Are Electric Bikes Good for Commuting?

People are always looking for ways to be more cost-effective with their daily commute. That, along with government incentives, has increased the pressure being put on cities to develop better – and more bicycle lanes. As local governments gain a better appreciation of the need for quality bike lanes, they are providing increased availability for a larger population to make use of them.

Are electric bikes good for commuting?  Electric bikes provide a good viable option for daily commutes. With their electric motor, it makes it even easier for more people to bicycle commute regularly. Bike commuting is a great way to get exercise, spend time outside, save money, and feel better about yourself.

Unlike electric cars, electric bicycles have a removable battery, or the entire bike can plug directly into an outlet, allowing your battery to recharge during the workday. The following are some facts about electric bikes that will help you decide if having one is the right decision for you.

Four Personal Benefits of Commuting by Electric Bicycle

1. Lower more than your commuting cost

Biking to and from work saves you the obvious costs of gasoline, wear and tear on your automobile, more frequent car maintenance, and the exorbitant parking fees you have to pay regularly. It may also contribute to saving money on bus or subway passes. If you completely ditch the car you won’t need to pay for car insurance and registration fees either.

The Standard Mileage Rate in the United States is .58 cents per mile. Depending on where you live it costs about a penny per mile to charge an eBike. This means that you would be saving .57 cents per mile if you chose to commute by electric bike. That’s some good money that you can keep in your bank account!

A YouTube video giving ideas on how you can save money by deciding to Bike Commute

Using your electric bike as part of your daily commute can also save you on your monthly gym membership fee because you are getting exercise when you use the pedal-assist or no assist functions.

2. Get daily cardio exercise

Even though your electric bicycle comes with a battery-operated motor, you still have to pedal and put physical effort into your commute.

That said, how much or how vigorously you pedal is completely up to you. If your joints are starting to tell you to take it a little easier, the motor will be a nice addition to your biking routine as it can ease the stress on your knees and ankles.

On average, one hour of moderate cycling on an electric bicycle burns approximately 300-350 calories. The same hour on a standard bicycle burns between 450– 700 calories depending on the terrain and how hard you are pedaling.

It makes sense that since the electric bike is helping you with the effort required to move forward, that you would burn fewer calories, but there is still a health benefit to riding your electric bicycle!

The electric bike will also help you combat those difficult headwinds or head up those lung-heaving, leg-churning hills with very little effort. It will also keep you from having to use your brakes all the way back down those same hills as the motor (when it’s engaged) controls how fast the bike is allowed to go.

If you’re comfortable using more of your battery charge, you can use the motor in maximum mode and know that your bike’s lithium-ion battery will need to be recharged within 1 to 2 hours of use. Another option is to not use your bike’s battery for the majority of your commute and use your electric bicycle the same way you would a traditional bicycle.

3. Improve your mood

We’ve heard it for years:  exercise increases your endorphin output. Endorphins provide a number of benefits including:

  • Provide pain tolerance. They make that workout you just did take less out of you every time. 
  • Reduce stress. Endorphins help your brain process emotions in a more effective way, thereby reducing the stress that can result from everyday life.
  • Enhance your immune system. While they’re not actually hormones (the happy hormone nomenclature is an unfortunate misnomer), endorphins do increase your body’s ability to fight diseases and illnesses.
  • Slow the impacts of aging. As your body produces endorphins, and your mood and immunity are lifted, the effects of aging are also naturally slowed down because your body is experiencing fewer negative impacts of stress and sickness.

Using your own transportation instead of having to rely on public transportation puts you in charge of your schedule. This means less stress, too.

Need to leave the office early to get to an appointment or need to stay late to put the finishing touches on that huge project? Your electric bicycle ensures you can determine exactly when you leave without you needing to coordinate when the next bus is available.

4. Feel confident about lowering the carbon footprint your vehicle spews into the air

It’s a fact. An electric bicycle does not emit exhaust into the atmosphere. The environmental benefits of riding a bike to work are impressive. Less fuel being used, less emissions, and less resources to create the bicycle compared to a vehicle.

This a frequently communicated benefit of battery charged vehicles. More and more people are moving toward “green” transportation solutions to significantly reduce the carbon footprint that is said to have a negative impact on the earth’s environment. 

How an Electric Bicycle Works

It may be hard to believe, but patents and concepts for electric or battery-powered bicycles have been around since the late 1800s. There was a gap in the development and patent granting for the e-bike during the Great Depression and World War II, but innovation on the electric bicycle started again in the late 1940s – early 1950s.

