Electric powered bikes, bicycles with motors Stories about electric bikes, powered bicycles

26Jun/102

Building an Electric-Powered Bike

BionX Electric Bike Motor Kit

This is all it takes to build an electric-powered bike


It's not rocket science to tell the difference between an electric-powered bike and a regular bicycle. For one, the guy riding the regular bike is working a lot harder to pedal, while the electric bike rider is smiling and cruising along. Of course, electric bikes are much quieter than gas-powered bikes, so at a glance, it's hard to tell if a bike is even electric at all! The average person, unless they have a background in electronics, probably isn't aware of how easy it is to convert a regular bicycle to an electric-powered bicycle. Believe it or not, there are only three primary components needed to have a fully-functional electric-powered bike. If you can change a flat tire, you can turn your bike into an electric bike. Let's get to it!

Electric Bike Motor

The muscle behind the electric bike is the motor. Ranging anywhere from 200 watts all the way up to 1000 watts, this is the large rotating device that helps the wheels to spin on their own. Modern electric bikes have the motors built into their wheels, like the Sanyo Eneloop electric bike or the eZee Torq electric bike. Older bikes used to have an external motor that powered the wheel using a chain, like a scooter. These older motors also used magnetic "brushes" which would wear out over time. Newer electric bike motors are "brushless," and have a much longer life expectancy.

An alternative to the brushless hub motor is the bottom bracket motor, featured on the IF Reach DC folding electric bike. This motor actually cycles through all of the gears, making it slightly more efficient than a hub motor. It also turns the pedals instead of the wheel, so the rider feels a little more in tune with the motor, rather than feeling pushed or pulled by an external force.

Most electric bikes don't need a bigger motor than 500 watts, especially for commuting. The US law sets the maximum speed at 20 mph for electric bikes, so any motor that is bigger is sort of pointless. Smaller motors tend to conserve battery life a bit better. How long should a battery last anyway? Well I'm glad you asked...

Electric Bike Battery

Over the years, there have been many different types of batteries for electric bikes. The most common battery in the last ten years is a Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) battery. This is the same battery used in a lawnmower, golf cart, or go kart. You've seen these at any local hardware store - they're heavy, black, rectangular batteries. On an electric bike, they don't go very far. Depending on the bike, they have about a ten mile range. Luckily, technology has improved in recent years, and there are now much lighter batteries that have a much better range.

The most recent chemical of choice for electric bikes is Lithium. A bike running on Lithium batteries can run for 20-30 miles on a single charge, and some bikes even have the ability to recharge the battery while riding. The BionX motor kit Lithium batteries even have protection circuitry built in, so it's almost impossible to damage them from extreme motor power. Lithium batteries tend to be more expensive than SLA battreries, but the life span is also two or three times as long. There is no better battery on the market today.

Electric Bike Control

How does it work? Well you've attached a battery to a motor, so we're almost there. Now you need a way to control the whole contraption. Want this thing to move without pedaling? Just add a throttle. This is referred to as an "ebike," which is practically a moped. Ebikes are nice if you don't want to ride a bike, but they tend to drain batteries quickly. The most efficient electric bike utilizes pedal-assist, or pedelec, technology.

A pedelec bike works by measuring the rider's pedal power, and then spinning the motor at a corresponding speed, based on a preset on the handlebars. Plainly, if you select "MODE 3" you'll get 50% power from the motor, while if you select "MODE 4" you'll get 100% power. No throttles to worry about, it's all automatic. Pedelec bikes are also called Hybrid bikes because they are a "hybrid" of human power and motor power. The best part about pedelec bikes is that you feel like you're still riding a regular bike, just getting a gentle push as you go.

That's it! Just three components and you can turn a bike into a full-blown electric-powered bike! There are a bunch of different electric bike motor kits on the market, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Make sure you check out the motor, the battery, and control system before buying one, because you don't want to be stuck with something cheap!

25May/082

Electric bike kit | the guide

Electric bike kit

Electric bike kit

NYCeWheels just added an electric bike kit guide to their website.

