Range is a key consideration with e-bikes, and is affected by factors such as motor efficiency, battery capacity, efficiency of the driving electronics, aerodynamics, hills and weight of the bike and rider. Some manufacturers, such as the Canadian BionX or American Vintage Electric Bikes, have the option of using regenerative braking, the motor acts as a generator to slow the bike down prior to the brake pads engaging. This is useful for extending the range and the life of brake pads and wheel rims. There are also experiments using fuel cells. e.g. the PHB. Some experiments have also been undertaken with super capacitors to supplement or replace batteries for cars and some SUVS. E-bikes developed in Switzerland in the late 1980s for the Tour de Sol solar vehicle race came with solar charging stations but these were later fixed on roofs and connected so as to feed into the electric mains. The bicycles were then charged from the mains, as is common today. While ebike batteries were produced mainly by bigger companies in past, many small to medium companies have started using innovative new methods for creating more durable batteries. State of the art, custom built automated precision CNC spot welding machines created 18650 battery packs are commonly used among Do-it-yourself ebike makers.
The Dash is an excellent, low-cost option for those looking for an intro to e-bikes kind of ride. The TranzX motor will take you up to 28mph for about 16-35 miles per charge–more if you’re conservative with the assist. The components aren’t too shabby either. Shimano M365 hydraulic disc brakes keep you safe, the Shimano Deore SGS drivetrain, and RockShox Paragon fork with 65mm of travel make it a great entry level option.
At the end of the day, you'll have a ton of fun riding one. “There’s that nostalgic feeling that kicks in whenever you’re on one, that feeling you got when you started riding as a kid," LaLonde says. You might have to get on one to understand, but there are few things more smile-inducing than floating up a steep hill with little effort, Mary Poppins-style.
“I can go on Alibaba, buy parts, set up shipments, and get people to buy these things,” she says. “The question comes on the support side. Will they have spare parts? Will they have tech support? Do they carry insurance? Real manufacturers of e-bikes have serious insurance in case something goes haywire or someone has an accident. That’s $20,000 to $30,000 a year.”
The National Institute for Transportation and Communities believes ebikes remove barriers to cycling, such as physical limitations and challenging topography. The results of a recent survey “indicate that, by reducing the physical demands on the rider, e-bikes are encouraging more people to replace car trips with bike trips,” it says. The survey found that 37 percent of frequent cyclists and 27 percent of non- or seldom-cyclists who bought an ebike now primarily use their ebike to commute to work, an encouraging sign for transportation officials who want to increase bicycle commuting. (May 18 is National Bike to Work Day.)
In 2012, two e-bike advocates completed the first 4,000-mile (6,400 km) transcontinental e-bike tour from New York to San Francisco to advocate for e-bikes in major cities across the U.S. Pedego Electric Bikes is the best selling brand in the U.S. Many e-bikes in the United States are standard bicycles converted using a kit. In general, the kits include the motor (the majority of which are hub motors built into the front or rear wheel), a speed controller, throttle (usually twist-grip or thumb throttle), necessary wiring and connectors, and a battery. Several U.S. companies offer conversion kits which also offer advanced lithium battery packs. Major manufacturers also offer complete e-bikes. Trek offers a line of e-bikes using the Bionx system in which the rider programs the controller to determine how much effort the motor will give in response to rider effort, from 25% up to 200% of the rider's power. This system ensures a minimum level of rider participation and is also used to comply with many European laws mandating partial human effort before the motor engages.