Since then, the concept has evolved and improved over time.

The Components of an Electric Bike

In today’s version of the electric bicycle, a rechargeable battery attached to the bicycle’s frame powers a small motor that is intended to assist the biker’s pedaling efforts.

E-bikes have four main components:

  • The bike’s frame and spokes. These are heavier and sturdier than most other bicycles. Besides supporting a rider, they also have to hold the weight of the motor and batteries.
  • The bicycle’s enhanced brakes. E-bikes can go faster than the average bicycle, so they need enhanced brakes to help you stop more effectively – without sending you over your handlebars! 

Depending on the model, your E-brakes will either cut the power of the motor or will activate the regeneration feature, meaning that the energy the motor would be using is transferred back to the battery.

  • The battery or batteries to power the motor. Your battery will typically last for 10-45 miles, depending on the battery’s size, the terrain, and how much power you’re using. 

Here’s another way to think about it. The batteries used for electric bicycles are defined in “watt-hours.” If you have a 500-watt hour battery, and your motor is a 250-watt motor, you simply divide the battery’s hour life by the motor’s energy use to determine the average amount of time your battery charge will last. In this example, 500 divided by 250 is 2 hours.

Top-end, high-capacity batteries last between two and a half to six hours. An electric bike battery can take anywhere from 2 to 7 hours to fully charge. You can read more about charging an electric bike from this article.

  • The small motor to assist your pedaling. The motor may be either built into the front-wheel hub, the back-wheel hub, or in a more central location.

The location of the motor works exactly like it seems it would. The front-hub motor pulls the bike, whereas the rear-hub motor pushes the bicycle. Some prefer the centrally located motor, which powers the bicycle’s drivetrain and provides a more natural-feeling riding experience.

If you think about it, if you have ever had a light on your bike that was powered by pedaling it was actually an electric-powered light. The gears sat on the wheel, so they were powering the light as you pedal, and your wheel rotated the gears.

The e-bike works similarly, except the battery is powering the motor rather than the electricity being generated by the rotation of the wheel. 

It’s important to remember that you have the choice of how much power you’re going to require the battery to expend.

Three Modes of Electric Bicycles

When you’re deciding to look at electric bicycles, the first thing you need to decide is what type of electric bike is going to best meet your needs. There are three different kinds of electric bikes for you to investigate.

1. No assist

This is when you want your bike to be a human-powered bike only – or when you’ve let your battery die. Because the frame is sturdier and there is extra equipment on your bicycle, your e-bike weighs more than a traditional bicycle. This means that when you have your bike in no assist mode you have to work harder to move it down the road.

2. Pedal-assist

When the bike is in pedal-assist mode, the engine’s computer chip notifies the engine when you have pedaled a couple times. Once the engine is aware of your motion, it engages to assist you in your pedaling. You are still burning calories in this mode, but you do not have to work as hard as you would in no assist mode.

3. On-demand throttle powered assist

The throttle on the e-bike works similarly to one on a motorcycle. It adds a power boost to your bicycle to move the bike down the road. You do not have to pedal when you are in this mode, but you will use less battery if you do. This is a nice way to get started after you’ve stopped for a stop sign or a red light.

It also saves you when you’re climbing one of those steep hills.

Finding the Right E-bike for You

You know that you still want to be able to get your daily exercise, so an electric moped is not what you’re looking for. So, you’re pretty sure that an electric bicycle is in your near future, but where do you begin to look?

The nice thing about e-bikes is that most reputable bicycle shops sell them and know how to repair them!

It may be tempting to get the best, most powerful electric bicycle available, but in most cases, that is going to be overkill for what you really need, or even truly want.

One other thing to note: many of the small electric scooters brand themselves as electric bikes, but they do not have a pedaling function – only footrests. Carefully read the full description before purchasing your new electric bicycle to make sure you’re getting exactly what you intend to end up with.

Prepare for Potential Sticker Shock

When you consider that your new electric bicycle is an investment in a quality, electric vehicle, it isn’t a surprise that it is going to cost you more than an average street bicycle would. E-bikes can run anywhere from $400 to upwards of $20,000 for a top-performing model.

Here are some examples of electronic bikes and their features.

NAKTO 26” Adult Electric Bicycle (View on Amazon)

Great e-Bike for running errands around town.

This bicycle offers a large capacity Lithium Battery and advertises a riding range of between 22-28 miles. It has a 250-watt brushless gear motor that will allow you to speed on down the road at up to 24 miles per hour.

