“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
The electric motor might be the defining feature of an electric scooter or electric bike. After all, stronger motors mean faster rides, right? Sure, but it’s the advances in battery technology that, in many ways, have helped push the eRideable market into the spotlight.
Today, batteries are smaller, lighter and more efficient than ever. Rechargeable batteries are used to guarantee that eRideables have a dependable power source that enhances the riding experience.
So, what really helped spark this electric revolution? The mass production of lithium-ion batteries.
Once lighter, more compact, more efficient, more powerful rechargeable batteries became more affordable and more accessible, electric bike builders began using them to create more visually attractive, lighter, more reliable electric bikes.
How far can the battery take me on a single charge?
One of the primary questions to ask is, How far can the battery take me on a single charge? Today’s high-quality eRideable batteries should give you a range of 12 to 15 miles and be small enough to allow for a lightweight, compact design.
In the case of an eBike with pedals, the maximum travel distance increases the more you pedal. On the other hand, if you motor more and pedal less, you’ll have to recharge your battery sooner.
Beyond this very functional approach to judging a battery’s quality, there is the matter of aesthetics. Batteries shouldn’t distract from the riding experience. Nor should they hinder your ability to ride the bike. A good battery would be integrated seamlessly into the design and build of your eBike.
There are several types of motors for both electric scooters and electric bicycles. Knowing the different motor types and how they work to make the e-rideable move can be extremely helpful when it comes time to shop.
A hub motor is situated in the hub of one of the bike’s wheels, either the front or the rear, and creates propulsion by spinning its wheel. This is the most common motor configuration used by manufacturers, but mid-drive motors are gaining popularity.
There are three different types of hub motors, identified by their placement on the eRideable:
Rear hub motors “push” the bike forward. This often feels more natural to those accustomed to riding conventional bicycles since bicycles also generate power at the rear wheel, using a chain and gears. Similarly, because the bulk of the rider’s weight is above the rear wheel, rear hub motors tend to spin out less often than front hub motors and, in certain riding conditions, can provide a smoother, more efficient riding experience.
However, rear hub motors can be tricky to install or remove since they work around derailleurs, chains, and cassettes, which can also make it difficult to perform certain types of repairs. Despite the familiar feel of power being generated at the rear wheel, the added bulk of the rear hub motor can negatively affect the overall handling of the bike, making it feel a bit back-heavy. Finally, like their front hub counterparts, rear hub motors introduce extra torque to the rear wheel which means they should be used with particularly strong spokes and rims.
Front hub motors “pull” the eRideable forward. Front hub motors are great for electric bikes with multiple gears, because they don’t interfere with the bicycle’s drivetrain. Cyclists can ride with the pedal power from the rear wheel, while getting help from the motorized front wheel.
Why do front hub motors tend to spin-out?
With front hub motors, however, the bulk of the weight is behind the front wheel. This can affect the bike’s performance tremendously, causing “spin outs” in some cases.
Mid-drive motors are less common – certainly when it comes to electric scooters. But their popularity with eBikes is growing. Instead of being on the front or rear wheels, mid-drive motors deliver power to the eBike’s drivetrain. This system is great for conquering steep inclines in rocky terrain and providing a well-balanced riding experience. The weight of the motor sits closer to the eBike’s center of gravity.
OTHER IMPORTANT COMPONENTS – BRAKES
We’ve talked about the batteries and motors of eRideables – the two most important components that make you go. But of equal importance (some might say more importance) is the mechanism by which the electric scooter or eBike stops: the brakes. Brakes come in many forms, and some are unique to the type of eRideable you have.
Footbrake. Unique to the electric scooter is the rear footbrake. Riders press their heel down on the fender of the back wheel to brake. The resulting friction creates resistance between the fender and the wheel, which slows the scooter. This is probably one of the more natural feeling braking system available on an electric scooter.
Handbrake. Another option is disc brakes that are engaged when you press down on a hand lever located on the handlebar. Disc brakes are mounted on either the front or the rear wheel (often the rear). In the case of double disc brakes, where the brakes are located on both wheels, the handbrake might have split duties. The left hand lever handles the front disc brake; the right, the rear (or vice versa).
Software brakes. Both e-scooters and electric bikes might incorporate a pure software solution for braking. Press a button and slow your ride. Other specialized software solutions might include advanced “Autoguard” braking technology that guarantees the motor is completely cut off when the brakes are engaged.
Why are hybrid braking systems a good idea?
Software brakes put a drain on the battery, so many modern eRideables use a combination, or hybrid, of software brakes and physical brakes.
Regenerative braking. The most promising new braking technology is regenerative braking. It uses your brakes to charge your battery. Remember: energy cannot be destroyed. When your eRideable brakes, the kinetic energy of your momentum must go somewhere. Traditional brakes on cars or bikes use simple friction to slow the vehicle. The resulting energy is wasted as heat, which is why brakes get hot when they experience heavy use. Regenerative brakes take your kinetic energy and convert it back into electric energy, which then is used to charge your battery. The result is that power use on eRideables with regenerative braking tends to be significantly more efficient.
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You don’t have to be an expert in e-rideable components to be a well-informed buyer. But the more familiar you are with the basic tech that make up an electric scooter or eBike, the smarter you’ll be when it comes time to shop.
While you don’t have to know everything about eRideables before you start shopping, you do need to be an expert on your own needs, expectations and goals. Just like buying a computer, a car or a set of tools—when you ask for general advice on buying an eRideable, the response should be, “That depends . . . what do you plan to do with it?”
We’ll dive into that next.