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Question & Answer


     General Electric Bike Questions
       - How do electric bikes work?
       - Throttle control vs. pedal assist?
       - How fast do electric bikes go?
       - How far can I travel on a single charge?
       - How long does it take to charge the battery?
       - What types of batteries are available?
       - How long will the battery last?
       - Will an e-bike recharge while pedaling?
       - How much does it cost to ride an electric bike?
       - Are electric bikes safe to operate?
       - Can I ride my electric bicycle in the rain?
       - Do I need a license or insurance?
     Electric Bike Kits & Conversions
       - Electric bike kit or factory e-bike model?
       - Brushed vs. Brushless Hub Motor?
       - Front Wheel vs. Rear Wheel Hub Motor?
       - How do I install an electric bike kit?
       - What is the correct way to wire a battery?


 

Answers to Common FAQ's

How do electric bikes work?


Electric bicycles use batteries as a source of power and a quiet DC motor as a driving mechanism. On most e-bikes the motor is built directly into the wheel (known as a hub motor) and the batteries are discreetly hidden in the rear rack or frame. Electric bikes can be operated just like normal bicycles, but they can also be power-driven by a throttle or pedaled with the help of 'pedal-assist' (or 'PAS').

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Throttle control vs. pedal assist?


Most of our electric bikes and scooters are throttle controlled - meaning you use a throttle to control power and speed. To get started, simply twist the throttle to accelerate and hold it to maintain speed. Other e-bikes are classified as 'pedal assist' and power is applied automatically. Once you start pedaling, a torque sensor picks up your movement and power integrates seamlessly while you ride. Just pedal and go. Once you use the brakes or quit pedaling, the power is deactivated and you need to pedal again (lightly) to re-activate pedal assistance.

For people who prefer full control, a throttle is a nice option since it operates just like a motorcycle. But if you're looking for simplified operation, pedal assist is great because it does all the work automatically. Keep in mind: you have to pedal (lightly) for power to be applied with pedal assist. With a throttle, no pedaling is required at all. Please Note: Most of our e-bike models include pedal assist (PAS) and a throttle.

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How fast do electric bikes go?


The speed of an electric bike will vary based upon several factors. With no pedaling, U.S. law restricts the speed of electric bicycles to 20mph or less. This ensures you don't need a license, insurance or special safety gear to operate an e-bike in most states.

Most electric bikes are rated up to 20mph by the manufacturer, but the actual speed will vary depending on rider weight, terrain and road conditions. Smaller riders are likely to achieve higher top speeds than larger ones, and you're likely to go faster on flat terrain than uphill. Keep in mind, U.S. law does not restrict how fast you can travel while pedaling, so most riders can easily exceed these ratings while providing assistance.

* Some electric bike kits are capable of speeds up to 35mph. But this isn't recommended for the average rider and extra safety precautions must be taken.

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How far can I go on a single charge?


The range of electric bikes can vary, but most riders are able achieve 10-20 miles per charge on the average e-bike model. One of the main factors in determining how far you can travel on a single charge is how much assistance you provide. Rated by amp hours (AH), the typical e-bike battery has a capacity of 10-12AH. Without pedaling, riders can expect a range equal to this rating (ie: 10AH = 10 miles). But since most riders will pedal along the way, the majority of e-bikes are rated up 15-30 miles per charge. Obviously, the more pedaling you do, the less strain on the battery and the more range you'll achieve. Keep in mind, 'pedal-assist' bikes have higher ratings and achieve more range than throttle-controlled bikes because the rider is required to pedal at all times.

Another factor that can have a big impact is terrain. If you live in a hilly area or have lots of steep inclines - expect less range from your e-bike. Larger riders or people carrying heavy loads can also expect reduced output. Because weight is a factor, this also means higher quality NiMh or Li-Ion batteries are capable of slightly longer ranges due to their reduced weight. Other factors include: wind and road conditions.

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How long does it take to charge the battery?


Battery charge times will vary between manufacturers, models and battery types. Typically, the initial charge will take 6-12 hours. For routine charging, higher quality batteries (such as Li-Ion and NiMH) will take less time - anywhere from 2-6 hours. Cheaper sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries will take 6-8 hours.

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What types of batteries are available?


