How Does an Electric Bike Work? A Simplified Breakdown
June 29, 2023
Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have become a staple to urban commuters and weekend warriors alike. Electric bikes for touring are now used by all, regardless of whether or not you’re using your e-bike for long, leisurely rides. Riders have found that e-bikes made for touring are excellent for going longer distances, even if you’re just using it to zip around town. This means you can truly get the most out of each battery charge.
Because electric bikes come with so many features and accessories, they’re more friendly to all riders. Commuters can have an electric bike with a basket, or even one with a pet carrier! Still, one thing remains the same: how exactly the e-bike operates. To better understand e-bikes and how they work, let’s break down the most important parts of e-bikes, what they do, and how they provide you with the best riding experience possible.
How They Work
Most people hear “electric bike” and think of motorcycles or mopeds, but they aren’t the same at all. An e-bike is a traditional bicycle with added electrical components, such as a battery and motor, integrated into its design.
The battery and motor work together as the rider pedals to power the bike. Once a rider begins pedaling, the motor activates and the pedal assist activates, assisting the rider in their movement. This allows riders to exert less energy when riding and help them get where they’re going faster. Depending on the class of e-bike, the pedal assist function disables once a rider has reached a certain speed and kicks back in when the rider is pedaling at a lower speed.
The Key Components of an E-Bike
Riding an e-bike is just as easy as riding your favorite bike, if not easier. But not all e-bikes are created equal. When shopping for the perfect e-bike, you need to consider these important components that directly impact your riding experience:
The battery powers the motor, and when you’re looking at the battery that comes with your e-bike or the batteries compatible with it, you need to consider wattage, voltage, and amp-hours. These factors also impact how much an electric bike battery costs.
The battery tends to be one of the heaviest parts of the bike, so they are situated low and centered on the bike. This position allows the battery to be on your bike without causing major disruption to your balance.
This sensor notifies the motor when it’s time to start providing assistance. Some sensors measure your speed or torque, but regardless, sensors control how much assistance you receive from the motor. Cadence sensors focus more on how fast you’re pedaling, whereas a torque sensor will monitor how hard you are pedaling.
How the Motors Work
The motor, alongside the battery, is one of the most important components of your e-bike. It causes your bike to move, converting electrical power into mechanical energy that turns the wheels.
The majority of manufacturers situate the motor in one of three places: the front hub, the rear hub, or the center of the bike. Many lower-end e-bikes will have it placed on the front hub, while many expensive e-bikes will have it in the center. Hub motors balance nicely between efficiency and affordability. Just like with the battery, this part is larger and heavier, so its placement can impact your balance while riding.
The wattage refers to the actual power output of your motor and is typically listed with the motor power. These ratings, often referred to as “peak” and “nominal” power, measure the ideal calculated value and average operating capability of the motor. Watt-hours tell you how long your bike can last with its specific motor value before it requires charging.
The voltage measures how much power the battery can actually send to your bike’s motor. The higher the voltage, the more power flows from the battery to the motor in a shorter span of time. This greatly impacts and boosts performance. When combined with your amp hours, the voltage paints an accurate picture of the battery’s watt potential.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to e-bikes, how they work, and important components to understand–there’s more to uncover about the battery, sensors, watts, and voltage. Therefore, it’s important to consider which features are important to you and how you will use your e-bike!