With this bike, you can choose to either E-bike or use the assisted pedaling option, so you still get your exercise. Because the manufacturer is concerned with your safety, the bike comes mostly assembled – you only need to put on the front wheel and the handlebar. This is a great entry-level electric bicycle.

ECOTRIC 26” Fat Tire Electric Bike Beach/Snow Bicycle (Buy on Amazon)

The perfect electric bike if you’ll be commuting on dirt and paved roads.

Because of its 500-watt brushless rear motor, this bike can reach a maximum speed of up to 23 miles per hour. It comes with both pedal-assist and walk assist modes and two types of braking systems – outage and mechanical. The larger tires provide for better balance and road safety.

This beast of an electric bicycle is great for commuters who plan to ride through the winter. Yes – you can ride an electric bike in the snow, but you’ll want to make sure have a bike like this to handle it. The wide tires are great for on and off-road riding.

HOTEBIKE 26” E-bike for Adults with 21 Speed Shift (View on Amazon)

Looking to start commuting? This would be a great first bike.

This bike offers all three modes: E-bike, five different levels of pedal-assist, and normal bike. It also has both front and rear mechanical brakes which provide better all-weather stopping power. Its 21-speed gear improves hill-climbing, increases range, and provides better adaptability to different terrain conditions.

This bike also offers an LCD display panel and an LED headlight. By using the 36-volt 10AH removable Lithium-Ion battery, you can experience extra-long ranges of up to 35 to 50 miles per charge. This would be a great first commuter.

W Wallke Electric Bike (See on Amazon)

Heavy duty electric mountain bike

This e-bike’s Samsung lithium battery offers approximately 5-7 hours of cruising range or about 25-35 total miles. Its 750-watt brushless motor can reach a top speed of 24.8 when the bike is in electric mode. It also offers pedal-assist and no assist modes.

This model comes with a phone holder on the handlebars and an available USB port. It has double-disc hydraulic brakes for better braking control and safety as well as an LCD display that shows you how long you’ve been driving your bike, how far you’ve gone, and how much remaining battery power you have.

Addmotor MOTAN 26” Fat Tire Electric Bicycle – (Check on Amazon)

Can carry up to 300 pounds of weight! Good electric bike for bigger riders.

This bike offers three modes – e-bike, pedal-assist, and no assist. It has a maximum speed of up to 23 miles per hour and can go between 40-55 miles per charge. It offers a night-mode LDC panel to allow you to read your digital display when you are biking in the dark.

It also has a rear rack to carry your briefcase, duffel, or groceries. This bike can carry adults weighing up to 300 pounds, so is a great option for larger riders.

CIVI BIKES Vintage Electric Bike (See on Amazon)

You’ll be looking pretty slick riding this cruiser.

This bicycle has seven gears and travels at speeds up to 28 miles per hour. It has excellent Tektro brakes to ensure your braking safety and has the retro-look of a 1970s café racer bicycle. The 48-volt Lithium-Ion battery is long-lasting and can propel you for up to 40 miles per charge. This bike offers five levels of pedal-assist and throttle level choices of ECO, Normal, and Sport modes. Its LCD display is in full-color and is touted to be very clear during strong sunlight.

FLX Blade Electric Mountain Bike with Suspension

Want to go fast? This is your bike. This electric bicycle can go up to 35 miles per hour in electric bike mode and even 20 miles per hour in pedal-assist mode. This model offers a high-range charge of up to 90 miles, and maybe a little more. It is street-legal in the United States but may not meet requirements of some other countries due to its high speed-ability. The manufacturer describes the bike’s color LCD display as a “cockpit for your bike.” You can even plug your USB cable in to allow your phone to charge while you’re riding along.

Tricycle Options for Those with Balance Challenges

You may have seen motorcycles in a tri-wheel fashion, well, there are adult electric bikes that also have three-wheels available for those who don’t want to have to or aren’t able to, work as hard a balancing.

Like their motorcycle cousins, some models have two wheels on the front, and others have the more traditional two wheels in the back.

The tricycles are heavier than their two-wheel counterparts, so it is recommended that you get used to the feel of steering the trike and the electric start before you take it on busy roads.

For a more complete guide to 3 wheel bikes check out this article.

Emojo Caddy 24” Fat Tire Electric Tricycle (See on Amazon)

Rider Weight Capacity of 320 pounds! Plus an additional 70 pounds on the racks.

In addition to the front basket, this model has an oversized rear basket perfect for your groceries or taking your favorite pet for a ride. It has a battery range of about 40-55 miles when you use the level-one pedal-assist function and goes up to 23 miles per hour in electric bike mode.

