For the past few months, I’ve been preparing for a trip through Scotland and England. If you’ve read any of my other lifestyle posts, then you know that I think the absolute best way to explore an area is by bicycle. So, when I was planning my trip, of course I decided to do an electric bike tour. I’ll be doing a John O’ Groats to Land’s End ride, approximately 900 miles. Let’s talk about the best electric bikes for bike touring.
Controllers for brushless motors: E-bikes require high initial torque and therefore models that use brushless motors typically have Hall sensor commutation for speed and angle measurement. An electronic controller provides assistance as a function of the sensor inputs, the vehicle speed and the required force. The controllers generally allow input by means of potentiometer or Hall Effect twist grip (or thumb-operated lever throttle), closed-loop speed control for precise speed regulation, protection logic for over-voltage, over-current and thermal protection. Bikes with a pedal assist function typically have a disc on the crank shaft featuring a ring of magnets coupled with a Hall sensor giving rise to a series of pulses, the frequency of which is proportional to pedaling speed. The controller uses pulse width modulation to regulate the power to the motor. Sometimes support is provided for regenerative braking but infrequent braking and the low mass of bicycles limits recovered energy. An implementation is described in an application note for a 200 W, 24 V Brushless DC (BLDC) motor.
At speed the E proved a stable and neutral ride, the motor engaged in good time and there was a reasonable amount of assist (the amount of motor assist is adjustable via a Bluetooth app up to 25kmph or 15.5mph). Charging of the in-hub battery is possible via a neat hollow charging bolt on the drive-side of the rear wheel. The Cooper E is one for retro-futurists and people who want others to say, "No way that’s an electric bike!"
“Second, even if you do make bikes in the US, they will be multiple times more expensive than their overseas counterparts and 99.9% of consumers won’t pay that price. When my shop tried selling a US-made bike next to a Chinese bike, with signage that explained why the US-made bike was more expensive, we couldn’t even sell one. Customers would stand there and talk about how they want American-made goods, then they would buy the Chinese bike.”
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.
“First, Taiwan and China have been building almost all the bikes for the entire world for the past 30-40 years. They have ecosystems and two generations of tradesmen that result in the best bikes in the world. Look at all the top brands—Giant, Specialized, Cannondale— they all make their top end bikes in China and Taiwan. Even look at the Italian brands and you’ll see they build their frames in China and Taiwan and paint them in Italy.”
For many bikes, battery range is more important that total power (because they're all pretty powerful). You want a bike that delivers a range long enough for your rides at the power levels you want. Most e-bikes will have three to five levels of assist kicking in anywhere from 25 percent of you pedal power to 200 percent boost. Consider how fast the battery takes to recharge, especially if you'll be using your bike for long commutes.