They walk you through all of the important questions step by step. I wish they had it around when I first picked out my folding bike and equipped it with an electric bike kit. It'd have saved me some time during my research. The electric bike kit guide appears to be an ongoing project. I encourage all of you to look it over and see if you have any questions that aren't answered on it. The more feedback you give them, the more they'll improve and add to the electric bike kit guide, and the more useful it will be to everyone.

I always get excited by resources such as this, especially when they are dynamic and respond to the needs of the user with new updates and information. It just makes me feel like part of a community. The electric bike kit community grows more and more every day, so it's good to see resources for that community, with it in mind, that respond to the needs of the community.

Pick the ultimate electric bike kit.

5May/073

Electric bike motor, electric bike kits

Electric bike kits are comprised of an electric bike motor, a battery pack, throttle, and charger.  The electric bike motor kit should (and most do) include everything you need when you want a conversion kit for electric bike.

It is a good idea to make sure that the electric bike motor kit you are buying does include everything you will need to convert your bike to an electric bike.  If the retailer does not indicate that the electric bike kit includes everything you need than you may want to ask the question before buying.

An electric bike motor kit is a great investment if you already have a quality bike that you are comfortable with and is compatible for an electric bike motor kit.

This is when it becomes really important to choose your retailer carefully.  The reality is that some online retailers are just looking to make a profit and will sell an electric bike kit to anyone that wants one, whether or not it will work with their specific bike.

A reputable retailer will make sure your bike is compatible first or they will advise you before you buy your electric bike kit.

The electric bike motor and the full electric bike kit can also give you the best of both worlds when it is combined with a folding bike.  A folding bike is a great way to minimize the storage space needed while maximizing your ability to obtain all the benefits of a great bike.

Some retailers offer folding bikes that are already electrified – the retailer adds the electric bike conversion kit to the bike for you.  Finding a retailer that can do this is great because then you can be assured that your electric bike conversion kit is installed properly and will operate when you receive it.

Though it is relatively easy to install an electric bike motor kit on your bike, if you have the ability to hire a retailer to do it for you than you are better off.  For those that cannot, you can probably install your electric motor bike quickly and easily.

BionX electric bike kit

BionX electric bike kit

Again, the most important thing to remember if you are considering buying an electric bike kit is to make sure your motorized bike kit includes everything you need to convert your bike to an electric bike – and, of course, that your bike can be converted with an electric bike kit.

More and more retailers offer custom made electric bike kits.  If you are considering buying a custom electric bike conversion kit you again want to make sure that you are buying from a reputable retailer.  We found a great electric bike motor kit at a shop in New York City called NYCewheels.  Click here for details on the  BionX electric bike kit.

25Jan/073

Electric bike, throttle activated or pedal activated?

Electric bikes come fit into two main categories.  Though different manufacturers and retailers may refer to electric bikes in different ways it seems almost universally accepted in the motorized bikes industry that the difference in the two types of electric bicycles is based on how the power of the electric bicycle is initiated.

Electric bikes fall into two categories and most retailers and manufacturers label these as power-on-demand motorized bikes and power-assist motorized bikes.  Knowing the difference between these two types of electric bikes is important.

Power-on-demand electric bikes are throttle activated or gear activated, it is not uncommon to see manufacturers use one or both of these terms when they are referring to power-on-demand electric bikes.

These types of motorized bikes can and will do 100% of the work for you when they are activated.  The most powerful types of power-on-demand electric bikes can easily propel you up even a steep hill when activated – much to the delight of men and women in San Francisco no doubt!

The power-on-demand electric bike is great for someone who needs to travel a longer distance than they are comfortable doing on their own.  Whenever they get tired they can click on the power of their motorized bike and let the electric bicycle do the work for them.

People who own the power-on-demand electric bikes comment frequently on how surprised they were by how efficient and powerful these motorized bikes are and how they can commute to work, or to school for pennies compared to what they pay for mass-transit or driving to and from work or the train station.

Power-on-demand electric bikes are also great for people who want to be able to keep up with their children or grandchildren but may not be physically fit enough to do it on their own, they can simply activate the motor of the electric bike when they start to tire.