Battery technology continues to improve everyday. Currently, there are 3 main types of batteries used in electric bicycles:

  • Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) - Lithium Ion batteries are the highest quality batteries available in today's market. Although they cost the most money (upfront), they have the longest life and the lowest weight. Because they last 3-4 times longer than cheaper battery types, the higher cost will be negated over time.
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) - NiMH is a mid-range battery chemistry that isn't quite as common. NiMH batteries are light-weight and have an extended life span over cheaper SLA batteries. But for the most part, pre-built e-bikes due not include NiMH and it's only available for people considering and e-bike conversion.
  • Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) - Sealed lead acid batteries have been around for decades. Although they're the cheapest form of battery technology, they have the shortest life and are extremely heavy when compared to other battery types.

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How long will the battery last?


Battery life will vary depending on the type of battery you choose and how well you maintain it. Typically, Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries last the longest - anywhere from 700-1000+ charges. Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries have a life span of about 500-700 charges, while sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries last between 300-500 charges.

To extend the life of your battery, charge the battery regularly and promptly after each use. If you store your bike for prolonged periods of time, both the batteries and charger should be stored at temperatures above freezing and recharged every 4-6 weeks. The longer a battery sits uncharged, the faster the life will be reduced.

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Will an e-bike recharge while pedaling?


Surprisingly, this is one of the most common questions at our retail shop. In order for an electric bicycle to produce power, it would require resistance, making it harder to pedal. The energy savings would be minimal and riding your bicycle would be very difficult. If you used power instead, it would put more strain on the motor, depleting an equal amount of power to the power being generated. It's unrealistic and inefficient.

But a limited number of e-bike models include 'regen' - or regenerative braking. Regen creates power while coasting or using the brakes. Although none of our e-bikes include regen yet, it is available on a some very expensive e-bike models. But does the cost justify the energy savings? Regen only produces a small amount of power when braking or coasting. If you live in an extremely hilly environment with lots of downhill terrain, it might provide some benefit. But in our opinion, it's not worth the extra cost since it only provides a 5% to 10% increase in range / battery life under ideal conditions.

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How much does it cost to ride an electric bike?


Not only are electric bikes fun and easy to operate - they're very economical! It costs around $0.10 to fully charge a battery. Even with the oldest and least efficient form of battery technology (SLA), it costs less than $0.01 per mile to operate an electric bike. Li-Ion and NiMH cost even less. Plus, you don't have to worry about a license, insurance or registration in most states - and maintenance is minimal.

Compare that to gas-powered vehicles which average about 25 miles per gallon. With gas prices at $2.50 - $3.50 per gallon, it costs about $0.15 per mile for gas alone - or 1500% more than an electric bike. Add in license costs, registration, maintenance and other fees, and the cost skyrockets. According to US Government figures, the average cost of driving and maintaining a motor vehicle in the United States is $0.54 per mile.

More about how much it costs to ride an electric bike...

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Are electric bikes safe to operate?


Electric bikes are very safe! Intelligent functions are incorporated into every bike we sell and vary between manufacturers. Most include automatic power cut-off features, and all bikes use standard electrical safety components such as circuit breakers and fuses to protect riders. Although it's possible to be shocked by mishandling or misusing these products, it's very unlikely when used properly. If a shock does occur, not enough voltage is present in any of our bikes to constitute a serious safety threat.

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Can I ride my electric bicycle in the rain?


For the most part, every product we sell is water and weatherproof. But this does not mean they're water-tight! If you submerge any of these products in water, it will seep into the openings and likely cause damage. These products are fine in light rain or damp riding conditions. But during heavy down pours or deep puddling, we recommend pulling over and waiting for the weather to subside. If you plan on riding in the rain on a regular basis, we recommend taking some extra steps to further waterproof your e-bike. This includes ensuring all electrical connections are wrapped in electrical tape and all connectors and exposed openings are sealed with clear silicone.

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Do I need a license or insurance?


The Federal Electric Bike Law states that any e-bike with operating pedals, limited to 20mph and with 750w of power (or less) is classified as a bicycle. But this law only applies to manufacturer's safety standards (ie: bicycles are not required to have headlights). While you can legally ride an e-bike anywhere standard bicycles can be riden, each state is responsible for the laws governing the use and operation of electric bikes. Since the laws vary from state to state, please check with your local DMV or Secretary of State. If you are unfamiliar with local electric bike laws, consider this:

  • Police don't normally know the specific laws pertaining to electric bikes.
  • Police often expect electric bike and scooter riders to wear a bicycle helmet.
  • Most electric bikes look like ordinary bicycles to the casual observer.

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Electric bike kit or factory e-bike model?


