Even though it’s a hefty amount of money to fork over upfront, LaLonde says you’ll likely save money in the long run. If you use public transportation, do the math to see how much you could save over time. If you choose an e-bike over a car, you’re foregoing auto maintenance, gas, insurance, parking fees, and potential tickets, LaLonde adds. “So while there’s sticker shock for a first-time bike buyer, it can still be cost-effective.”
Not all e-bikes take the form of conventional push-bikes with an incorporated motor, such as the Cytronex bicycles which use a small battery disguised as a water bottle. Some are designed to take the appearance of low capacity motorcycles, but smaller in size and consisting of an electric motor rather than a petrol engine. For example, the Sakura e-bike incorporates a 200 W motor found on standard e-bikes, but also includes plastic cladding, front and rear lights, and a speedometer. It is styled as a modern moped, and is often mistaken for one.
Sometimes space comes at the most premium of commodities and the Tern Vektron offers a space-saving folding option. At about $3,400, the sturdy folding joints include a magnet and rubber strap to keep the bike folded. The quick-release pedals (wheels release too) help with storage of a bike that doesn’t give up power with a 20-mph speed that can range over 60 miles. But the best part is placing two in the trunk of a car.
After you decide which style of e-bike you want, consider the class. In the US, there are three classes defined by the type of assist and how fast the motor will propel you. Most electric bikes sold are class 1 or 3. Class 1 bikes have a motor (max 750w) that assists while you're pedaling, up to 20 mph. Class 3, also known as “speed pedelec” can also have up to a 750w motor, but it can assist you up to 28mph. Both of those are allowed in most states and cities without license. Class 2 have throttles that don't require you to pedal to get a boost. They're allowed on most streets, bike lanes, and paths, but less popular than the other classes and not covered much here (because we still love to pedal and the greater distances pedal assist bikes can cover).