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Electric bikes have a lot of benefits. They’re less hard on your joints, they reduce back and neck pain compared to other bikes, and when stacked up against cars, you’ll see they’re truly cost-effective and environmentally friendly. There’s just one negative aspect of electric bikes…
Why are electric bikes so heavy?
Electric bikes are heavy because of the additional materials and weightier frame. The motor, battery, display screen, control system, and the wiring all add up to a heavier bike. Extra weight is added to the frame to hold up the motor and make the bike maneuverable even at high speeds.
What exactly makes up this weight?
Why is more weight helpful for maneuverability?
And are all-electric bikes just as heavy?
Read on to learn more.
The Components of an Electric Bike that Add Weight
We know the various pieces that make up an electric bike, but what do those components do, and why are they necessary for electric bikes? Each of these pieces add a certain amount of weight, as well.
The Motor adds Weight
A motor adds up to 8 kg to your bike’s weight. It works by translating electric energy into mechanical energy, propelling your bike.
If you open up your motor, you’ll see wires wound around a series of poles in a circle. This is called a “stator.” When the motor controller draws current from the battery, the electricity enters the wires and becomes an electromagnet.
There are permanent magnets attached to the rotor. Current passes through the electromagnets in a circular pattern, repelling and attracting the permanent magnets so that they spin. This produces torque, which turns the elements on the bike that are usually turned by your pedaling alone.
Types of E-Bike Motors
There are two types of motors: mid-drive and hub-motor. The mid-drive is usually somewhere in the middle of your bike and has a chain that helps to turn your bike tires. The hub-motor turns the wheels themselves and is attached to the hub.
Hub motors can be easier for less-experienced cyclists because they require less shifting. Mid-drives increase the range of your battery because shifting improves efficiency. It’s also easier to change the tire with the mid-drive.
Climbing hills is simple with both, so if that’s your concern, either drive will work out fine. Try them both and compare!
Lighter Options for E-Bike Motors
If you want a lighter motor, you’ll have to sacrifice some power for it, but these can be great in-between options that compromise weight and speed.
An example is the Fazua motor that has a 250Wh battery but only weighs 4.7 kg, half as much as the usual motors. With the Fazua, you still get a full-power 250W motor drive, which means you’re not giving much up in exchange for lighter weight.
Another example is the Vivax Assist motor system that is small enough to fit into the seat tube of your bike and drives the cranks of the bike directly. Even with the battery, this space-saving innovation makes it only 1.8 kg. It’s going to be nowhere near as powerful as other electric bikes, however.
The e-Bike Battery adds Weight
Batteries on an electric bike weigh between around 2 kg and 3.5 kg. The battery on an electric bike stores power for your bike to use. It pumps power into the motor to be turned from electromagnetic energy into mechanical energy.
The following are some frequently asked questions about batteries. Before you pick a battery and a bike, check out these average statistics and compare the bike you’re thinking about choosing to the usual numbers.
- A single battery charge can make it 22-50 miles
- It takes 3.5 to 6 hours to recharge your bike battery
- A bike battery will last over 500 charges that reach full capacity
- It takes 400-500 watt-hours to charge a battery, which will cost you approximately 4 or 5 cents
- Some batteries recharge when you brake or go downhill, like a hybrid car, but this is an advanced feature and will cost you several hundred dollars more.
Now that you know a little more about average bike statistics, you’ll be able to make an informed purchase when choosing your electric bike.
Top Five Electric Bike Batteries
These electric bike batteries are all great choices for your bike. We have listed them with the type, voltage, and amperage.
- AW 36V 10AH, Lithium, 36V, 10 AH (View on Amazon)
- Flying Horse ModWheel, Lithium-Ion, 36V, 11 AH (View on Amazon)
- Joyisi, Lithium-Ion, 48V, 20 AH (View on Amazon)
- Mighty Max Baoshi, Sealed Lead Acid, 4 x 12V, 22 AH
- Universal Power Group UB12120, Sealed Lead Acid, 2 x 12V, 12 AH
Lithium-ion generally performs better in terms of capacity, efficiency, and lifespan. Lead-acid batteries tend to get the job done and cost less.
Control Display adds Weight
You can control the power output of your bike using the display. It acts as the computer to help you regulate the motor and battery function. You can see your battery level and speed there, as well as set the amount of support you want to receive from the motor’s power.
