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Bridging the gap between push and motorbikes, the electric bike has filled a void in everyone’s lives they didn’t even know existed.
For the first time ever, non-cyclists can keep up with their hardened rider friends on routes far beyond their skill and fitness level, and commuters have a green mode of transport that doesn’t leave them in need of a shower by the time they arrive at work.
However, when you give up control and start relying on assistive technology, it’s important to know what said technology is capable of.
Questions like… How fast can these bikes go? And… How long will the battery last?. Are essential, as they tell you how far you’ll be able to travel.
So, in this article, we’ll be facing these questions head-on, and finding out just how far that battery-powered beast you’ve been eyeing up will theoretically take you. Let’s get to it!
What Factors Affect The Range Of An Electric Bike?
The average e-bike will carry you anywhere between 25 and 50 miles (40 – 80 km), but finding a specific figure for range is a tricky thing with almost any motorized vehicle, as there are a number of contributing factors involved.
The variables to consider when trying to figure out the range of an electric bike are as follows:
- Battery amp hours
- Power in watts
- Tire type
- Power system, i.e. throttle, peddle assist, or a hybrid of the two
- Terrain and weather conditions of the journey
- Rider weight
- Cargo weight
- Bike weight
- Bike speed
- Gear choices
- Level of assistance
Most people, of course, realize that the power and capacity of the battery will impact how far it can travel in a single charge, but many forget about the crucial role power system, tire types, and the environment play in regard to range.
Simply put, the chunkier and heavier your tires are, the more they’re going to limit the range of a bike, and the narrower and lighter they are, the more they’ll help you eke out a bit more distance.
Terrain and weather are also factors to consider — imagine how much harder the battery and motor of your electric bike will have to work if you’re riding uphill against the wind.
However, it’s important not to consider either tire type or terrain/weather in a vacuum, as these factors are inherently linked.
Sure, a lightweight, narrow tire will boost your distance on roads, but, in wet conditions traveling through muddy, rocky terrain, probably won’t get you anywhere. For that kind of journey, you’ll need the bulky stuff.
The power system is another big consideration. E-bikes with throttle control are incredibly handy, but, on average, they do eat up more battery power than those with simple peddle assist modes, and hybrid bikes are the same.
How To Estimate How Far An E-Bike Will Be Able To Travel
Okay, so we’ve discussed the contributing factors of actual range, but how can we estimate the range of a bike before we take it for a spin?
First, you’ll need to know the watt hours of the battery. With any luck, the manufacturer will give you this information, but sometimes, they’ll give you the amp hours and volts instead. Not to worry, though, as you can figure the watt hours out simply by multiplying the amp hours by the voltage.
So, for example, let’s say that the battery of your prospective e-bike is rated for 48 V and 10 Ah, you’d do 10 x 48 (or 48 x 10… it’s all the same), which would give you 480 Wh. This is available energy.
Next, we have to divide our available energy by energy required per mile (or km, if you prefer). Now, a quick way to figure this out is to use the assumption that in normal conditions, with only slightly hilly terrain, 1.6 km (1 mile), will consume 20 Wh of energy.
So, using this shortcut, our 480 Ah example from earlier would give us 24 miles (38.4 km) of distance. But, of course, this doesn’t take into account a number of the variables we discussed earlier in the article.
To get a more accurate reading that takes into account certain terrain and the burden you impose on the battery as a rider, I’m afraid you’d need to take the bike for a test drive.
You’d ride it, say… 6 miles, check battery capacity, then simply device the watt hours used by the distance traveled, and voilà… that gives you your energy required per mile.
Now, if you were planning a 18 mile ride, you could check if your bike is up for the challenge by multiplying your energy required by 18.
If the answer falls within the total watt hours of the battery, then it should last the whole trip, as long as the terrain and weather do not impose too much of a burden.
If 30 miles is a little beyond the watt hour capacity of your electric bike, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cancel or alter your plans; you just have to rely less on the motorized assistance of your bike.
For example, I recently rode a 29 mile route using just the 1st tier (eco) pedal-assist mode on my bike.
I ended up using only 90 Wh overall, which meant I was using about 3.1 Wh per miles — insane, right? If I had the energy, I could have repeated the same route four times over and still had some juice to spare.
And that’s really all there is to it. Perhaps a math/physics wiz would get you closer to an accurate real life estimate without you actually having to take the bike for a ride, but a math/physics wiz I am not.
Alas, even though I’m but a cyclist, I hope this article illuminated a few things for you and helped you decide which of the electric bikes you’ve been eying up is right for you and your routes!