A new study found that people feel safer when riding an electrical bike than a standard bike. With a recent surge in the electric bicycle trend, what are the major perks and drawbacks of these bikes? There are plenty of factors to consider, and it will really come down to if they suit your lifestyle, hometown, commute distance, as well as personal preference.
E-bikes have fans and haters, but they can all agree on one thing—electric bikes have pros and cons.
Here’s our full list of the advantages and disadvantages of eBikes:
-They make pedaling easier
-Easy to park
-Easy to maintain
-Easy to charge
-Less time in commute
-Easier to travel greater distances
-Saves on fuel compared to a car
-Protects the environment/ reduces pollution of fuel emissions
-Riders feel safer when riding an electrical bike than a standard bike
-They don’t require a driver’s license to operate in most states
-Can save you money in the long run
-You get more exercise than owning a car but less than a standard bike
-Can ride without the battery or motor turned on so that it is versatile
-Bicycle laws being more strongly enforced
-Service repairs and maintenance
-The charging time daily
-Heavier to pedal if battery is dead
-Wheels wear easier because of the 50+ lb. weight of the bike
-Low resale value
-Could be argued it’s less environmentally friendly than a standard bike
–A study found that “as electrical bike users increase, so do issues with vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.”
-A research study in the Netherlands 2013 says that in Europe, it increases the number of accidents and degree of injury due to higher speeds.
We’ve searched the internet, scouring the electric bike forums of avid cyclists, checking out data, and consulted both academic resources as well as more subjective ones so that we can tell you about the advantages and disadvantages of e-bikes. Although there are slightly more advantages, some are debatable or opinion – so it’s truly a matter of judgement if electrical bikes are good or bad.
We will cover each of these in depth so you can understand if an electrical bike fits into your lifestyle or if you’re better suited to a standard bicycle. There’s no wrong or right answer, only weighing the data against your needs, city, and state regulations. There’s a lot to know, so stick with me for this breezy read, and you will be an expert in no time!
Advantages to Electrical Bicycles
There are many advantages to these efficient means of transportation, but to go over the most popularly mentioned and agreed upon factors:
#1 Sleek – The design of an electrical bike has such a more satisfying feel than a regular bike, car, or scooter. You get the option of sitting while still feeling the wind in your hair! It’s simply satisfying in aesthetic look, and although this is a subjective matter, I think most people can agree. Scooters can be just as fun yet require you to stand the entire time. Pros and cons to everything but the sleek design of an electrical bike is absolutely worth noting and crediting.
#2 They make pedaling easier – Let’s face it – this is one of its greatest benefits. The way that Ed Benjamin, who is the Senior Director of eCycleElectric, put it is, “you control your speed with your feet, like with a regular bike. You just feel really powerful and accelerate easily.”
Essentially, you still pedal, but it’s significantly easier, and you don’t need to exert as much force as usual. If you have to commute many miles to work and show up a sweaty puddle of exhaustion, the investment will be worth it to you to arrive with full-energy to offer your other commitments.
#3 Easy to park – If you live in the city, you do not want to deal with finding a parking spot for your car. In cities like New York or Austin, this can take hours and cost an arm and a leg. An electrical bike will only require you to find a bike rack or post, chain it up, and go on about your merry business. Although you should make sure to secure it properly to keep it safe from thieves!
#4 Easy to maintain – Most riders feel that their electrical bike is low maintenance and easy to keep up with. This is another subjective matter but, in the decision to pedal 10 miles or have my bike pedal for me for 10 miles – I’d say the electric bike comes out a winner by a landslide. Any maintenance is extremely worth it to the owners of these electrical machines. To be honest – an eBike doesn’t require that much more maintenance than a traditional bicycle.
#5 Easy to charge – Charging usually takes 3-4 hours so you can leave your electrical bike plugged in overnight and wake up to a fully energized ride. It’s a minor inconvenience to not have to pedal the entire commute, wouldn’t you say?
#6 Less time in commute – This is another perk of the electrical bike. The top legal speed for e-bikes is 20 mph though higher speeds are possible. This increase in speed will have you feeling like a superhuman. You will arrive to your destination in less than half the time of your standard bicycle.
