Electric bikes, or e-bikes as they are commonly known, are the current darling of the transportation industry. Thanks to some well-known advantages like the ability to carry the load, lack of license or paperwork, assisted bicycling, intuitive controls, and aesthetics.
Their sales have grown steadily since 2017, increasing by as much as 90% year over year.
Proponents laud these augmented versions of the familiar bicycle as being the superior form of both manual and motorized transport. And, with cities crafting new infrastructure and policy based on the projected adoption of these bikes, you are probably feeling like now is the best time to invest in one.
However, as with any technology, e-bikes have both pros and cons. They benefit from favorable comparisons to larger motorized vehicles, which they technically share a category with.
Electric bikes are great for everyone be it the kids, daily commuters or seniors. It has the looks of a road bike, feel of a mountain bike and is cute and unique like a fixie.
When it comes to transportation, an E-bike brings in undeniable lists of advantages. Some people like its futuristic feel, many cherish its intuitive controls and aesthetics; while some praise its ability to carry the load.
This often overshadows their disadvantages when measured against the traditional, person-powered bike. In order to know if an e-bike is for you, it’s crucial that you review these positives and negatives before making a purchase. With that in mind, here are 7 advantages and 5 disadvantages of electric bikes.
The Advantages of Electric Bike
1. Easy Riding
Traditional bikes make efficient use of the effort you exert to get them moving, but there’s no denying that a long bike ride can leave you sweaty, aching, and exhausted. For the elderly or physically infirm, even a short ride can be out of the question.
E-bikes address this in two ways: pedal assist and throttle assist. E-bikes with pedal assist, known as pedelecs, add power to your pedaling.
When you push with your feet, a motor engages, adding its power to yours. It, therefore, requires significantly less effort and energy on your part to get moving. This is especially helpful on inclines, eliminating the strained climb, and the need to actually walk your bike up a hill.
Throttle assist creates a riding experience more akin to a moped, in that it moves the bike on its own, without the need for the rider to pedal at all.
There are limits to how long this can be engaged, determined by the type and size of the battery powering the bike, as well as the difficulty of the terrain. Yet, in all cases this an excellent option to have.
Commuters in particular find it useful, as they can ride into work without becoming drenched with sweat, allowing them to wear their work clothes and cut down on shower and changing time.
2. Environmentally Friendly
Electric vehicles are touted as a necessary component of our strategy to combat global warming, and e-bikes are no exception. Yet even when compared to other forms of electric transportation, they handily beat other options in terms of their environmental impact.
Like other electric vehicles, e-bikes emit zero emissions during use, but due to their small size in comparison to electric motorcycles or cars, they are also responsible for less pollution as a byproduct of their production.
Because they are easy to upkeep and repair, they are less likely to find their way into junkyards or landfills, where rust and corrosion of other vehicles leech into the soil and runoff. Their whole life cycle is better for the preservation of the world.
3. Travel Farther
This advantage, like the first, applies only when comparing e-bikes to traditional bikes and other forms of unassisted transport. Because riding an e-bike requires so much less energy, it’s only natural that riders will ride them longer and farther.
In fact a study out of the University of Zurich found that e-bike riders report their average distances as nearly twice that of regular bike riders. So, it’s not just that you can go farther on an e-bike.
The evidence suggests you actually will.
In a recent report published by the National Institute For Transportation And Communities, the top three barriers to riding a bike are; hilly terrain, travel distance and getting gross sweating.
Further, based on the same report the total number of daily bike riders soared from 55 to 91% once they switched to an e-bike. It’s not strange as e-bikes don’t let your legs feel broked, feel less tired, and help go faster making the trip enjoyable and tractive.
The survey also revealed that e-bikes are changing the way you ride your bicycle. Now you ride more often, to a longer distance, choosing different paths that pass more often through hills and heavy traffic.
4. Useful for Towing
Imagine trying to pedal around with a 300 lb load hitched to your conventional bike. You might be able to pull it off, but you won’t get far, and definitely won’t be climbing any hills.
With an e-bike, that’s a different story. In fact, they are quite powerful with their 750W motor and can go really fast carrying a significant amount of load at a time.
Read Also: Is 250 Watts Motor Enough For An E-bike?
Then there are less powerful models with just 250W motor. Provided you purchase a model with this type of activity in mind, making sure to get a mid-drive motor powerful enough to handle both your weight and that of the cargo, an e-bike can easily pull up to 300 lb.
There are a variety of trailers made specifically to allow you to take advantage of this, from enclosed cargo trailers to kid trailers meant to ferry your little ones.
5. No License Required
Even though e-bikes can reach and maintain speeds exceeding 25 mph, you can buy and ride one without the need to be tested or licensed. The same can’t be said for cars or motorcycles.
Since they have less moving parts you need not need to worry about lubrication. The maximum regulation in certain US states requires you to wear a helmet for Class/Type III e-bikes.
This lowers the bar of entry into alternative fuel transportation, making it easier to trade in your gas guzzler, accelerating the switch to green transport.
Yet, it may not remain this way forever. Studies show that e-bike accidents tend to result in more serious injuries, and are 3 times as likely to involve pedestrians when compared to accidents on regular bikes. If safety practices don’t improve, licensing is sure to become a requirement.