When it comes to e-bikes, you have two main choices to consider: convert a standard bicycle with an electric bike kit -or- purchase a factory built e-bike model. Here are the pros and cons of both options so you can decide which one is right for you:

Electric Bike Kits

Electric bike kits are great for "do-it-yourselfers" and provide enormous flexibility over factory built e-bike models. One big advantage is that you can choose almost any bicycle you like (with steel forks), which is great if you have a specific preference or you're too large or heavy for a standard e-bike model. Since factory models are often limited in speed and power by Federal regulations, conversion kits give you the option to go faster with higher power and torque - great for bigger riders, steep hills and inclines.

On the downside, you'll be required to do some work and basic mechanical ability is required. Plus, it will be virtually impossible to get the "nice, clean look" of a factory built e-bike since many of the components will be exposed or difficult to hide.

Factory E-Bike Models

Factory built e-bikes are great for casual riders or daily commuters who don't need excessive power or speed. 20mph is fast on a bike! And if you're average in size and weight (5'1"- 6'4", 100 - 240lbs) and ride on mostly flat surfaces, then a factory built e-bike is perfect for most riders. All the pre-built electric bike models we carry (ie: IZIP, EZIP, EG, etc.) meet Federal regulations for e-bikes, which means no license, insurance or registration is required in most states. Plus, there's no work involved with a factory built e-bike model - just plug it in and go. The wires and other electrical components are nicely packaged and hidden, providing a clean and stylish look.

On the downside, factory built e-bikes are limited in speed and power. Although these bikes can handle larger riders, the output will be reduced, and more pedalling will be required to get up steep hills and inclines. It will also be harder to modify a factory setup to meet your evolving transportation needs.

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Brushed vs. Brushless Hub Motor?


These days, most e-bikes use "brushless" hub motors. They require almost no maintenance and last much longer than "brushed" hub motors - but are a bit more expensive. Here are the details about how they work in case you have a choice:

Brushed Hub Motors

In a brushed hub motor, electrical energy is transferred through small metal "brushes"' that contact a rotating part of the motor called the commutator. Because there is physical contact between stationary and moving parts, wear will occur, and over time (about every 3000 miles), the brushes will have to be replaced. Replacement is easy, but getting the motor back together isn't! Brushed hub motors require less complex controllers than brushless motors, so the systems are less expensive. But we always recommend brushless hub motors because of ease-of-maintenance.

Brushless Hub Motors

With a brushless motor, there is no contact between any of the parts inside the motor. The end result is a motor with no theoretical life limit. Brushless motors have more sophisticated controllers than brushed motors, and there are many more connections from the motor to the controller. The motor has three windings. Power is applied to individual windings depending on where the motor is in its revolution. As the motor passes one winding, the controller moves the power to the next winding to keep the motor turning. We highly recommend brushless motors to all our customers.

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Front Wheel vs. Rear Wheel Hub Motor?


With some e-bike kits, you have the option of a front or rear hub motor. Each type of motor has advantages and disadvantages:

Front Wheel Hub Motor

A front hub kit is normally much easier to install than a rear wheel kit since you don't have to worry about gearing or derailers. Using a front hub motor also helps equalize the weight of your bicycle since the batteries are normally mounted on the rear rack. Many riders feel like they have more control with a front wheel kit and they're great for casual bikers or lower power systems (under 750 watts). When riding, the rider can easily see the front wheel and respond quickly to problems such as wheel spinning.

Rear Wheel Hub Motor

Rear wheel drive has the advantage of better traction which is great for hills and inclines. And because the rear frame dropouts are normally stronger than the front fork dropouts, a rear wheel can handle more torque and increased power. Plus, you can still use front suspension with a rear wheel kit. But be aware: if you apply too much throttle and the rear wheel starts to spin, you could loose control since you can't turn the wheel to correct for a slip like you can with a front wheel. Rear drive puts the entire weight of the system on the rear of the bike which can make the bike harder to handle.

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How do I install an electric bike kit?


Installing an electric bike kit is relatively easy if you have basic mechanical and electrical skills. The following link provides general instructions for installing an electric bike kit:

Electric Bike Kit Installation Instructions...

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What is the correct way to wire an SLA battery?


If you purchase any of our e-bike kits WITH THE BATTERY, we pre-wire everything for you so you won't need to worry about wiring. But if you'd like to replace, upgrade or use your own SLA batteries, it's pretty easy to wire up your own pack. Here's an example of how to wire 36V sealed lead acid battery:

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