#7 Easier to travel greater distances – A bit redundant but not really. One person may need a quicker commute time for a busy schedule but not be physically fit enough to ride long distances. The energy you will save from not having to pedal as forcefully will allow you the freedom to go even further into the city or away from home than you could have on your standard two-wheeler. The opened door to new destinations may have your traveling further than you’ve ever ventured before.
#8 Saves on fuel compared to a car – According to The Huffington Post, with “the average American spending over $2,000 per year just to fill up the tank,” you will absolutely experience huge savings by converting to an electrical bicycle for transportation. You can still keep your car if you adore it, but why not try to use your bike more often and lower that $2,000 that’s being dumped in your gas tank?
People are riding electrical bikes more frequently/ A Portland State study found that
“electrical bikes are replacing car trips as well. Results indicated that electrical bike rides replaced 1,778 motor vehicle miles (average of 9.3 miles per trip) just within the last three trips reported by respondents.”
#9 Protects the environment/ reduces pollution of fuel emissions – Many who care deeply about the environment are making the switch for this reason alone. As Sciencing.com puts it,
“Car exhausts emit a wide range of gases and solid matter, causing global warming, acid rain, and harming the environment and human health. Engine noise and fuel spills also cause pollution. Cars, trucks and other forms of transportation are the single largest contributor to air pollution in the United States.”
Since these run on battery power, you’re not releasing harmful emissions from fossil fuels each day during your commute. They will reduce you carbon footprint and reduce pollution. One of the reasons I am such a fan of bike commuting is because of the benefits it provides to our environment.
#10 Riders feel safer when riding an electrical bike than a standard bike – The same Portland University study shows that people feel safer when riding their electric bikes.
#11 They don’t require a driver’s license to operate in most states – If you don’t have your license, never learned how to drive, or lost it temporarily, this is a wonderful option as most states will not require a license of you to drive an electrical bike. There are laws to be aware of, which we will cover later in this piece.
#12 Can save you money in the long run – Electrical bikes are quite expensive (which we’ve rightfully listed under it’s disadvantages) but if you’re considering the long-term extent of your investment, it will save you money in fuel (which we’ve covered) but also in health bills, medications, fewer sick days, less quick-fixes for weight, etc. The savings can really add up when you’re making a lifestyle change. It not only affects your short-term gas budget but actually a significant amount more than that.
#13 You get more exercise than owning a car, but less than a standard bike – Some think that you’re not getting exercise while using an electric bike, but this is simply not true. You are still required to pedal and will have to put in some work. According to a Colorado Research Study that took men and women that did not exercise on a regular basis and had them put in about 120 minutes a week on electric bicycles – they found that their blood sugar and cardiovascular strength had improved in only one month.
People are actually biking longer and more often than they did on their standard bike because the electrical bike is more enjoyable. This is increasing the positive effects of the electrical bike and adding ripples to its benefits.
#14 Can ride without the battery or motor turned on, so it is versatile – A point I would like to close on is that you still have the option of converting your bike back to a standard bike. If you want to remove the heavy motor or just ride with it turned off – you still have a standard bike. I’d prefer to have an e-bike when I want it or a standard bike, than only be left with the option of my standard bike and no motor, agreed?
Disadvantages to Electrical Bicycles
#1 Safety – This is a main concern and disadvantage that we need to address straight away. Even a 2015 Survey Report from Americans regarding their stance on electrical bikes, nearly 75% stated that the upmost of their concern was for safety.
Electrical bikes, in all honesty, are increasing the number of accidents – but that is because less people rode their standard bikes in traffic.
With the electrical bike feeling so fast, zippy, and ready to join in the car-parade, more people are getting bold in traffic lanes which is leading to an increase in accidents. Clean Technica covers this more in depth, along with an equation for the increase in biker/pedestrian injuries.
#2 More expensive – The average rate of these bikes is between $750-2,500. This is simply not feasible for all cyclists. There are Electrical bike Conversion Kits available, which allow bike owners to transform their standard bike into an electrical speed-demon for around $800-1,500. Although this is still an investment, if you’re opting for this over an automobile, you will see huge savings relatively quickly in fuel savings.
