Like many other battery powered products, ebikes do need battery replacements from time to time. How often should this be and how do you know the time is right?
If you’re just getting started on your journey with ebikes, how are you supposed to know when your ebike battery needs to be replaced? Great question! Before we get to the answer, let’s take a closer look at ebikes and how they work.
The term “ebike” is a contraction of the words “electric” and “bicycle” (or “bike”) so we know that they use electricity to power themselves when we use them. This electricity is stored in a battery.
Types of Ebike Batteries
Ebike batteries are generally one of two types: Lithium or lead acid.
You’ve probably heard the term “lithium battery” used when talking about things like watches and other small products, and this type of battery is similarly used in most ebikes. It’s attractive as an option due to its compact size and weight which make the finished ebike lighter and more streamlined.
Lithium batteries are typically quite durable and because they’re manufactured by some of the biggest tech companies in the world (eg LG and Sony), they’re usually very high quality.
Lead acid batteries by comparison are larger, heavier, and bulkier than lithium batteries. The most common example of a lead acid battery is actually a car battery, which should give you some idea of their hardiness.
Although many ebikes with lead acid batteries might be of suitably high standards, they’re not as commonly used for ebikes nowadays due to their heft.
Every battery will be slightly different but there’s one common thread between them all, and that is the concept of charge cycles.
Battery Lifespan and Charge Cycles
The lifespan of all batteries can be measured in charge cycles. A charge cycle is essentially the cycle by which a battery is charged from completely flat to completely full, and then depleted back down to 0 again.
Each battery will be able to stand a different number of charge cycles before their effectiveness and durability starts to decrease. In other words, a battery might have a lifespan of 100 charge cycles, meaning it is able to be fully charged and fully drained 100 times before it will cease to work anymore.
Lithium batteries are by far the most durable and efficient and can generally last around 1000 charge cycles whereas lead acid batteries usually need replacing around three times more frequently (around 300 charge cycles).
The specific battery used in your ebike is not only limited by its charge cycle capacity, but several other factors that affect battery durability and can impact its overall lifespan as well. A more in-depth look at these factors might be useful:
Factors Affecting Ebike Battery Lifespan
You probably have experience of an old laptop or even your mobile phone overheating, either through working too hard or by extraneous heat being applied (for example leaving your phone in a hot car for a few hours). If this has ever happened to you, you’ll be familiar with how overheating can slow down your devices or even cause them to freeze (ironically!).
Ebikes can suffer the same fate and overheating can cause damage to their batteries. The best piece of advice to ensure this doesn’t happen is to always store your bike in a cool place out of direct sunlight when not in use.
Fully Depleting the Battery
You might not always be able to help this one but it’s definitely worth mentioning – using up all your ebike’s battery so that the battery is completely flat is never a good idea.
Draining any battery until it’s dead will compromise its ability to hold charge at optimal efficiency so if at all possible, you want to avoid fully depleting your ebike battery on those longer rides. Some ebikes will gain charge as you pedal in which case depleting the battery might not be such an issue, but if this isn’t the case then you’ll need to be a bit mindful.
Once in a while probably isn’t going to be make or break, but if you find you’re having to pedal the last few miles home every time because the battery is dead, that’s going to be detrimental to the battery lifespan.
This might seem a little counter-intuitive, but it is actually possible to charge your ebike battery too much! This also goes for other kinds of batteries (yup, that means your phone too) so it’s good advice to heed for all chargeable appliances.
If you leave your ebike charging overnight, for example, and the battery reaches full capacity long before you unplug it, this actually lowers the overall recoverable capacity of the battery. In other words, overcharging your battery can lead to the battery being unable to charge fully and hold charge over time.
Again, once in a while isn’t the end of the world but you’re much better off frequently topping up the battery instead of leaving it on charge for ages and ages.
Using Off-Brand Chargers
This one might seem obvious but it’s a trap that many people fall into as their original chargers age; try to avoid off-brand ebike chargers or chargers from brands that do not match your bike.
Your ebike will come with a specific charger that is engineered to fit your ebike battery perfectly. Using a charger that did not come with your bike or came from a different manufacturer will eventually cause damage that could lead to short circuiting and other battery issues.
If your battery is repeatedly damaged by an off-brand or unmatching charger, it will require replacing much more quickly.
It probably goes without saying that ebike batteries should not get wet.
A wet battery is a recipe for several kinds of disaster so you should take extra care to ensure your bike is kept dry as far as possible. The odd splash here and there as you ride through a puddle will be absolutely fine as ebike battery housings are usually waterproofed very well, but it’s best to keep your bike on the dry side.
This goes for cleaning your ebike battery too; there’s no need to wet or spray your battery if it needs cleaning – a lightly damp cloth will do the trick just fine, and make sure the battery is 100% dry before you charge or use it again.
For more info on ebikes and water, click here.
What to Keep an Eye Out For
If you think your ebike battery might be flagging, there are a couple of warning signs you can watch for that might suggest a battery replacement is looming.
One of the most obvious symptoms of a tired battery could be the battery making unusual sounds while in use. Things like seemingly undue whirring or ticking could indicate an issue with the battery or connections.
Overheating is another clear sign that the battery could be nearing its last legs. If you feel the battery compartment getting abnormally hot, it might be time to think about a battery replacement. Bear in mind that extended use or hot weather conditions could also be a factor here so the issue might not be battery health.
If the battery decharges more quickly than usual or takes longer to charge back up, then this could also indicate the battery coming to the end of its lifespan.
On a Balance
There are many reasons why an ebike battery may need replacing, whether it be through frequent use, incorrect charging and storage, or poor bike maintenance, and likewise, there are many ways of ensuring your battery lasts as long as possible.
A lot of this will be common sense but as long as you’re following the guidance set out by the manufacturer, using all the correct parts, and not taking unnecessary chances with your ebike, you can expect the battery to last years before requiring replacement.
Most ebike manufacturers will give a 2-year guarantee so don’t be afraid to get in touch with your supplier if anything goes wrong before this point!