Bicycle use in on the rise. NPD group estimates that bicycle sales have increased 6% over the last 12 months, and it’s not just your average fixie that’s making those numbers shoot up. “Electric bikes have seen the largest sales increase by far” and the introduction of a number of new eBike companies proves the trend is here to stay. City traffic and the rise of the active lifestyle make now a prime time for bicycles to get a powercharge—via battery. The concept is not new, but the terminology and advancements that have developed in the past few years make understanding eBikes more complicated. How do electric bikes work? We’ve broken down what differentiates an eBike from a traditional bicycle in this article.
Wheel Hub Motors
The hub is where the gears are in the center of the wheel. A real-wheel hub motor is standard for the majority of today’s electric bicycles, but there are some versions where the motor will be on the front wheel or located at the pedal. Some eBikes have been designed for the motor to provide all of the pedaling power, so that the rider doesn’t have to exert any energy in order for the bike to move. These eBikes are used for city tours and short cruises, as they are much heavier (to accommodate the larger motor) and have a shorter battery charge span. Typically these bikes have a throttle, making their closer relative the moped.
“Pedeldec“, or pedal-assisting, eBikes will not work without the rider pedaling, but are efficient for bike commuters and active riders. This is becoming the most common, and practical, form of electric bicycle. As the rider pedals, the motor gently kicks in to provide extra torque. These eBikes are incredibly helpful when accelerating, climbing hills, and pedaling through strong headwinds. As technology advances, so does the ability of these motors to match your speed and gear. Sensors in the motor, and possibly around other parts of the bike, instantly calculate the amount of power needed to assist the rider.
This is essentially the most important part of an eBike. The battery provides a steady electric current that powers the motor. Typical batteries provide 35-45 volts of power. Our City Edition eBike is 50 volts—on the higher end for today’s commuter eBikes—while some heavy-duty eBikes can get up to 100 volts. The standard in bicycle batteries has become lithium-ion, because of its light weight. This is the same type of battery you an expect to find in your iPhone or MacBook, as well as other small-to-medium sized gadgets. Batteries in eBikes are getting increasingly smaller and more efficient as time passes. Take a look at batteries from just a few years back and you’ll be amazed at how far they’ve come.
Not every eBike has a screen display, but in our connected world LCD displays are becoming more common on high-end eBikes. The screens allow riders to see what level their battery is charged to, what speed they are moving at, and how much assist they are getting from the bike (among other things). It’s easy to image these screens connecting to your cell phone to provide physical activity information or downloading new ride maps and suggesting routes. Some of these connectivity dreams have already been realized, and more advances are sure to come.
While a traditional bicycle can be adapted into an electric bicycle, there is no real replacement for a mindfully built eBike. Our designs, along with a handful of other eBike specialists, are tailor-made to the lifestyle of the active urbanite. Specially integrated accessories such as rear tail lights, screens, and performance components will be your best bet if you’re looking for a stylish eBike with real power.
All photo shown are of the Karma CX eBike, available soon on karmabikes.com. Please join our mailing list to be notified when sales start.