#3 Bicycle laws being more strongly enforced – This has been a major area for concern because the federal and local government do not know how to categorize electrical bikes, which has led to great confusion on their regulations.
Due to the fact that they’re somewhere between a bike and a car, this has delayed a lot of the legislation on the transportation method.
I urge you to look-up your State Electrical Bike Laws and understand what is required under your local government.
To give you a generalization – they don’t want you going over 20-30 MPH in most states. (I repeat – In most states!) but do look up your specific area. If you pass a police officer going faster than this, I recommend you pedal as fast as your little legs can carry you, so they don’t realize it’s an electrical bike and just think you’re the next Lance Armstrong.
#4 Service repairs and maintenance – Being that the bike itself is more expensive, it can cost more to replace parts. Since it’s electrical, the only parts you’ll need to worry about are the battery and tires. Batteries don’t usually need to be replaced except every 5 years or so; therefore, I wouldn’t count this as a huge drawback.
#5 The charging time daily – Adding this step to your day can be a bit annoying. What’s worse is forgetting to plug it in before heading out.
Completely no judgments. I’d rather plug in my bike 10xs a day and not pedal, though. So this is a matter of opinion.
#6 Can be more time consuming than a standard bike – Goes hand and hand with the charging time, but it may require a bit more time to set yourself up for the ride. Once you’re moving, however, you will save time in the commute. This should be counterbalanced due to the time and energy savings in commute duration.
#7 Heavier to pedal if battery is dead – If you forget to charge the bike, this can be a real bummer. To pedal this bike sans motor will be exasperatingly tiring. These bikes weigh between 30-70 lbs. So it’s no joke to pedal this if you’re commute is over about a mile. You’ll feel it in your calves the next day for sure.
#8 Wheels wear easier because of the 50+ lb. weight of the bike – The only real expense (since you’re saving in fuel and the batter will be good for many years) will be tire replacements. These will be required more commonly if your commute is filled with potholes, gravel, or other damaging street divots that cause premature wear and tear to your expensive electrical bike-baby.
#9 Low resale value – This is the case for any bike, really. And any car. It’s the way of the world but worth noting. One forum poster on this Electrical Bike Review Forum said, “I would say 350-475$ max. For a ‘1600$’ bike.”
Obviously, there’s a large spectrum of prices that may resell your bike at, standard or electrical. You could price your 10-year-old bike at $1,500 and sell it (although that hypothetical buyer’s an ill-researched putz). But the traditional mark-down will be about 15-30% of the original pricing.
#10 Could be argued it’s less environmentally friendly than a bike, but they are significantly better than a car – covered this topic mostly above in the environmental advantage, but worth mentioning the counter-perspective here. It’s obviously better for the planet than a car, but it depends on how often you were driving before and how much you’re cycling now.
#11 A study found that “as electrical bike users increase, so do issues with vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.” – The increase in electrical bikes is undeniably having an effect. As the numbers of electrical bikes increase, so do the injuries and deaths of electrical bike related injuries. This is a very valid point, but those injuries could be decreasing the number of vehicle-related accidents simply due to more people utilizing an electrical bike for their transportation method over a car.
Meaning, the rise in electrical bike deaths could be lowering the car-related deaths. This is another subject which requires further study to understand. As electrical bikes gain popularity, we will see the long-term effects and be able to weigh the benefits over the consequences.
#12 A research study in the Netherlands 2013 says that in Europe, e-bikes increase the number of accidents and degree of injury due to higher speeds – related to the last point but separate. This Netherlands study is not saying there’s more accidents due to the rising number of electrical bikes. They’re saying that there are more accidents due to the increase in speed. It’s something that our traffic systems will have to adapt to and evolve with. The heightened speed and some people going nearly 40 MPH in traffic (despite it being illegal on their electrical bike) will lead to more traffic issues before it gets better.
Cyclists are demanding more bike lanes, but the issue of speed racers competing in traffic may take some adjustment period before we see real improvement.
Things You Need to Consider
When deciding if you should get an electrical bike or a standard bike, consider the following factors?
- How far do you need to travel? (If traveling great distances, it’s worth saving up for the electrical bike).
