How Do Electric Bikes Work?
At its core, an electric bike is a regular push bike. Electric bikes rely on components that work together to operate; an electric motor, a sensor, the battery and sometimes a display or controller.
Most of our electric bikes are pedal-assist, which means that the motor only activates when the pedals are already in motion. The rider still gets a workout, with an added boost to make their ride easier.
The UK has laws regulates the amount of assistance the motor can provide and the speed at which it cuts out. However, in most cases, the motor is only allowed to output 250 watts and must stop aiding you when you reach 25kph/15.5mph. You can go faster than that, of course, but only with your own effort – the bike's motor will no longer provide assistance.
READ NEXT: UK Bike Laws & You
Below we explain the main components of an electric bike and how it works.
What makes an electric bike work?
On an electric bike, you'll find several additional components compared to a regular bike; a motor, a battery and a controller, all integrated into the design. It's like a regular bike; you still need to pedal and steer with the handlebars.
The idea of the electric motor is to assist, not wholly replace, pedalling. It means that hills and headwinds are much more approachable and manageable. You can travel further without getting tired and sweaty – perfect for a morning commute!
The power for electric bikes comes from a battery. This can be placed either outside or hidden inside the frame. Many batteries are removable, so they can be charged separately from the bike, but some need to be charged while still on the bike. If that's the case, you'll need parking near a power supply.
Each e-bike has a sensor best suited for the type of bike and how it will be used. The three types of sensors are speed, cadence, and torque.
No matter what biker you are, there's an e-bike for you! E-bikes come in all shapes and sizes, perfect for any commuter or enthusiast. For those who want a low-maintenance biking option, carbon-drive e-bikes are ideal. But if you're looking to explore your bike hobbies further, plenty of specialist bikes out there cater for your needs.
What do the sensors do?
The sensor on an electric bike is a critical component. Two types of sensors are used on different e-bikes are; a speed sensor and a torque sensor.
The speed sensor immediately engages the motor once you pedal, giving you ride assistance.
The torque sensor is more responsive than other models. It helps with speed and manoeuvres by providing a tiny amount of assistance that matches your speed. These can give you anything from a gentle push to lots of power for tackling steep off-road climbs, depending on the specifications of the bike's motor.
You can change between assistance levels as you ride. There's usually the option to switch the motor off and ride under pedal power alone. Some will also have a "boost" button, which you can use to increase the power output for short bursts of additional power.
So, what does the motor do?
The main aim of the motor is to provide torque when you pedal. The more advanced the electric motor, the more power it offers. The more power you have, the more torque you can get out of the bike. Simple, right?
The more technologically advanced the motor, the higher its power and price. You'll be able to pedal smoothly up challenging hills without breaking a sweat if you choose one of these options. However, as always, numerous choices are available whether you're an experienced electric bike user or new to the scene.
What motor does an electric bike have?
The motor of an electric bike can be placed in three different ways- front hub, rear hub, and mid-drive. Each has its own set of benefits.
The motor on an electric bike usually varies depending on the brand/manufacturer of that particular model. For example, Raleigh's electric bikes come with a few different types of motors, such as rear and mid-drive models.
Mid-drive motors don't have a single-gear ratio. This makes them better suited for tackling hillier routes regularly. You'll also typically find that they're lighter than hub motors which can be vital if you're worried about the overall weight of your electric bike.
If you're also concerned about looks, the mid-drive motor has you covered - they can be discreetly positioned rather than a hub motor. Oh, and if you ever need to change a tyre, you don't have to worry about dealing with the weight of a hub motor attached to the wheel.
Hub motors rotate the wheel via an axle and operate through the bike's chain and gears. Their internal hub gears make them fantastic for "everyday riders" riding in urban areas. They are also sealed units that require little-to-no maintenance. Lastly, they are perfectly safe and reliable for any commuter in town.
How many miles does a hub motor last?
In general, an e-bike hub motor should last roughly 10,000 miles. That does assume that you're taking care of your hub motor correctly, though. The most wearable component of your hub motor will be the bearings (assuming you're not using a brushless motor).
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How much-added weight are the motor and battery?
Since electric bikes have motors and batteries, they weigh more than traditional bikes. The weight of the motor and battery system varies widely--it can be as light as 4kg or less for electric road bikes to upwards of 8kg.
Bikes that require lots of power, for example, an e-MTB, are more likely to have a heavier motor and battery package. An electric road bike requires less assistance and will prioritise lighter weight. The latest e-road bikes are near-indistinguishable from regular bikes, thanks to the sleek, integrated motor and battery design.
Take the extra weight of electric bikes into consideration if you have to lift or carry your bike regularly. However, for most uses, the benefits of having a motor should take priority over any additional weight--especially when climbing hills or travelling long distances. Unless, of course, you run out of battery power. In that case, think about how much extra effort lifting will require before making your purchase.
What types of electric bikes are there?
The most widespread types of electric bikes are hybrids and mountain bikes.
The best electric hybrid bikes have flat bars, puncture-resistant tyres designed for shopping and more relaxed rides. They may also be equipped with mudguards, a rack, lights, and sometimes designed with a step-through frame to make it easier to mount and dismount the bike.
Electric mountain bikes have powerful motors that can help you get up loose off-road climbs and over obstacles. Once at the top, enjoy the downhill ride by turning off the motor.
There's also a growing number of electric road bikes. They are usually relatively lightweight (as far as electric bikes go) to help with handling and hill climbing. With drop handlebars, they're designed to ride fast.
There's an increasing number of electric gravel bikes, too. E-gravel bikes are designed to offer the versatility to broaden your riding. With wider tyres, you can confidently ride off-road and drop handlebars for road speed.
The best electric folding bikes offer a combination of versatility and compact size, which makes them perfect for commuting by public transport or storing at home/work.
READ NEXT: Our Electric Bike Buyers Guide
How do you charge an e-bike?
Charging an electric bike is super simple - just like a mobile phone or laptop, you'll need to plug it into any wall socket. Batteries can take 2 to 8 hours to charge; the time it takes depends on the make and model of the battery. Each of these will have different battery types and sizes.
What battery range will an electric bike have?
The range of an electric bike's battery life varies from 20 to 100 miles or more, depending on the size of the battery (measured in watt-hours and abbreviated as Wh). Batteries can be expensive, so e-bikes with an extended range usually cost more.
On most e-bikes there is a battery-level indicator. Some display systems will give you an estimated range as you ride or regulate the power output to let you achieve your planned ride distance. You can also lower the assistance level during a ride to help conserve the battery and extend the bike's range.
READ NEXT: How To Maintain Your E-Bike Battery
The key is making sure that all of the components work harmoniously together. The battery powers the motor, which controls the drivetrain to give you that boost you require to tackle hills and long rides.The display on the electric bike lets you choose how much power from the motor to use while pedalling.
If you're new to electric bikes, begin in an open space with few obstacles. E-bikes generally weigh more than regular bikes. It takes a little time to get used to the bike.
We recommend beginning with low or no assistance. After you get more comfortable, turn on the assistance. This will help you feel in control as the power kicks in. Get used to changing gears and breaking; familiarise yourself with the controls and display before heading out on the open road.
An electric bike, or "e-bike," can be simple or advanced, depending on your preferences. They come in many shapes and sizes to fit any rider's needs, from city commuters to those needing more power for hills and mountains. At Moose, we refuse to let our customers skimp on quality by offering them refurbished models at a fraction of the price!