Most commercially available E-bikes have a rating of 250 Watts. Although its more than 180 Watts; what used to be the norm 7-10 years before. But it’s still debatable whether 250 watts motor enough for your E-bike? Whether you live in Europe, America, India or China this is one question most buyers have; especially ones living in the hilly region.
It becomes even more important if you live in one of those places where 250 watts is the maximum legal limit for the E-bikes. In America the maximum permissible wattage of electric bikes is 750. Further these bikes are not that cheap and a wrong choice can waste your investment.
The major difference between a 250 Watt electric motor and 750/1000 Watt motor is in terms of torque and speed. A 250 watts motor can easily give you a speed of 20 to 25 mph on flat terrain. On the other hand, a 750 or 1000 watt motor can give 25+ mph on any terrain type.
This makes it easier to ride an e-bike with higher motor power on hilly terrains. Further, you need the speed even when carrying a great deal of load; a 750 or 1000 watt motor is more appropriate. Otherwise, a 250 watts motor is more than appropriate for an E-bike.
Why Do People Wants A Higher Watt Motor?
It’s in human nature to ask for the best one can get. While a 250 watts motor is great for a daily commute; we all like bike than can give us thrill. That’s why there is a growing demand for a 28 mph or higher E-bike. We not just want our e-bikes to go faster but need them to reach top speed with fewer pedal strokes.
This means more power, torque, and acceleration. At 28 mph a person can only contribute about 20% of the power required. Thus a majority of work is done by your motor and higher power is required. That is why most high-speed E-bikes include a 350 or 500W motor.
Having a higher power motor allows for better acceleration, more speed, greater distance, and enjoyable ride. Then there is the need to perform equally in cities, hill and off-road tracks.
When riding uphill normally it takes twice the effort and its too harsh on yourself and the motor. This unsustainable heavy load on the motor may decrease its self-life. The bigger the motor the easier it is for them to handle this load.
Thus a 250W electric bike is under equipped for hill; 350W motor is operational while 500+ watt motor is idle for the terrain. This is why you feel trouble riding your 250W electric bike uphill.
Further, there is a psychological need to always go for the bigger things ( more power, more speed, more torque ) when looking for something personal.
Then there is peer pressure nudging folks to want a higher watt motor.
How Much Power Do You Need?
1 ) 250 Watt Electric Bike
The most used motor type for Type 1 electric bikes; this is the lowest power class available for E-bikes. Other than type 1 pedelec e-bikes they can also be found in budget e-bikes. The 250-watt motor is made for land cruising bikes with a light design.
This means it will perform well on flat terrain for a person up to 90 kg in weight. You can take it to 20mph and gives better range per charge. Its compact design and need for a smaller battery further reduce the overall weight of the vehicle. Thus making is idle for daily commuters and seniors looking for a lighter e-bike.
Because of the lower torque, they offer less assistance on hills and may need to put effort pedaling. The acceleration is quite sluggish and the motor gets damaged after repetitive use on high hills. You can still use it fine in the hilly region as long as you stick to the paved roads.
2 ) 350 Watt Electric Bike
A budget-friendly choice for a high-performance E-bikes. These are used mostly in models where you need more torque and speed but have restrictions on budget. They can be found in the top range of Type 1 E-bikes and lower and mid-range of Type 2 and 3 E-bikes.
When riding on the flat ground they do not feel much different than 250W counterpart, but its the hills where you will see a bigger change. While on flat ground it provides an increased top speed the torque, acceleration and range remain almost the same.
With respect to 250W motor on hills now you need not need to struggle. The bike will feel more smooth and the acceleration more linear. Further, you no longer have the risk of motor failure and can now carry heavy loads. These bikes are still lightweight but possess more power.
3 ) 500 Watt Electric Bike
A decent upgrade from class 1 type 250W electric bikes; these are built for performance, speed, and efficiency. These E-bikes are a little more heavier, generally non-fold-able, have longer range per charge and are comparatively fast.
While it too has the maximum speed range of 25 to 30 mph like the 350 W motor; these are quicker in acceleration and require less assistance. Further, you get more torque and power which means not just it go fast on flat terrain but also uphill tracks.
These bikes are more suitable for those who like to take their E-bike to long-distance, live in hilly terrain, require decent off-road E-bike, more speed, and better assistance. On the downside, these are not fold-able, heavy and take longer to recharge than a 250 W motor.
4 ) 750 Watt Electric Bike
The most versatile categories of E-bikes that is both most powerful yet legal as electric bike. This is the maximum permissible wattage of motor in United States. These bikes are very heavy duty with their wide tires, heavy metal frames and powerful motor.
Built for performance it can go quite fast 28 mph on paper but 30-32 mph in reality. with one of these going uphill would be a lot easier with maximum carrying load. The acceleration is quite smooth and fast making it fun to ride in groups.
This is one of those E-bike you use for leisure, work and not for exercise. These are mostly Hybrid E-bikes meaning they can be used as either Type 1 + Type 2 E-bikes or Type 2 + Type 3 E-bikes. The uphill performance of these bikes are very good and comfort level are exceptional.
5 ) 1000+ Watt Electric Bikes
Designed for extra comfort, utility and strength these bikes offers a little extra of everything. Here you get extra power, extra speed, extra range, extra acceleration, extra comfort and so on. These premium E-bikes are quite expensive but offer the best riding experience.
This is one E-bike you should have for racing with atop speed of 45 mph. These quick accelerating bikes have wide tires that offer more grip and traction from the ground. The motor is more powerful and smooth than others and can carry too heavy loads.
On downturn in most countries it is considered as an electric moped and thus similar laws applied. Making it a cumbersome process to register and obtain license. An unnecessary work if you not fully into buying the premium E-bike.
True Power of 250 Watts Motor Can Be Higher
Many times the true power of your 25 watts motor can be a lot higher than expected. In many European nations, it is restricted to Import / Produce E-bike above 250-watt rating. This nudge the suppliers and manufacturer to underrate and pass it on as 250W E-bike.
This happens because it’s pretty hard to achieve a decent rating such as 250 W motor.
As if you attach it to a 36 V battery and provide 10 amp of current instead of 7; the power supplied to the motor becomes 360 watts.
Similarly, the same motor achieves a 180 W rating if the current supplied is 5 Amp.
The controller often has a peak current limit of 10 amps but is often written as 7 or 8. This is done to push the exports to as many countries as possible.
The maximum these companies do sometimes is to install a limiter; that limits the power to your motor to satisfy the laws. But remember the installed motor is still the same.
This is not always the case but is mostly true especially with 250-watt E-bikes. Maybe that is why you will find articles and videos about how to bypass power or speed limit on your 250-watt electric bike.
Final Verdict: Is 250 Watts Motor Enough?
In short, the 250-watt electric bike is enough for an average adult. Not just it’s within the legal limits of all countries but lightweight, cheap, provide more range, reliable and feels exactly the same as a regular bike. Further, it’s great for exercise with a little assistance.
An average American buys an electric bike for commuting, personal errands, exercise, entertainment, and visiting family. Now an electric bike with 250 rated power is more than enough for these needs. After all most of us like E-bike for its assistance while pedaling and not its speed.
But if you are not satisfied with its performance, need to travel uphill or need more speed; just upgrade to a higher power E-bike. But with extra power, weight and speed you need to be more cautious navigating through busy traffic.