- How much do you have to spend? (If you don’t have $2K for a fabulous E-bike, a standard may be the best investment for now).
- Do you have joint pain? (E-bikes will be significantly easier on your knees)
- Which type of bike do you find more comfortable?
- How you want to impact the environment?
- Do my State Electrical Bike Laws allow for me to get the e-bike I want or go the speed I desire?
- Can I lift an electrical bike? (If you can’t move it when the battery is dead, it’s not portable enough for your lifestyle).
- Is my city set up for cyclists? Do they have biking lanes? Will it be safe for me to ride in my hometown?
These are just some questions to keep in mind when deciding what bike type will suit your needs to the highest extent.
Electric Bikes Compared to Cars
Some ways we can compare the benefits to opting for an electrical bike more often than a car will be:
- Weight – your car weighs about 2 tons (around 4,000 pounds with an occupant weighing an average of 175 pounds in American). Most of the car’s energy is going towards moving itself rather than the driver. Whereas the opposite is true for the electrical bike. This will have a huge savings in terms of energy use.
- Expenses – the fuel cost of your electrical bike will be $0.00. Whereas you’re spending an average of $20,000 a year to fuel you car, along with maintenance, replacing parts, inspections, registrations, parking spots, etc. You can utilize this Cost of Car Ownership Calculator to determine if the amount your spending on your car is really worth it. If you work less than 10 miles away from your job and don’t travel too far too often, why not leave your car at home more or consider selling it?
- Speed – Obviously, if you have large distances to cover like going state to state, you’ll need a car to get there. Unless you’re someone like Jedidiah Jenkins, who biked all the way from Portland to Patagonia. We’ll assume that’s not your groove. If you have long distances to travel and need to go on highways at 60+ MPH, you’ll certainly need to keep your car handy.
Best Electric Bikes on The Market
If all this talk of getting outside and enjoying nature without contributing to the pollution and congestion has you sold on an e-bike, let’s get you one!
Some of the best electric bikes on the market as selected based on expert reviews and top ratings are:
- Rad Power Bikes RadRunner – This bike tops many lists and has a 5-star review out of nearly 50 reviews on the Rad Power Bikes Website. They offer free shipping on your e-bike and ship direct to consumer while cutting out the middleman to offer you the highest quality electric bike for the lowest price. Be careful shopping around as the same bike, which is $1299 on the Rad Power website, is $3,000 on this website.
- Jetson Metro Electric Folding Bike with Twist Throttle – This will be one of the most affordable electric bikes you’ll ever find, with the ability to fold in half and be compact enough to carry. Looking like a sort of Jetson’s Bike, this little foldable packs quite the punch with 3 levels of speed and pedal assistance to choose from depending on how independently you want to ride. See on Amazon here.
- CLIENSY 26″ Aluminum Electric Mountain Bike, 350W 20Mph E-Bike with Removable 36V 10AH Lithium Battery, 21 Speed Electric Bicycle for Adults – With 3-options on the cycling mode, a keyless system to start the engine, and a removable lithium battery, this bike is affordable and practical. It is one of the lowest priced e-bikes on the market, yet it retains an almost perfect rating. The company also allows you to make returns and has a kind customer service department according to the company themselves as well as the purchasers in their reviews. Worth trying out for the low price, simply return if it’s not the right fit for you! Check it out on Amazon.
Electrical Bikes cam range in price from $1299, all the way up to $8,000 – with the top of the line quality ebikes falling around $4,000-5,000.
Ultimately, whether you choose an electric bike is about what’s right for you. There are advantages and disadvantages to them, but advantage or not, if you’re not happy, that’s the biggest disadvantage there is.
Consider the factors above, and if an electrical bike is not the best fit, select a standard bike. You can always save up for a higher-quality e-bike down the line, but it is a huge upfront investment to get a quality model.
I hope this guide has been useful to breaking down the pros and cons for you in a clearer light and seeing beyond all of the opinionated arguments through to quantifiable rationales. For those that care about the environment, their stamina in far distances, as well as the long-term savings, there’s no better option than an electrical bike.
Read more articles about electric bikes here