How Do Ebikes Work? Our Detailed Guide

Last Updated on March 26 2021 by Shine

What Is An Ebike & How Do They Work - Everything You Need To Know

Electric bikes are pretty much a norm in the commuter market at the moment, allowing us to get to work quicker and climb all kinds of terrains with ease if you are a mountain biker.

You might look at an electric bike and think, they just look like a regular bike, how do they work? Well, e-bikes are just the same as a regular bike but have the addition of a motor, battery and controller, which offers electric power to assist you when cycling and make the exercise easier. 

For us to get into more detail about how these e-bikes work, the different types on the market, the benefits of using one and how to purchase the best model, we have put together an extensive guide below that will give you all the essential information you need to know.

So without further ado, let's get into it!

What Is An Ebike?

First of all, before we can understand how an e-bike works, let's get to know what one is.

An e-bike is essentially a normal bike, with gears, chains, seats and handlebars, however, what differs is that they can assist you with cycling, making you speedier and more able to tackle obstacles on your routes such as hills.

They do this with a battery-powered assist, which engages as you pedal or use the throttle, allowing the motor to give you help as you ride.

How Do They Work?

Ebikes get their power from the motor installed on your electric bike, this motor will be placed on either front, rear or mid of your bike, and gives consistent matched power to your pedalling as measured by the torque sensor on the bike.

The battery is what powers this motor and is often placed within the frame of the bike, this battery is typically able to be removed for charging.

How Does An E-bike Controller Work?

To control the power that your e-bike gives you most bikes tend to come with a controller on the handlebars of the bike. This will normally allow you to pick from three different power assist levels depending on the help you need from your bike, some also offer a boost of power if you need a short amount of high energy to get you over hill for example.

Depending on the capacity of the battery that comes with your bike, it can offer assistance for up to 100 miles or less according to the battery range.

Motor Types

As we mentioned above, an e-bike will typically come with three different motor types, all work in the same way and provide your bike with power, but do come with their pros and cons.

Front Hub Motors

If your e-bike comes with a front hub motor then it will be placed front hub of the wheel, where it will provide power to your bike. This means the front wheel of your bike will essentially pull you along while you drive the back wheel of the bike with your pedalling.

Pros
  • Can be used with a normal rear gear set-up.
  • Well-balanced if the battery is at back.
  • Great for sandy terrains.
  • Easy to remove.
Cons
  • The front-wheel tends to spin a lot.
  • You feel as if you are being pulled.
  • Not great for inclines and don't offer frame support.
  • PAS tends to be set with little adjustability.

Rear Hub Motors

Rear hubs motors have a similar set-up to front hub motors except they are placed on the rear hub of your wheel. These style of electric bikes are the most popular on the market and push you along rather than pull you along.

Pros
  • Responsive natural PAS.
  • No wheel spin.
  • Stable feeling on the frame with more power options.
  • Good for throttle use.
Cons
  • Hard to remove.
  • Potential to be back heavy.

Mid-Drive Motors

Lastly, we have mid-drive motor e-bikes. These electric bikes have their motor located right on the crankshaft of their bike, balancing the weight of the bike and providing power from the centre of the bike. Those types of motors are not as popular as front or rear hub but do have some great advantages.

Pros
  • Easy to move and well balanced, with great gear connectivity.
  • Natural feeling.
  • Come with good range.
  • Both wheels can be removed.
  • Responsive to how fast you pedal.
Cons
  • Can take a toll on the drive train of your bike.
  • You need to be in the right gear at all times.
  • Expensive.
  • Potential to snap the chain of your bike.

Pedal Assist Vs Throttle

As you start doing more research into e-bikes and how they work, you will come across two types of assistance your motor can give, throttle assistance or pedal assist. Some e-bikes will come with the option of allowing you to use both options on your bike, but it's useful to know how each power assist works and when to use it.

How Does EBike Pedal Assist Work?

Pedal-assist powered e-bikes only give power from the motor when you are pedalling, allowing it to feel very natural and letting you gain speed on a commute easily or tackle small inclines.

This PAS system works via a sensor in the bike and comes with options that allow you to change how much help you are getting from the bikes motor, useful if you still want to get a workout in now and then. Most PAS systems on an e-bike use a torque system that will match the pedalling on your bike.

Pros

  • Legal.
  • Gives a natural feel to the bike.
  • Adjustable.
  • Allows for control of battery usage.

Cons

  • You can only power the bike with pedalling.

How Does Ebike Throttle Work?

Throttle powered e-bikes on the other hand are much like a motorcycle and when engaged (which is typically by twisting), will propel the bike forward without any effort required by the user.

These throttle powered systems usually come as twist or button style and are suited for getting over very hilly terrain or whenever you need a strong burst of power when riding.

Pros

  • Allows no user effort.
  • Good for hilly places.
  • Easy to use.

Cons

  • Not legal in some places due to the high amount of power.
  • Eats the battery.
  • Doesn't allow you to get a workout in.

Overall, the sweet spot to choosing an e-bike in terms of how it gets its power is by choosing one that comes with both PAS and a throttle option. Having both types of options on your bike allows you to get that boost from the throttle when you need it, and only choose to assist for normal riding.

Types Of Ebikes

Now we understand the inner workings of an e-bike and the different parts you can choose within one, let's get on to the different types which are the market so as you can see how their inner workings differ according to the style of riding they will be suited to.

Folding E-Bikes

Folding e-bikes are most suited to students and commuters as they come with a very lightweight and portable design allowing you to carry the bike anywhere you want and fold it up to a very small footprint for storage, letting it sit in places like under your desk.