The control system, AKA controller system, sends the signals and selections of the control display to the motor. This controls when the motor runs and how strongly.There are three kinds of control systems, besides some variations. These are throttle only, pedelec, and dual-control.
These control systems are simple and often lower cost than other control systems. Simply twist or push the thumb throttle. Whatever percentage you push the throttle to, that will be the percent of power.
So, for example, if you push the throttle to 20%, you will only be using 20% of the mother’s power.
The problem with these throttle-only controls is you might accidentally activate the motor by grabbing the throttle before you’ve even mounted the bike or started pedaling. This can cause accidents if you’re not careful.
These only power up your motor once you start pedaling. These bikes get a really great range for the batteries because you’re not relying only on the motor’s power to push the bike onward.
However, this means that you won’t be able to use the motor to its maximum in difficult pedaling conditions. For instance, if you can’t get the bike started going up a mountain because it’s too steep, the motor won’t kick in.
These bikes sell better in Europe than the US. In fact, other types of control systems are outlawed in some European nations.
These combine the pedelec and throttle controlled systems. One problem is they sometimes require you to take your eyes off the road to change the settings using your control display. This can be dangerous while cycling.
Despite this, it’s the best system, because it combines the energy savings of pedelec with the control and convenience of a throttle control system.
Wiring adds a Little Extra Weight
This wiring simply refers to the physical material that connects all the different aspects of the electric bike. It weighs the least out of all of the parts, but still contributes to making the bike heavier than a standard bike, because a standard bike would not need it.
Wide Tires add Weight
In addition to all the acceleration-related components, an electric bike will often have wider tires. This aids maneuverability and gives you a sturdier, safer ride, even with the increased speed. While they’re not going to weigh that much more than regular bike tires, every ounce of extra weight adds to the overall heaviness.
Why Use an Electric Bikes Instead of a Regular Bike?
Knowing that all these extra components increase the weight of the bike by twenty-thirty pounds, you might be wondering why people want an electric bike in the first place?
There are many reasons to get an electric bike. Here are a few of the most popular explanations for purchasing an electric bike.
- Go faster with no additional effort
- Climb hills more easily
- Reduce sweating from the exercise
- Safer crossing at intersections, because starts are easier
- Easier on your joints
- Makes it simple to set the same speed as a riding partner, even if you usually ride bikes at different paces
- Get around fast without the negative impact on the environment that comes from a car!
- Great for bike commuting to work or around town! You can pedal to work without sweating.
All of these reasons make an electric bike a great choice, despite the weight increase. In fact, the increased weight can have its own benefits when it comes to steering the bike and getting you the safest ride possible.
How Does Weight Aid Maneuverability?
The main draw of an electric bike is the increase in speed. An electric bike zooms along at a much faster pace than a bike propelled by human energy alone.
However, all that speed can have a draw back, especially if the bike is particularly light. The main drawback is maneuverability. It’s harder for you to control a lighter bike, even if it’s going the same speed as a heavier bike.
Why is that? It comes down to Newton’s Second Law, along with other forces and obstacles interfering with your bike’s agility.
Newton’s Second Law
You probably already know that it takes more force to get a heavier object moving at a higher speed. Throwing something that weighs 5 pounds is easier than throwing something that weighs 20, after all.
But the same applies for changing the direction of an object. Imagine someone tosses a balled-up piece of paper at you. You can easily bat it out of the way, but if someone throws a ten-pound weight at you, that will be a lot harder to change its course.
So when you’re riding your bike, a small twist of the wheel has a big effect on a lightweight bike, but a smaller effect on a heavier bike. This additional control means that it’s safer for electric bikes to be a little heavier.
Interfering Forces and Obstacles
If you have an easier time redirecting a lighter bike and turning it has more of an effect than other forces and objects around, you can knock the bike off course if it’s lighter.
So in a bike that’s super lightweight but still has an electric motor, you could be zooming along at 20 miles per hour, and a small rock in the road could knock you off course or off the bike. Heavier bikes won’t need to worry about that as much.
What are Lightest Electric Bikes?
The following is a list of top-performing electric bikes that also weigh less. However, keep in mind that a lighter weight sacrifices handling and agility, as well as the powerful support of a heavier motor.
