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Ebike FAQ

How much do ebikes cost?

There are lots of good models in bike shops in the $1,500-$4,000 range. You might be able to save money online or at a big box store but buyer beware. Make sure you can get your bike serviced where you buy it.

Full size cargo bikes start at $1,900 with lots in the $3,000-$6,000 range.

Are there any rebates?

There are now over 100 programs from cities, counties & utilities around the world offering rebates, vouchers,  lending programs and schemes to make it easier for your to get an ebike. Check out the Ebike Incentive Programs page to see if there is one in your area.

Are ebikes really that great for the environment?

YES! E-bikes are super efficient:

  • 1000-4000 MPGe

  • 20 times more efficient than an electric car

  • 70 times farther than a gasoline car per pound of climate emissions

  • 30 to 100 times farther than an electric car per pound of battery

Read about the studies at Ebike Studies

How does an ebike work?

Simple. Class 1 and Class 3 ebikes have a sensor that detects when you pedal and instantly start the motor to assist. You select the level of help you desire with a button on your handlebar. You can also pedal without the motor.

A Class 2 bike has the pedal sensors, plus a throttle. On a Class 2, like a motor scooter, you can turn on the motor independent of the pedals.

See Ebike 101 for more on how e-bikes work

Can I pedal an ebike without the motor (or when it runs out of battery power)?

Yes, All ebikes can be pedaled without the motor. 

 

How fast do ebikes go?

20 mph (for most ebikes in the US). Class-1 & 2 ebikes cut off the electric motor assistance at 20 mph. Class 3 can go up to 28 mph, require a helmet, and are not allowed on some bike paths. Class 4 electric scooters go much faster, can only be ridden on streets  and require licensing.  There is no limit restraining how fast you can pedal without motor assistance. As with any pedal bike, on a downhill and/or with a strong tailwind you may be able to pedal faster than 20 mph. In Europe, the motor assistance cuts off at 15 mph.  

How far do ebikes go?

20 to 80 miles on a charge. The distance you get will depend upon the size of your battery, how much assistance you use, and the terrain.

To make your battery (and your ebike) last longer, see Owners Guide - How to ride & take care of your e-bike

How heavy are ebikes?

There are ebikes as light as 30 pounds. The bigger cargo bikes may be up to 80 pounds. Many are are in the 45-65 pound range.  Of course you may not want to haul that up a stairway to store it. Manufacturers are working to make ebikes lighter. Integrated batteries will generally be lighter. But make sure you can charge it where you store it.  Removable batteries make it easier to lift an ebike up stairs or on to a bike rack   

Do I need to upgrade my electric circuits to recharge an ebike? 

No. Ebike chargers plug into any regular home outlet. No special circuits needed. And being a small package weighing only 1 to 3 pounds, you can easily carry your charger with you.

Can I power my ebike with solar power? 

Yes. At least on sunny days! A number of do-it-yourselfers and custom bike shops have added solar electric panels to ebikes to add 20-40 miles of power per day to their range when the sun shines.

Solar ebike resources:

Grim Technologies: Canadian ebike conversion kit manufacturer provides an excellent guide to how solar ebike charging works and different ways to add it it to a bike.  

Sol Mobil: custom ebike company that makes solar ebike charging systems.

SunRider: Dutch manufacturer of solar powered cargo ebikes

Sun Pedal Ride: Two e-bikers cycling across the country in 2021 & 22 with a sun powered ebike (interview)

Solar e-bike: Burritos & solar: Another rider crossing the country in 2021 with a sun powered ebike   

What about theft? 

Like all bikes and cars, e-bikes are a target for thieves, especially in big cities. With the e-boost, the extra weight of the best locks is not a problem. Invest in the toughest lock you can find, bring the e-bike indoors when possible, and, if in a high theft area, consider a GPS tracker. Check out the Outfitting & Protecting and  Security sections of the E-Bike Buyers & Owners Guide (pdf) for more about things you can do to protect your e-bike. 

Is riding an e-bike cheating? Will I get exercise? 

E-bikes provide a wonderful conundrum. On the one hand, they provide a way for you to ride a bike with less effort and no sweat for substantial distances and steep hills. Yet, riding an e-bike can actually provide a pretty good workout. How can that be? 

In several studies, researchers have found - as you would expect - that study volunteers who rode standard bicycles had a higher heart rate and felt higher exertion than e-bike riders when they rode. But e-bike riders ride their bikes more frequently and go farther.   As a result, the e-bike riders actually expended more energy expenditure overall than the standard bike riders and are more likely to ride enough to meet recommended guidelines for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. So e-bikes provide an easier way to get the exercise that is so good for you. And with your choice of levels of motor support, you can always choose how intense of a workout you want. 

One of the many studies of this effect is Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities, Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Volume 1, June 2019. 

We plan to put together a survey of studies on this site in the near future.

Are battery fires a problem?

The batteries you find in a regular electric bicycle are similar to the lithium ion batteries in your phone, computer, and electric car. Data on battery fires is still sketchy, but the problems reported in the press appear to be primarily from low quality, mostly mail order, ebikes (and scooters and other micromobility devices) and batteries that have not been tested for fire safety or have been overcharged or improperly modified

Bike batteries from major brands that have passed UL or EU fire safety testing are very safe if handled properly. The Safety Certifications page lists bike brands that have been tested against UL or EU standards for electrical and fire hazards.  

 

For any bike, certified or not, there are a number of things you can do to help ensure fire safety - particularly when charging your battery.  People For Bikes (a bicycle industry trade group) has published a factsheet on E-Bike Battery Safety Guidelines for Riders with helpful hints for safe charging. We will be publishing our own guide to battery safety here soon. Drop us a comment below if you would like to be notified when we publish it.

What do I do with my battery at the end of its life? 

The U.S. e-bike industry has collaborated to create the Call2Recycle Electric Bike Battery Recycling Program to safely and responsibly  collect batteries for recycling at the end of their life to keep them out of the landfill and reclaim the valuable materials inside. Find a drop off location here to take your battery for recycling at no charge. If there is not a location near you, contact the dealer from whom you bought your bike and ask them to sign up for the program to help you recycle your battery.  

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