Added help on the hills: An extra boost on the hills or when cycling into a headwind is probably the first thing most people think about when they’re considering an electric bike. If you live in a valley where the only way out is up, then having a bit of motor assistance may mean the difference between a happy cycling experience and not cycling at all.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries, electric motors and some form of control. Battery systems in use include sealed lead-acid (SLA), nickel-cadmium (NiCad), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion polymer (Li-ion). Batteries vary according to the voltage, total charge capacity (amp hours), weight, the number of charging cycles before performance degrades, and ability to handle over-voltage charging conditions. The energy costs of operating e-bikes are small, but there can be considerable battery replacement costs. The lifespan of a battery pack varies depending on the type of usage. Shallow discharge/recharge cycles will help extend the overall battery life.
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).