Types of E Bikes
Although Electric Bikes have been around for a long time (the first patents for electric powered bicycles first showed up in the 1890’s) they never really took off until the 1990’s when innovative companies, like Haibike, began to develop the modern power systems we see today. They grew a lot in popularity in China, India, and Europe and are now gaining momentum in the United States.
Global trends are moving more and more consumers towards urban environments. More people are trying to free themselves from their automobiles and gas-guzzling technology. Because of this, e bikes are a hot new trend that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Before you dive into buying your first e bike, or if you’ve experimented with the models offered in past years, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much has changed in recent years. The batteries used on electric bikes are amazing—lasting between 600-800 charges before they even begin to lose their power-storage capability.
And the new torque sensor motors are incredibly intuitive, providing seasoned riders the type of instinctive bicycle experience they expect, with all the bonuses of using an electric motor, like riding faster, longer, and hitting jumps higher.
Hub Motor and Mid-Drive Motors
When you first start looking at electric bikes, you’ll notice two types of bicycle motors: Some have drive-systems on the rear hub of the wheel called hub-motors. Others are located in between the pedals, in the middle of the bike, which are called mid-drive motors.
Hub Motors for Electric Bicycles
Hub motors are the most straightforward technology for powering e bikes. They use a cadence sensor, which recognizes that the pedals are moving, providing a relative thrust to the rider based on the speed of pedaling. Cadence sensors are very noticeable when you first ride them, designed to give an immediate boost of speed. Because of this, speed-junkies may prefer the sensation of riding a hub motor.
Manufacturers that design e bikes with hub motors place the heaviest element, the power-system, towards the rear of the bike, making them ideal for road bikes. If you’re riding a mountain bike you may want a lighter bicycle with center of gravity in the middle of the bike. If so, you won’t want a hub-motor. You’ll want a mid-drive system.
Although in general, you could say that the cheaper e bikes use hub motors with cadence sensors, that isn’t always the case. For example, Hi-Power Cycles (HPC) and Vintage Electric Bikes both use Crystalyte motors, which are incredibly high-performance hub drives. These are designed to provide much more power than the standard e bike, with 750-8000-watt motors—propelling the rider of these custom-built bikes to top speeds from 40 to 70-mph.
These bikes are designed for motorcycle-lovers who want the advantage of a quiet electric motor, but the same type of power and speed they’re used to with a motor bike.
Mid-Drive Motors on E Bikes
Many e bikes are using mid-drive power systems, often with more sophisticated sensors called torque-sensing.
These are great for high-performance mountain bikes, hybrid road bikes, and cargo/delivery bicycles, where you anticipate the need for elevated torque—useful for hauling loads, riding up hills, or traversing a rugged trail.
The placement of the mid-drive motor is key: It enables the rider to adjust the gears, positioned in the hub of the rear wheel, regulating your ability to ride up and down hills like you would with a traditional bike, while also receiving added torque from the motor. The placement of the motor also provides an optimal center of gravity for high-adventure riding and jumping.
The type of sensor used in a mid-drive is also crucial, providing assist based on the amount of force you’re adding to the pedal. This sensing-system happens in a millisecond, creating the illusion that you are doing all the work. At lower pedal-assist, you may not even notice the motor.
Many of our high-performance e bike brands are exclusively using Bosch and Yamaha torque-sensor motors. These will satisfy the sincere off-roader that is now making the transition to an e bike.
We also sell a lot of e bikes with Currie mid-drive systems. Although these use a less-expensive cadence sensor, their placement gives riders the advantages of added torque through their gears, and an optimal center of gravity. We sell a lot of iZip hybrid e bikes with these types of motors.
Pedal-Assist and Pedal-Free Throttle
You’ll notice that some e bikes offer pedal-assist, and some offer a throttle that functions independently of pedaling.
Pedal-Assist Electric Bikes
Most eMTBs (Electric Mountain Bikes) offer pedal-assist. Bosch and Yamaha design their motors with torque sensors to provide pedal-assist-only. These sensing systems are too complex to add throttle. Additional functionality like throttle would diminish the super-sensitive pedal-assist features.
You’ll also find a number of electric road bikes built with these advanced motors, making them ideal for riding on tough roads with a lot of hills. The Yamaha motors also offer superior range, making them ideal for commuters who may want a longer-range battery.
Pedal-Free Throttle on E Bikes
The manufacturers design many of the hub motors to allow the additional feature of a pedal-free throttle. This feature may not seem immediately advantageous, as most people buy bikes to get exercise.
But consider the circumstance that you’re out on a long ride and you get ill or injured. Being able to ride home without having to push pedals can be an excellent added benefit to your overall riding experience from time to time.
And for some people with serious injuries or health conditions, just getting onto a bike every day forces you to balance and support your weight on a seat while riding, strengthening your core muscles.
And you’ll also find that cruising around with a throttle can be fun, making for an exciting riding experience.
Many hub motors and some mid-drive motors either come with a pedal-free throttle option, or you can choose to add it on as a feature. We offer this function with many of the iZip and Magnum Bikes. Ask an e bike specialist what may work best for your needs.
Throttle-Only E Bikes
Some e bikes only offer throttle, not the pedal-assist. Two types of bikes have this kind of limitation:
Less-expensive e bike manufactured by brands like ProdecoTech build throttle-only e bikes. These are good starter e bikes for riders that want to test the technology and see if they’ll get out and regularly ride with an electric motor.
Some expensive custom brands of e bikes feature a throttle as the primary function of their higher-powered motors. You’ll see this in many of the Vintage Electric and HPC models.
Because these are custom built bikes, you can request the pedal-assist feature be added, just like you can add custom colors to these types of bicycles.
Work with an E Bike Specialist when Finding the Right Type of Electric Bicycle for You
Be careful out there when traversing the world of e bikes. There’s a lot of complicated choices, and some bikes aren’t worth the money. Don’t buy a cheap bicycle that doesn’t do what you’re hoping it will do. And make sure you have an option for repairing and maintaining your bike.
Find the right e bike for you. Contact Electric Bikes Inc. today to discuss the specific uses you’ll have for your e bike, and we’ll find you a great deal on the best option available on the market.