6. You Can Save Some Money
There are many advantages of E-bike but this is the least common. Even you may argue whether it really helps you save money. Electric bikes are expensive but not all are the same.
The average cost of an electric bike per thousand sales is just $960. While the price range is between $450 to $6000; the majority of e-bikes sold are below $1400.
On the other hand, the average cost of a new car is $36K while of a used car is $18K.
On top, you have other operational costs with a car such as Gas, repairs, insurance, licensing, and registration. In the end, an electric bike seems too easy on your wallet. These are a one-time investment as are inexpensive to maintain, do not need Gas to operate, and can be used anywhere.
7. Can Go Pretty Fast For A Bike
Most e-bikes are pedelec in nature meaning the harder you peddle the bigger will be the boost. The recorded top speed for an electric bike is 45 mph, but commercially available E-bikes go as much as 30 mph.
So you can go fast and quick if you want! One clear advantage of electric bikes among its many advantages.
If your city has a dedicated cycling lane you can reach faster with an e-bike than using the subway. Further being slim and light you can easily get through traffic jams or can change your route in no time. Further, you can control the amount of assist you need.
The Disadvantages of Electric Bike
This is a disadvantage specifically versus regular bikes. Often, e-bikes are lauded for being light and maneuverable when compared to cars or motorcycles, but that is not as useful a comparison considering that bikes are not usually bought to replace larger vehicles.
When they are, it is usually in a city setting where their utility will be weighed against that of a regular bike.
A regular bike on average weighs between 30 and 35 lb. Electric bikes generally weigh over 40 lb, but can go as high as 70 lb. The bulk of this extra weight is the motor, which tends to weigh around 17 lb or more.
The battery adds another 5-7 lb, but this can also increase if you opt for more power and range. This weight is not a problem when riding with assistance, but having to lift the bike up and downstairs, for instance, can be a struggle. And, if you do find yourself pedaling under your own power, expect to be tired out much sooner.
2. Regulatory Confusion
There are various classes of e-bikes, broken into different regulatory categories based primarily on the power of their motors and their top rated speeds.
No license is required to operate these vehicles, and yet they can reach sustained speeds comparable to those of vehicles that do require licensing.
Because they occupy such a gray area and have become extremely popular in a short time, the laws governing them are not yet consistent from state to state.
For example, in Nebraska, electric bikes are legal only if they have motors under 750w, and a top speed of 20 mph or less, whereas Utah, allows for “speed pedelecs” that top out at 28 mph. Keeping track of what is allowed from state to state is a hassle that regular bike riders don’t have to suffer through.
3. Higher Price
The average amount spent on a traditional bicycle in the U.S. is $350. After that, with proper maintenance, such as annual chain and brake pad replacement, and new tires and inner tubes, you could spend between $75-100 a year. Electric bike owners can expect to spend roughly twice the upfront amount for a quality ride.
They will also have the same baseline maintenance requirements, plus additional costs for motor maintenance and eventual battery replacement.
Speaking of the battery, charging it is not free. Admittedly, the 4-12 cent cost of fully charging the bike is tiny, but it adds up over time.
4. Slow Charge Speed
Keeping with the topic of batteries, don’t expect to charge up a low battery in a rush. Electric bikes rely on lithium ion batteries for their power, and these batteries have come a long way over the years.
Still, they can take from 3 to 6 hours to fully charge from empty, and if you don’t have the time to wait, you can expect your effective range to be reduced accordingly.
You might be inclined to think this won’t matter much, especially if you plan to ride during the day and charge overnight. However, if something interferes with this routine even once, you may find yourself trying to make your way to work pedaling a heavy 50 lb bike up a steep hill. One of the best features of a regular bicycle is that at any moment, it’s ready to ride. With an e-bike, it’s not that simple.
5. Low Resale Potential
If the time comes that you decide to buy a new e-bike, you’ll need some luck finding a buyer for your old one. The market for used e-bikes is akin to that of used cars.
Just like a used car, someone’s old pedelec is more likely to need expensive repairs or replacements sooner. It’s probably optimized to use an older generation of battery, and the used battery that it comes with has an unknown number of cycles left in its lifespan.
If you find someone willing to buy the bike, you won’t get anything close to what you paid for it. This is in stark contrast to the market for used conventional bikes.
There are more trusted brands in the traditional industry, whose products have a known level of quality, artistry, and longevity that can make them collector’s items.
E-bikes, dependent as they are on ever-evolving technology, can become obsolete.
Final Verdict: Are Electric Bikes Worth It?
Yes, Indeed. An electric bike offers a great deal of value to a person in need while for some it may be just a show-off out to the world, their boyfriend or girlfriend. So the real worth of your investment depends on your use!
So ask yourself whether you want something to save money? Do you want a vehicle that supports your active lifestyle? Something that is good for commuting? Do you need something for exercise? The questions may change from person to person so it’s better you ask yourself.
Rest assured an electric bike will add value to your life with better acceleration, zero-emission, fuel economy, lower cost, futuristic, and vibration free-riding experience. So keep riding, explore more, and lead this revolution against fossil fuels and don’t forget to let us know what you like or dislike the most about e-bikes.