Addmotor Motan Electric Tricycle (See on Amazon)

One of the best looking electric tricycles in my opinion.

This sturdy bike can carry up to 350 pounds. It has both a front and rear basket for carrying cargo and making running errands much more convenient. This electric tricycle can go up to 23 miles per hour and as far as 40-55 miles on a single charge when you use the level-one pedal-assist function.

This 3 wheel electric bicycle would be great for an elderly rider or anyone who has trouble balancing on a traditional bicycle. Great for leisurely rides or going to the grocery store to pick up food.

What to Wear When Riding Your Electric Bicycle or Tricycle

There are a lot of factors to consider when thinking about appropriate attire for your daily commute on your electric bicycle or tricycle, but safety is the first and foremost item for discussion.

Helmets

It doesn’t matter where you are riding; you need to have a good helmet that will effectively protect your valuable brain. Some people like to use a full-face helmet like those worn by some motorcyclists. 

These full-helmets not only protect the back and top of your head but also protect your face from too much sun exposure and gross bug splatter if nothing else. Some full-face helmets have a “lifting face mask” but still have a sun visor for your eyes. 

Top-end full-face helmets even have webbing over your ears, so if you lift the face mask, you can still talk on your phone without having to remove your entire helmet.

Many people (myself included) prefer the traditional bicycle helmet that straps under your chin and mainly protects the top of your head. These are more light-weight and provide better airflow for a cooler helmet experience.

Regardless of which type of helmet you choose, you can count on having helmet hair when you reach your destination. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be a trend-setter.

Clothes that are Comfortable

I’m of the opinion that you should wear clothes that are comfortable and appropriate for work when bike commuting. You don’t need special clothes to bike to work.

One of the benefits of an electric bike is that you’re less likely to sweat while riding to work. This allows you to wear your work clothes on the bike and be ready for the day. Do you need spandex and cycling specific clothing while bike commuting? Absolutely not!

Gloves

In the wintertime, you may want to wear gloves that are meant for use with snowmobiles or ATVs. These will keep your hands warmer and are still meant to allow for you to have the dexterity you need to maneuver.

Regular mittens work well too if you live in an area that isn’t freezing, but cold enough to chill your hands. Simple gloves or mittens will block the wind and keep your fingers nice and toasty.

Locks

Ok. You don’t wear the lock, but you’re definitely going to want to have one to protect your investment. Thieves will look at your eBike and see $$$$ flash across their eyes.

My recommendation is getting a U-lock and chain lock if you’re planning on storing your eBike while at home or work. Two locks will better ensure that no one messes with your beloved bicycle. I’d recommend reading the bottom half of this article on stolen bikes for ways to prevent your bike from being taken wrongfully and things that can help you get it back.

Disc brake locks are a good way to secure your electric bicycle or tricycle. They are a lighter-weight option that protects your vehicle from thieves. Some say that it may be possible to hot-wire your bike or trike so that a key isn’t needed, but they certainly won’t be able to move it anywhere if you have disc brake locks on it.

Another recommendation is to secure an orange stretch reminder cable from the brake lock to your handlebars. This will help you remember that your vehicle is locked and will prevent you from causing your own damage.

Child enjoying a ride on his electric bicycle

A Carbon Emission Reality Check

Although using electric vehicles is a more environmentally friendly option at the local level, it is important to acknowledge that the more electricity we demand and use, the more carbon emissions are generated by many of the electric power plants.

Most power plants in the United States are powered by either coal or some other type of fossil fuel. The harder we make these power plants work, the more pollutants are released into the atmosphere.

Solar, wind, and waterpower are working to become more viable, but at present, they still require traditional electricity means to assist them in the generation, storage, and transportation of the electricity they produce.

The EPA offers several different types of calculators to help you identify your personal household carbon footprint as well as a local power profile.

In Conclusion

Electric vehicles are a great way to begin to lower the overall environmental carbon footprint. When we use them to commute, we begin working toward a healthier future for our children and their children.

Using an electric bicycle or tricycle as part of your daily commute routine will not only provide you with a better way to enjoy some fresh air but will also get your gym workout in when you use either the pedal-assist or the no assist modes. Because the bikes are heavier than traditional bikes, you actually have to work harder when you use the no assist mode, which burns more calories.

If you want to be able to go straight to that meeting from your commute, you can wear your suit, use the electric bike option, and not even break a sweat.

Many of these bikes or trikes will serve you well regardless of whether it is winter or summer, so feel free to get out there and feel the breeze on your face!

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