The other primary type of electric bicycles are the power-assist bikes, also referred to as pedal activated bikes.  These ingenious motorized bicycles can actually alleviate about 50% of the workload of riding your bicycle – you can go twice the distance for the same effort!

The power-assist electric bikes are quite popular for people who travel around large and small cities, or around any town for that matter and want some extra assistance so they can travel quicker with less energy.

Power-assist electric bikes make great alternatives to a second car, or over-crowded buses and subways.  Imagine not having to take mass-transportation anymore because you can get where you need to go faster and cheaper with a motorized bike.

These types of electric bikes are also great for people that are trying to improve their physical fitness but need some reassurance as they begin a cycling program.  The power-assist feature lets them lighten the workload and build up more stamina and strength.

Most companies refer to electric bikes in these two main categories:  power-on-demand or throttle activated and power-assist or pedal activated.Need help selecting the right electric bike for you? One of the first questions people always ask is "What is the best electric bike?" When selecting an electric bike you'll also want to consider where you live, as your local environment will influence your set of needs and what works best for you. For example, if you live in California you'd want an electric bike that would be through and through a 'California electric bike.'

"What if I'm looking for something very light weight, something that I can carry with one hand. I want to take it on the train. I'd only need it to travel very short distances. I guess it doesn't even have to be electric." Then you're not looking for an electric bike, you're looking for a kick scooter! If you're not convinced that kick scooters can offer serious changes in your life, we beg you to read the following story: "What if I owned a kick scooter?"

"Out of the electric bikes, what is the lightest folding bike?" You can compare and contrast the eZee Quando, the Birdy Bionx, and the Xootr Bionx here: Electric folding bikes.

21Oct/052

My electric bike adventure

If you're like me, you probably suffered from all kinds of depression before you owned an electric bicycle and didn't even know why. In my case, I have something called Seasonal Affective Disorder or seasonal depression as it's more commonly known. Yes, I am quite literally SAD! This coupled with how defeated I felt when my doctor advised me to take better care of myself due to my diabetes was definitely a one-two punch for me last winter (that is, until I purchased my electric motor bicycle). SAD was something I vowed would not get me down this wintertime, not as long as I had my electric motor bike. I had made plans to ride my electric bike with the same frequency I had all spring and summer long into the decidedly less electric bike friendly winter months. I would be utterly unphased by whatever Old Man Winter put in front of me and my electric motor bicycle. Below freezing temperatures are no match for electric powered bicycles!

But then winter rolled around and it looked as if global warming took care of my SAD for me. Bright days and moderate temperatures allowed me to run down and get a newspaper in just a sweatshirt. I decided that this was a cause for celebration. I came upstairs and my wife was sitting on the couch with her laptop looking up electric motor bicycles for a future purchase. She had been so impressed by my Birdy BionX folder that she decided that she wanted an electric motor bike of her own. And who could blame her for those electric powered bicycle aspirations? Since I bought my electric bicycle, I felt like a completely new man. I think she knew electric bicycles be the best thing she's done since moving out of her Mom's house in Neptune, New Jersey around when she met yours truly. But enough about Meredith and New Jersey, this story is all about me and my electric motor bicycle!

I decided that I would take advantage of the gorgeous weather with one of my patented Manhattan adventures. These almost always involve electric powered bikes. One of my favorite pastimes is to head out to my local dealer and check out the latest and greatest electric motor bikes. I go to a little place out here on the Upper East Side of New York City called NYCeWheels and they always seem to know what the coolest new gadgets are. I hopped on my electric bike and zipped off to the shop. My favorite R.E.M. song was playing ("Shiny Happy People" for those of you who might be curious!) as I waltzed in and leaned my electric powered bike on the side wall and took in the vast selection of electric bikes in stock.

I decided to take an Ezee Quando out for a test ride (another electric powered bicycle that folds, I'm obsessed!) and I had a great time zipping in and out of the park. I brought it back into the shop with a smile on my face that was both huge and genuine. What a great ride! I might have to get one for Meredith just so we can maybe take a trip down to Florida sometime and ride around on our brand new electric bicycles. I also tried out something that has been referred to as a California electric scooter, the GoPed. In my opinion, an electric bike has it beat any day!