Do Electric Bikes go as Far as Vendors Say They Will?

If you are looking into electric bikes, you will hear a lot of claims about the range of pedal-assisted bikes. It seems that each supplier is claiming that their bike will go further and further. Isn’t there some sort of real comparison that you can make? The surprising truth is that similar brushless hub motors of a certain wattage will go just about exactly the same distance on the same battery charge. If you put so many amp hours of battery power to work on a series of different brands of motors, the lack of variation will surprise you. The distance differences you can experience can be due to speed. The faster you go the more energy will be eaten up in acceleration and in overcoming wind resistance. Ebikes that are ‘unlimited’ (speed restriction removed) require up to 40% more energy to push them the extra speed. This can be overcome with large capacity batteries, and most ebike vendors now offer quite large batteries, but at an increased cost. Cool weather also can limit the range. Hills of course can drink lots of battery power while grinding up a slope. Even the weight of the rider and the load can make a difference. Added together, you get your unique range of travel out of your battery and it is simple physics. What most vendors can’t tell you is how much pedaling you may want to invest in the bike’s travel. If you did almost all the power input from your pedals, you could go a thousand kilometres on a battery charge. In other words, are you getting an ebike to use as an ebike or are you going to pedal push it everywhere? The claims become nonsense and you should treat them as such. Honest vendors don’t make exaggerated claims or mislead the public thereby creating a general disappointment over the performance of their electric bike. The important variable that you should look for is the quality of the motor, controller and the battery. These range in quality and the only way you can be sure of getting a long and satisfying use out of your ebike is to go with the brands that have been tested in the destruction test labs of time or a similar independent testing lab. Justin Leverne, at his lab in Canada, is the expert in testing critical components of Ebikes, and you may want to refer to experts like him. You will find from his work in taking each brand of motor to its limits that they vary widely in quality, and perhaps most Chinese brands don’t have reliable quality control to assure you that you can expect good service from the ebikes. Some brands are junk, made to be cheap and disposable, and would be a very unreliable purchase. Australia and New Zealand are seeing more and more of this kind of disposable ebike (and other products) so beware. Other ebike brands, also made in China, are precision-built with a high degree of durability and quality control. They are built by manufacturers who offer a warranty and expect to honor any defective units at great cost to themselves. These products will all have a brand name that is intended will build a reputation and companies will guard that name with stringent quality control. For my money, this is the only kind of ebike to own. Long, reliable service is the way to make an ebike affordable. If you have to repair it, you want that work to be under warranty. You will pay extra for the quality and security up front at the time of purchase, but it will pay off handsomely when you are riding that bike 12 years down the line. If you are the kind of person who buys the discount appliances that are impossibly cheap, and you carry that purchasing behavior into the ownership of an electric bike, you may be disappointed. How many ads will you find for second hand ebikes that have hardly been ridden? Why on earth would they not be ridden? It’s usually because they are not a pleasure to ride and/or have broken, been fixed hurriedly and are sold again to the next poor soul. This gives ebikes a bad name that they don’t deserve. Electric bikes can be great, but they must be built great. You will get what you pay for in an internationally recognized brand. They will truly go the distance.