Everyone and their brother is talking about electric cars — how much they cost, who is making them and when they’ll be more affordable and accessible to the average driver. These battery-powered vehicles are trying to take the world by storm, but they’re often too costly for most, even those who are trying to move away from fossil fuels and reduce their carbon footprint. E-bikes, short for electronic bikes, might be the alternative that these eco-savvy drivers are looking for.
What Are E-Bikes?
First, though, what are e-bikes? You might hear the phrase ‘electric bicycle’ and assume that we’re thinking of a scooter. Other than the fact that they both have two wheels and are powered by electricity, there’s a world of difference between the two. Scooters propel themselves using an electric motor and a battery, but that’s it. E-bikes give you the option to choose between manual and electric propulsion.
E-bikes look and act like regular bicycles. You can pedal them like you would any of the bikes in your garage. The difference lies in the electric motor that’s designed to augment your strength rather than replace it. You can reach your bike’s top speed, and the motor will keep you there, but it won’t go any faster than what you can pedal. You can still get a good workout as you travel to your destination without exhausting yourself trying to get up hills.
E-bikes give you the best of both worlds — a bike for exercise and transportation, and an electric motor to help boost you when you need a little extra power.
Old Ideas, New Technology
While e-bikes might finally be taking the world by storm, they aren’t a new concept. In fact, the first patent for an electronic bike was filed in 1897, over 100 years ago. The technology has changed dramatically over the decades, but we’ve been looking for ways to make riding a bike easier for more than a century.
The e-bike industry is just starting to boom as more of these power-assisted transports become popular. Sales of these bikes have increased eight times over since 2014. The market was worth $21 billion in 2018 and is expected to be worth more than $39 billion by 2025.
Benefits of E-Bikes
E-bikes have a variety of different benefits that have them increasing in demand, especially in urban areas. First, as we’ve already mentioned, they make it easier for you to traverse hilly areas while still getting the health benefits of biking.
If you live in a congested or heavily populated area, an e-bike can be incredibly useful, giving you the ability to avoid traffic during your daily commute. It’s not as useful for things like carting home a load of groceries, but for moving to and from work or light errands, an e-bike can maneuver safely around traffic jams, easily navigate back streets or bike lanes and help riders reach their destination that much faster.
E-bikes have a fairly limited travel range, ranging from small bikes that can only travel up to 15 miles, to more advanced models that can travel upwards of 75 miles with a 750-watt geared hub motor. That’s why most of the inexpensive models are so popular in urban areas, where people might only need to commute a mile or two to reach the office but with city traffic, that short jaunt could easily take an hour or more.
These power-assisted bicycles are also better for the environment, making them popular with eco-friendly consumers who are trying to make changes to shrink their carbon footprint and lower their overall emissions. As battery technology continues to improve, e-bikes will become lighter and more affordable, while being able to travel further with fewer charges and fewer battery replacements.
We may even move away from the currently available lithium-ion batteries entirely since they rely on rare earth metals that will become increasingly difficult to obtain as battery-powered transportation becomes more common. Mercedes-Benz recently debuted a concept car based on James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” that will use an organic graphene-based battery that once discharged, could potentially be compostable. While this technology doesn’t exist yet, it proves that engineers and designers are thinking in the right direction when it comes to creating sustainable technologies that will help to protect the environment.
Not All Sunshine and Rainbows
E-bikes might be a useful tool for people who want to ride their bike to work but might need an extra push to help them get up the hills in their neighborhood, but they’re not perfect. For one thing, they’re a lot heavier than traditional bicycles thanks to the motor and battery. This isn’t a problem when it’s charged, but if the battery runs out, it can make it harder to pedal up a hill without the motor’s assistance.
Though, on the bright side, you can still ride the bike even if the battery is dead. It’ll just take a little bit of extra work.
The extra hardware also means that e-bikes are usually twice the cost of traditional bicycles. If you’re looking for something to replace your car entirely, this isn’t usually an issue, but for casual bike riders, it isn’t always worth the cost.
The Future Looks Like E-Bikes
For urban centers and other places with high population density, e-bikes are going to become more common with each passing year. These electronic-assisted bicycles are the perfect choice for anyone who wants to get all the health benefits of riding a bike without having to exhaust themselves trying to make it up the first hill in the neighborhood.
If you’re skeptical about whether an e-bike is the right choice for you, you don’t need to spend the money on something that you might not ever use. Instead, find a shop that will let you try one out, or borrow one from a friend who has already discovered the convenience and wonder that is electronic biking.