them. They will last about half as long as lithium or nickel e-bike batteries.
NiCd e-bike batteries
Nickel-cadmium e-bike batteries have a much larger capacity then lead-acid batteries, but they are much more expensive, and also cadmium is difficult to recycle and a nasty environmental pollutant. Although they last longer than lead-acid batteries, the fact that they are dangerous to the environment is making them almost extinct when it comes to electric bike batteries.
NiMh e-bike batteries
Nickel-Metal batteries are more efficient and more expensive than NiCd batteries. They do last longer though and can be disposed of properly without damage to the environment. Their place is quickly being overtaken by Lithium-ion batteries in recent years.
Li-ion e-bike batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are becoming the default electric bike batteries with more than a 90% share in the market. There are different types of Li-ion batteries but in general, they do have a larger capacity and last longer than the previously mentioned battery types. They are more expensive, and the price is likely going to remain higher for quite some time.
Li-pol e-bike batteries
Lithium-ion Polymer batteries are relatively new. They do have the same range, weight, and price as Li-ion batteries but have the advantage of having no liquid in them, which means that no heavy cases are needed for them, plus they are less vulnerable to overcharging, damage and abuse, which makes them very suitable for regular e-bikers.
LCO e-bike batteries
The Lithium Cobalt batteries are also quite new. They are light and compact and offer a much higher energy density than the other lithium-based batteries.
LiMg204 e-bike batteries
Lithium Manganese batteries are also new, but already some experts and e-bike enthusiasts are betting on them as the best choice when it comes to powering electric bikes, as they last longer and generate more power than the others.
Maintenance of e-bikes
Experts and electric bike manufacturers recommend that regular e-bike riders take their bikes for service every three to six months. Infrequent users need to ensure checkups for the electric bikes at least once a year.
A good service will check all the brakes, gears, the frame and handlebars, as well as strip down the electrical components, check and clean all connecting leads and then grease them. They will also check the battery’s charging capability.
So, now that you know which components make e-bikes so special, and the advantages they provide, you can take the next step and get an electric bike and join the growing army of e-cyclists too!