If you’ve ever wondered how do e bikes work, then keep reading. We’ll explain what an ebike is and what makes them different from a scooter or moped. Then we’ll take a look at the five main components that make up an e-bike and how they work.
E-bike vs. Scooter vs. Moped, What is the Difference?
An e-bike makes you exercise while riding. Its top speed is generally 10-20 mph. A scooter doesn’t provide any health benefits as it is completely motorized, and a moped provides little benefit because while it can be pedaled, most of its power comes from the motor. A moped has top speeds exceeding 20 mph as well. In most states, a e-scooter under $300 or a moped requires a driver’s license, while an e-bike does not.
Components of an E-Bike
There are five essential components:
- A sturdy frame
- Electric Motor
A Sturdy Frame
An e-bike’s frame has to hold heavier and more complex components than a standard bicycle. A typical e-bike frame is made from aluminum alloy and is designed to be lightweight because the lighter the frame, the faster the bicycle will go when pedaled and the further it will travel before the batteries require recharging.
Spokes of an e-bike much me much stronger than those of a standard bicycle, otherwise, the added weight of the motor and battery will cause them to buckle. In addition, the motor is located in the hub of the wheels and creates a great deal of torque that is not present with a traditional bicycle.
Regenerative braking is based on the theory that as you pedal or go downhill, the spinning wheels turn the hub motor in reverse and begin to charge the batteries. Unfortunately, regenerative braking works far more efficiently in trains or automobiles than it does on an electric bike under 500. This is because an electric bike has far less mass and velocity than its larger counterparts so it doesn’t gain or lose as much kinetic energy during stops and starts.
This means that to effectively charge the batteries with regenerative braking, you’d have to be constantly pedaling or going downhill, which just isn’t practical. This means you might as well have bought a standard bicycle to being with, there is no point in regenerative braking for an electric bicycle. Standard brakes work just fine.
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There are several different design placements for the electric motor of these bikes. Traditionally, they are mounted in the hub of either the front or back wheel. The alternate placements include being mounted in the center of the frame and connected to the pedal sprocket, or mounting in such a way as to drive the rear wheel by direct contact with the tire.
If you take a look at the hub, you will see that it is heavier and bulkier than on a traditional bicycle. There are two types of hub motors, gear-driven, and direct drive. A gear-driven motor has a lightweight motor that spins very fast on the inside and implements a planetary reduction gear on the inside of the motor to reduce the rpm to the correct speed for the bike wheel. This allows a small motor to generate a lot of power and torque.
A direct-drive motor weighs more than its gear-driven cousin, usually about four pounds heavier. This larger motor has wider magnets that spin at the perfect rpm for bikes. There is only one moving part in a direct drive motor, making it incredibly hard to wear out.
A direct-drive electric bike is ideal for the toughest conditions, such as a heavier rider, longer hills, etc. Direct drive motors are often found on cargo bikes, tandem bikes, and bikes that haul small trailers.
Considered the most important component of an electric bicycle, the batteries mean that you don’t have to do any pedaling as long as they have power. The batteries typically generate about 350-500 watts of power. This represents about a quarter of the power needed to drive an electric toaster.
Theoretically, you could use any kind of battery on a bicycle, but in practice, you will need to use one that stores a lot of power relative to the amount of weight you add to the bicycle. Otherwise, you’ll be using half of your power just to move the extra weight from the battery itself.
Lightweight lithium-ion batteries are the preferred choice over traditional lead-acid batteries, although some electric bicycles do use them. Lithium-ion batteries, like those found in consumer electronic devices, are more expensive than traditional rechargeable batteries such as nickel-cadmium, however.
Typical electric bikes will have around a 10-40 mile range between charges. This depends upon the terrain you’re traveling over and a top speed of 10-20 mph, which is also typically the top speed allowed for this type of vehicle by law (any faster and it would require a driver’s license to operate). You can extend your range by pedaling, coasting downhill (freewheeling).
So there you have it. Simply put, the five components work together with your provided human pedal power to give you a motor-assisted ride designed to give you that extra power for long climbs and distances while still providing a workout.
Kevin Stard – professional sportsman in category MTB. Participant of the Downhill World Cup #1