A concern with e-bikes is what happens when the battery runs out and you’re away from home. Are you left pushing a bike, a heavy one at that?
Often this leads people to wonder do e-bikes charge while riding? Yes, they can! Though there is more to it than that. Those that re-charge through pedalling can be quite inefficient at it.
Having said that, there are a few options out there so all is most certainly not lost. Some e-bikes will recharge the bike when you apply the brake.
This is known as regenerative braking. In terms of how useful this is, well, you’re looking at getting another 15% added to your range so it’s worth having!
Regenerative might not be the best option out there (keep reading to find out what could be the best option!). It can be an expensive way to get a little bit extra out of the battery.
Regenerative braking electric bikes tend to come at a premium as they aren’t widely available and require that extra bit of technology.
An in-depth look at the technology behind regenerative braking can get complicated so let’s start with the basics.
When you apply the brakes on an e-bike fitted with this technology, the motor will flip into reverse mode. The result is that the motor will run backwards and the bike will begin to slow down.
As this happens, the motor becomes a generator and this sends energy to the battery.
Simple enough when put like that!
So what’s the problem? Well, for regenerative braking to be sufficiently effective, you would need to be stopping from quite high speeds due to the low mass of the e-bike.
That’s not always going to be the case, in fact, it’s rarely going to be the case. Not to say that you won’t pick up energy while doing regular braking because you absolutely will!
Another issue is that for regenerative braking to work, the motor will need to be on all of the time.
Now if you’re like me, you only switch the motor of an e-bike on when you need it. When I’m going downhill and likely to be using the brakes more, I don’t have the motor switched on.
It only goes on when I don’t like the look of a climb and I’ve never been in a position where I’ve thought I’ve been going up a hill too quickly! Quite the opposite in fact, sad to say!
Much like claims car manufacturers make with MPGs, the likelihood of achieving the 20% extra range from regenerative braking isn’t all too likely, to be honest. Not impossible, but it would have to be the right riding conditions to get that.
A different type of solution, which is more cost-effective, is to buy an additional battery. This way, you get double the range without having to worry about how much you are braking!
This is another “yes but…” answer!
Charging an e-bike using solar power can be done but it isn’t very practical if you want to use it every day.
The more practical option would be to opt for an extended range battery, or as suggested above, an additional battery. These will give you the extra range, without the impracticality of solar panels.
If you are still considering going down the solar power route, then portable battery packs could be an option. These will be charged using solar power.
The issue is that to make it viable, the solar panels would need to always be spread out. You will find that the battery pack will be quite a weight too.
This is where it can be worth thinking about an additional battery as an option as it may be lighter.
Forgetting the solar power or regenerative braking for a moment, let’s just look at how far an electric bike goes with a standard battery.
Technology with e-bikes has got better and better over the years, as has the range of the batteries.
It does depend on the model as to how far you’ll get but you can get anywhere between 20 - 60 miles on a single charge. Please do check the manufacturers’ specification though as it does vary!
If you’re willing to go the extra mile (pun intended!), then you can pick up yourself a top of the range e-bike that has a range of over 100 miles.
All of this also depends on the type of riding you do and where you do it.
Taking on a lot of hills? Your range will decrease.
Faced with a headwind? Your range will decrease.
Tailwind? Enjoy the extra help! Your motor won’t be working as hard so you’ll get more out of it.
There are other factors at play too, such as the level of assistance your require from the battery (which mode you have it on, a more powerful mode will use more power).
As you can see, there are lots of different things that can change how far a single charge will get you.
Over time you will get to know your e-bike and how far you can go. If you’re like me, you’ll be surprised at how far a single charge can get you!
There are a few tips and tricks you can deploy to get the most out of a single charge.
A good place to start is to lower the power assist setting you use.
I get that this may not sound like a great idea but it will save your power (and you will get a better workout so there are positives!) and increase your range.
A higher power assist mode will make the motor work harder to keep you going, this increases the power output and therefore decreases the range.
For those riders who have a throttle assist motor then limiting you throttle use will work in the same way.
Another option to increase the range on your e-bike is to take things more gently.
Cycling at a slower pace reduces how much power your e-bike has to use. If you think how the MPG on a car goes down dramatically when you accelerate, it’s the same principle.
Therefore, by going more slowly on your e-bike you will find that you go further.
Now that we’ve looked at riding style, it’s time to think about other adjustments you can make.
Tyres. If your e-bike is for road use then thinner tyres at a higher pressure will reduce the amount of rolling resistance you will experience.
If we stick with the car principle, if your car tyres are low in pressure then your MPG will go down.
It works in the same way with an e-bike, your motor is forced to work harder to get you to your desired speed, therefore decreasing the range.
One thing that you may not consider is ensuring the battery on your electric bike doesn’t become overheated.
You may also want to check the brakes aren’t rubbing against the wheels and consider reducing the overall weight you carry.
The majority of batteries on e-bikes are lithium batteries so the thing to concern yourself with is the size of the battery.
Getting the right type of electric bike for your needs is almost more important than the battery as in most cases, these can be changed.
E-bikes are more expensive than their traditional bike equivalent and that is due to the battery.
Therefore, when it comes to buying an additional battery or a replacement, you can expect to pay around £300 to £800 for one.
This price does vary hugely and will depend on the size, model and manufacturer of the battery itself.
What you will find is that most batteries do come with a 2-year guarantee as standard.
If you take care of the battery you should find that the battery will be good for many more years.
To get the most of out your e-bike batteries you should be mindful about where you store it. Aim to keep the battery at around 0 degrees celsius, this stops it from getting too hot.
Rather than charging the battery after every ride, regardless of how much charge is left, you should try to drain the battery before charging it again.
Using chargers that aren’t the original one can have a negative impact on the life of the battery too.
As will dropping it or it getting too wet.
Where do I charge an e-bike?
The battery can be charged as you would with most things, through a standard mains connection.
Can an e-bike be used when it’s raining?
Though the short answer is that most e-bikes will be fine in the rain.