E-bike FAQ

How much do e-bikes cost?

Good entry level e-bikes start at about $1000. There are lots of models in the $2,000-$4,000 range. Cargo bikes are $3,000-$5,000

Are there any rebates?

Some. Low income residents of some Bay area zip codes can turn in an old polluting car for a voucher for e-bikes from the Air District.

Some cities, counties & utilities offer rebates. Learn more at E-bike Incentive Programs 

Learn how you can help pass legislation for more incentives in more places at E-bike Legislation  

Are e-bikes 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 E-bike Studies

How does an e-bike work?

Simple. Class 1 and Class 3 e-bikes 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 also has a throttle - like a motor scooter - that can turn on the motor independent of the pedals.

See E-bike 101 for more on how e-bikes work

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

Yes, All e-bikes can be pedaled without the motor. 

 

How fast do e-bikes go?

20 MPH. Class-1 & 2 e-bikes 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 many bike paths. Class 4 electric scooters go much faster, can only be ridden on streets  and require licensing.  There is no limiter 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.    

How far do e-bikes 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 e-bike) last longer, see Owners Guide - How to ride & take care of your e-bike

Do I need to upgrade my electric circuits to recharge an e-bike? 

No. E-bike 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 e-bike 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 e-bikes to add 20-40 miles power day to their range when the sun shines.

Resources:

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

Sol Mobil: custom e-bike company that makes solar e-bike charging systems.

SunRider: Dutch manufacturer of solar powered cargo e-bikes

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

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

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.

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.