An electric bicycle is also known as an e-bike is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor that can be used for propulsion. Many kinds of e-bikes are available worldwide, from e-bikes that only have a small motor to assist the rider's pedal-power (i.e. pedelecs) to more powerful e-bikes which are closer to moped-style functionality. All retain the ability to be pedaled by the rider and are therefore not electric motorcycles.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do more than 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.
Depending on local laws, many e-bikes (e.g., pedelecs) are legally classified as bicycles rather than mopeds or motorcycles. This exempts them from the more stringent laws regarding the certification and operation of more powerful two-wheelers which are often classed as electric motorcycles. E-bikes can also be defined separately and treated under distinct Electric bicycle laws.
E-bikes are the electric motor-powered versions of motorized bicycles, which have been in use since the late 19th century. Some bicycle-sharing systems use them.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some weird and wacky inventions out there for those who are after an e-bike for a specific style of riding, though.
E-bikes are classed according to the power that their electric motor can deliver and the control system, i.e., when and how the power from the motor is applied. Also, the classification of e-bikes is complicated as much of the definition is due to legal reasons for what constitutes a bicycle and what constitutes a moped or motorcycle. As such, the classification of these e-bikes varies greatly across countries and local jurisdictions.
Despite these legal complications, the classification of e-bikes is mainly decided by whether the e-bike's motor assists the rider using a pedal-assist system or by a power-on-demand one. Definitions of these are as follows:
With pedal-assist, the electric motor is regulated by pedaling. The pedal-assist augments the efforts of the rider when they are pedaling. These e-bikes – called pedelecs – have a sensor to detect the pedaling speed, the pedaling force, or both. Brake activation is sensed to disable the motor as well.
With power-on-demand, the motor is activated by a throttle, usually handlebar-mounted just like on most motorcycles or scooters.
Therefore, very broadly, e-bikes can be classed as:
E-bikes with pedal-assist only: either pedelecs (legally classed as bicycles) or S-Pedelecs (often legally classed as mopeds)
Why would you buy an electric bike?
There are a whole host of reasons why you might want some pedaling assistance in your life.
Perhaps you have to travel with lots of cargo, and the added power can mean the difference between using a car or still spinning your two legs.
Or maybe you want to start commuting to work, and an electric hybrid could be a great option for helping you cover the miles, without turning up at work in a sweaty state.
You might be recovering from injury or illness and the added boost of a motor might help you get back out there again. Or it might simply be the case that you’re not as young as you once were.
Either way, there’s a lot of choice in the e-bike world, so the chances are you’ll find the option that suits you.