Commuter E-Bikes

Commuter e-bikes often are the most regular style of bike and tend to have smaller wheels than other e-bikes with accessories such as road lights and mudguards, which allow you to use the e-bike on the road safely. Most of these bikes are designed so the rider is sitting very upright.

Mountain E-Bikes

For people who love adventure, mountain e-bikes are designed for just that; with large wheels, different suspensions and a durable frame. These bikes tend to be made just for the hard terrain, rather than tarmac and typically have a throttle option.

Hybrid E-Bikes

Hybrid electric bikes are a mix of commuter bikes and mountain bikes and are becoming more and more popular on the market as they give the user a choice to use the bike on different terrains. These bikes will often come with commuter accessories such as taillights but also multi-purpose tyres.

Benefits Of Using An Ebike

If you are on the edge of deciding whether or not you need an electric bike, we have put together a list of all the advantages you can gain by investing in one so as we can help with your decision.

  • They are environmentally friendly - One of the best advantages to an electric bike over other forms of transportation is that it is much more environmentally friendly than cars with a lower pollution output per kilometre.
  • You can cover a longer distance - Electric bikes can allow you to go up to 30km with PAS, meaning you can cover large distances without getting so tired, letting you explore more areas around you and switch to a bike for your long-distance commutes rather than use a car.
  • Suitable for all ages and fitness levels - No matter your age or fitness level, having an electric powered bike will enable you to ride as you can up the assistance or throttle if you need more help.
  • Saves you time - Using the assisted power from an e-bike will allow you to reach destinations in the half time you usually would with a regular bike, meaning you can save a lot of time and get to work quicker.
  • Encourages exercise - E-bikes offer a way of working out that isn't strenuous for people who are looking to get fit, it also keeps you pedalling for longer periods meaning you will be building endurance.
  • Offers great control - Whether you want a big workout, or you want to avoid sweating before work, nowadays electric bikes come with greatly varying levels of assistance, giving you the ultimate control over how your bike works.

Best Features To Watch For In An Ebike

Now we have discussed how e-bikes work, the different types and why you should consider buying one, it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with the best features you should be looking out for in one, so as you can ensure your electric bike will work efficiently for you when it's used.

  • Battery - The battery of your e-bike is one of the most important features to be looking into on your e-bike. Choose a removable battery, as this is easier to charge and much better for security, you should also consider the range this battery will provide and how long it takes to charge. Some of the best electric bikes will allow you to have two batteries on your bike which is great for back-up.
  • Motor - Ensure the motor of your bike is placed in the position you want; whether rear hub/front hub/mid-drive. Check the torque of this motor to ensure its powerful enough and make sure you stick to a legal rating, for example, in the UK the legal motor power for an e-bike is at 250W.
  • PAS/Throttle - Have a look at the PAS modes on your bike and ensure it offers enough adjustment, most will offer full assistance, pedal assistance or none at all. A throttle is useful to have too for when you might need bursts of power.
  • LCD - An LCD on an e-bike is useful for tracking your distance and speed as well as your battery charge.
  • Accessories - If you are looking to use your bike for commuting, accessories such as a horn, mudguards and taillights will come in handy, if you want your bike for off-road use, however, a rear rack could be useful for adventures and suspension.
  • Weight capacity - Different e-bikes will come with a range of weight capacities, if you are planning to share your e-bike with the family check it is suitable for everyone.
  • Frame - The frame of your electric bike will most likely come as aluminium, however, if you can afford it carbon fibre electric bikes are also a great option if you are looking to cut back on weight, appealing to people like commuters.
  • Wheel size - Check the wheel size of your bike is suitable for its use, mountain bikers want a bigger wheel sizer while for commuters it isn't much of a concern.
  • Warranty - No matter what, an e-bike is a huge investment and parts such as the battery and motor can be very expensive to repair or replace, always make sure that your model has at least a one-year warranty before purchasing.

Can I Make My Own Electric Bike?

Now you know how an e-bike works in comparison to a normal one, you may have the question of, can't I make my old bike into an electric one by adding a motor and battery?

Well, the answer to that is, yes! You can buy a rear-wheel, front-wheel or mid-drive conversion kit for your bike if you don't want to buy a whole new electric one. This can save you money and also recycle your old bike rather than locking it up in storage.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ebikes & How They Work

Do I need a driving license to ride an e-bike? 

No, in England you do not need a license to ride an e-bike as long as it does not match the power requirements of a motorcycle, if yours is as powerful then you will need a license.

How fast can an e-bike go? 

It all depends on the model that you buy but on average an electric bike can reach speeds of 15mph by law in the UK, some can reach more however with the addition of throttles.

How much does an average electric bike cost? 

This varies but can be within a range of £500-£1500 and above depending on the quality of the model you buy and factors such as its motor battery capacity.

Is an e-bike the same as a motorcycle? 

No, if your electric bike has limits of 15mph and a 250W motor it is not considered the same as a motorcycle.

What does the Wh rating mean on a battery?

This Wh rating refers to how many watts of power your e-bike's battery can provide till it runs out, this figure is not always accurate to calculate from however as multiple factors will influence how long your battery lasts such as your weight and the speed you are riding at, as well as the assistance level that you have chosen.

Last Words

Overall, an e-bike is the same set-up as a regular bike but is made electronic by the addition of components like the motor and battery which works to assist as you pedal and help you tackle inclines or ride further without getting as tired as you would on a regular bike.

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E-Bike Reviews

The electric bike, sometimes called an e-bike, is in many respects a regular bicycle. The exception is that it is fitted with a motor and a battery.
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