E-Bikes: An Overview
You’ve probably been hearing a lot about ebikes recently, and they're certainly getting more popular, so we've put together this short blog to give you an overview of the main things you need to know about this sustainable, healthy, and fun mode of transport.
Electric bicycles have been around for decades, in one form or another, but new battery technology has made e-bikes more affordable and easier to produce, and we’re seeing a lot more of them on our streets as a result.
Ebike sales have grown dramatically in the past few years and now account for a significant proportion of new bikes sales - up to 50% of sales in some bike shops. They are no longer a niche product; They are now a standard transport tool for people of all ages and abilities.
In the Netherlands, it is estimated that 42% of adults own a light electric vehicle (an umbrella term for ebikes and escooters) and a recent study has predicted that ebike sales will surpass car sales in Europe by 2025:
What is an ebike?
An ebike is a term given to a broad range of pedal cycles which have an electric motor to assist the rider. The basic components of an ebike consist of a battery, an electric motor, and a control column which enables the rider to select the amount of assistance they want.
The motor and battery can be installed in a variety of ways: Some ebikes have batteries integrated into the frame of the bike, while in others the battery is attached to the bike, usually either on a rack at the rear of the bike or fixed to the top of the downtube.
The electric motor can be installed in the hub of the front or rear wheels, or it can be installed near the bottom bracket, referred to as a mid-drive motor. Hub motors tend to be less expensive than mid-drive motors, but the mid-drive motors offer more power, e.g. for climbing hills.
How much assistance does an ebike give?
Most ebikes come with a control panel as standard, allowing the user to set how much assistance they will receive from the electric motor. Different ebike models will have different power settings, but in general they can be broken down into three broad categories:
Eco Mode: This power mode usually gives a minimal amount of assistance but it increases the range of the ebike, enabling you to travel further on a single trip.
Normal Mode: This is the middle of the power range, offering a good balance between how much electric assistance you receive and how long the battery will last.
Turbo Mode: This mode will enable you to go faster (up to a maximum of 25kph) but at the expense of draining your battery much quicker.
Most people will toggle between the different power modes on any given trip. For example, you might switch to Turbo Mode for a few minutes to help you get up a hill quicker or if you’re facing a headwind, or you might switch to Eco Mode if you’re trying to make your battery last longer.
How far can an ebike go?
One of the most frequently asked questions on ebikes is about battery range, but unfortunately there is no straight answer! The basic range of your e-bike depends on the capacity of the battery (how much energy it can store) and the output of the motor (how much energy your ebike uses over time).
However, there are a variety of factors which affect how long your battery lasts on any given trip, such as the total weight being carried (including the rider), the power setting being used (Eco Mode vs Turbo Mode), the terrain (especially hills) and weather factors such as temperature and wind. Because of all these variables, it isn’t possible to give an exact range for an eBike, but manufacturers can provide estimates for the low and high ends of the range of each bike.
What happens if the battery runs out? You can still cycle your ebike even when there is no power. It'll be a tougher cycle without the power assist (due to the extra weight of the battery & motor) but you won't get stranded if your battery runs out.
Here are some examples of the battery ranges of ebikes which Bleeper sells in our ebike shop:
Ahooga Active (Folding eBike): 30-45km Range
This is a folding ebike where one of the most important issues is to keep the bike light (so that it is easy to push or carry when folded). To achieve a lighter overall weight, this ebike comes with a smaller battery (168 Wh) and that results in a shorter range of 30-45 kilometres.
Yuba Kombi E5 (Longtail Cargo eBike): 35-80km Range
This cargo bike has a large battery (500 Wh), but it is also a heavy & robust bike, designed to carry additional loads. The 35-80 kilometre range is more than enough for most people’s day-to-day trips to school, to work, and to the shops. This is a real workhorse of a bike, and lots of fun to ride too!
Dolly Cargo (Box-Type Cargo eBike): 35-80km Range
This front-loading cargo bike has a larger battery (600 Wh) than the Yuba Kombi E5, but it is a slightly heavier bike so the Yuba and the Dolly actually have similar battery ranges. The Dolly would be even heavier except for the double-walled plastic box (fully recyclable) which saves weight compared to the materials used for the boxes in other cargo bike models.
Are ebikes legal?
Short Answer: Ebikes are completely legal and are legally considered to be the same as standard pedal bikes.
The standard ebikes you’ll find in Ireland are “pedal-assist” ebikes. This means that the motor will only assist the rider when they are pedalling - the motor won’t push the bike on its own if the rider is not pedalling.
These pedal-assist ebikes are usually speed-limited to 25kph, and when the bike reaches that speed the electric motor will automatically cut out and won’t restart until the bike drops below 25kph again.
E-bikes which meet the criteria outlined above are considered to be “pedal cycles” under Irish Road Traffic Legislation, meaning that the same laws which govern the use of ordinary bicycles on public roads also apply to the use of pedal-assist ebikes.
Is an ebike right for me?
You’ll never know until you try! With excellent Bike to Work grants available (See our guide on that here), there has never been a better time to consider getting an ebike or a cargo bike.
Everyone can benefit in some way from an ebike and, in our experience, once you’ve tried an ebike you will absolutely love it. To that end, we facilitate test rides for all the ebikes and ecargobikes that we sell.
Test rides are available at our workshop in Dublin city centre, conveniently located on Merchants Quay. To book a test ride, simply click the “Book a Test Ride” button on whichever bike model(s) you’re interested in testing. Visit our Online Shop!