What is an electric bicycle?
Electric bicycles, also called e-bikes, are bicycles with an electric motor and battery that provide extra power assistance when you want it. The motor is typically integrated into the frame (mid-drive) or wheel (hub-drive). The battery provides the energy for the motor and there is usually some type of controller to select the level of assistance desired.
They ride like regular bicycles without need for license, registration or insurance. Electric bicycles come in all styles and sizes just as regular bicycles do.
What are the different types of electric bikes?
There's three classifications of electric bicycles:
- Class 1: The motor only provides assistance when the bike is pedaled, and cuts off at 20 mph. You can keep pedaling faster, but the motor will not assist you more than that.
- Class 2: Same as Class 1, but includes a throttle (or other control) so that you can go without pedaling. The top speed is 20 mph, but you can also keep pedaling faster if you want.
- Class 3: These are bikes that have a top assisted speed of 28 mph and operate by pedaling. You can keep pedaling faster, but the motor will not assist you more than that.
Are electric bikes legal to ride?
Bottom line: YES!
In Oregon, electric bicycles are given the same status as bicycles under Oregon Revised Statute [ORS] 814.405. That law states, “An electric assisted bicycle shall be considered a bicycle, rather than a motor vehicle, for purposes of the Oregon Vehicle Code, except when otherwise specifically provided by statute.” The Oregon Vehicle Code is laid out in ORS chapters 801 through 825.
More specifically for Oregon (see PeopleForBikes website for more info):
- E-bikes are classified as “electric assisted bicycles,” and are regulated like bicycles, so long as the bicycle’s motor has a maximum power output of 1,000w, has pedals that propel the bike with human power and the bike doesn’t exceed 20mph.
- E-bikes are not subject to the registration, licensing or insurance requirements that apply to motor vehicles.
- E-bikes are allowed on bike paths but are not allowed on sidewalks.
- The age minimum for e-bike riders is 16 years.
- E-bike riders are not required to wear a helmet.
How far can I go on a single charge?
It depends. The short answer is 15 to 30 real life miles on modest to moderate terrain riding on most new e-bikes.
Battery range varies quite dramatically from bike to bike. At the low end of the range spectrum you'll see about 15-20 miles per charge; at the high end you'll see up to 100 miles per charge. Range is likely something you'll factor in when searching for the right e-bike for you, though it plays into a number of other bike characteristics as well. For example, Faraday bikes have a range of 15-20 miles per charge, but at 40 pounds they are also light enough to carry up stairs and put on most standard bike racks; alternatively, some Blix bikes boast up to 40 miles on a single charge though they are heavier at around 50 pounds.
How do you charge an electric bike?
We tell people it's like charging your laptop. All e-bikes have a battery that needs to be recharged at some point, just like your laptop battery needs to be recharged. Each bike comes with a charger that plugs into a standard outlet, and recharge times range from about 2.5-4.5 hours depending on the bike.
Most e-bike batteries can be removed from the bike and brought inside to charge. So if you are going to a coffee shop that lets you plug in a laptop then bring your e-bike charger too so you can top it off while enjoying that coffee!
Can I ride my electric bike in the rain?
Yes. The drive systems of the quality bikes we sell are not affected by rain and snow.
We don't recommend leaving your bike outside in a downpour overnight or throwing it in the pool, but you should feel confident riding in wet weather. Most major brands even test their bikes and offer an 'IP' rating - 'Ingress Protection' - that tells you how resistant to dust and water it is. 6 is the highest number, so an IP66 would be the highest rating.
We also sell bike covers that you can fold up to bring with you to put over your bike while locked up in a rack that might not be covered.
What's the life span of batteries?
Most e-bikes have battery packs with lithium-ion cells having a 2-3 year warranty and expected lifetimes of 5 years and longer with proper care. Higher quality batteries will retain 100% of their capacity up to 1000 charge cycles. A full cycle means from 0-100% charge, so charging from 50-100% would be half a cycle. This doesn't mean the battery dies after these time frames, but that the battery capacity will be reduced (typically down to 70% or less of original capacity).
Extreme temperatures will degrade battery cells faster than anything. There is a lot to read about lithium-ion batteries, we recommend starting with Wikipedia.
What else should I know?
Electric bikes are popular in most of the world and we're catching on here in the USA. Whether you are looking to keep up with friends or family, go to the grocery store, get the kids to/from school, or spend less time in the car commuting, e-bikes will make that happen with a smile on your face (plus with less sweat and more fun).