Montanara Volta, 19 Pounds
The motor on this bike gets up to 240-WH and can still climb mountains, which is not always the case with lighter electric bikes.
This bike was built in the home workshop of Jean-Pierre Schiltknecht. He wanted to build the lightest mountain bike ever made, and he accomplished this, earning it a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
It has a tiny RC motor but still has high-performance, good enough to get you to the highest peak you’re reaching for. The bike, however, cost $15,000 to make, so it’s probably not the price range you’re looking for.
Vivax Veloce, 21.5 Pounds
This motor has 160-WH, and at $5,500, the price tag is a little more reasonable for the avid biker looking for a lightweight, high-quality option.
The motor, called the Gruber Assist motor, is stealthily built into the seat post, so it doesn’t even look like an electric bike. The only way to tell if it is an electric bike is a push-button accelerator, but you can hide that as well if you’d like.
In fact, this motor is so lightweight and stealthily hidden, bikers in races have been accused of using one and cheating in standard bicycle races.
Super Commuter, 28 Pounds
This motor has 250-WH. The bike itself cost $3,000 to build, but that hefty price tag is because the lightweight carbon material used for the frame.
If the builder went with the next heaviest but still a very light option, the bike would be only two pounds heavier, and it would be $1,000 cheaper.
This bike is another home-built bike, put together by a legend in the DIY and electric bike communities named John “Kepler” Wessel. He created his own drive system to keep the bike fast, lightweight and looking sleek.
Adrian’s Commuter Booster, 28 Pounds
200-WH on this motor. The bike has a “friction drive,” which means the motor spins against the back wheel and spins it that way, using friction.
All the electronics are clamped to the seat post and not built into the bike itself, so it’s easy to remove them at any time and make it more lightweight and more like a standard bike.
Cytronex Cannondale Capo, 30 Pounds
This has 96-WH, which is much smaller than a lot of the bikes on this list because the battery is “Nickel Metal Hydride.” This basically means the bike is outdated compared to the other newer lithium batteries most bikes are using.
It costs $2,600 and has a classic bike look, but the lower power of the battery makes it a hard sell. Of course, it’s less expensive than bikes with better batteries on this list, so it’s all about what you prioritize. It’s a great option if you need to spend less.
Prodego 29er Titanium, 31.8 Pounds
205-WH on this bike. It’s made from titanium, as the name implies, and not painted so you can show off the really expensive titanium.
It’s a front-wheel-drive electric bike. It was built by the company as a conversion bike, but you could probably build it as a home-build if you gathered the materials.
It costs $5,000, though, because titanium is very cool looking, lightweight, and very expensive.
BH eMotion Carbon, 35 Pounds
This bike is $4,000. Carbon is a very lightweight building material, but it’s so expensive few electric bikes are made out of it.
The battery is 288-WH. It also has a high-quality Panasonic mid-drive in addition to the great frame of carbon.
Nader’s Mountain E-Bikes, 35-40 Pounds
This is actually more than one bike. It’s an entire collection of lightweight electric bikes built by one builder in his home workshop. His name is Nader Alizadeh, and he hides the electric motors and batteries of his bikes in a faux water bottle.
The batteries are 300-WH. Nader is a German builder with a focus on stealth and making the bikes weigh as little as possible.
Solar Bike Fixie, 38.6 Pounds
This is the least expensive option on our list. It costs $1,650, which includes the shipping from its manufacturing home, Australia.
It is a “fixie” bike, which means it doesn’t have gears, and the braking system is minimal. This makes it much lighter. The battery is 324-WH. You can order your own from the Solar Bike website.
Specialized Turbo, 45 Pounds
This is one of the more expensive options on our list, but that’s because it has the largest battery, making it the heaviest as well.
It costs $7,000, but that gets you 343-WH, a 28 MPH top speed, and the best quality components.
If price isn’t a problem and you aren’t looking for the lightest weight simply to have the lightest weight, this bike gives back bang for its buck in terms of speed and quality.
Electric Bikes Will Only Become More Lightweight in the Future
Electric bikes are heavier than regular bikes because of all the extra components that make them motorized and electric. While they are heavier they should be easier to pedal if you’re utilizing the electric motor. A lightweight electric bike will either be more costly or will not have as powerful of a motor on it.
Over time hopefully the electric bike technology will progress resulting in lighter eBikes that don’t have to sacrifice motor power.