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.)
Whether the terrain is flat or hilly impacts the distance you can travel, as does the weight of the bike, your own weight, the gearing available on the bike, and how much juice you give it. We suggest that a distance of 10 to 20 miles is a realistic expectation. Of course, if you're prepared to do at least some pedaling, you can extend that dramatically.
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).