Christian Angelo (August 20, 2021)
The growing electric bicycle community worldwide encourages more and more people to use electric bikes. Modern technology has paved the way for new innovations in utilizing electrical energy in vehicles. Indeed, the advent of electric bicycles is here. However, many people still get confused about how an electric bicycle works.
People tend to imagine a scooter or an electric motorcycle when they hear “electric bicycle”. This assumption is completely wrong as these pictures are different from an electric bike, or e-bike. So what is an electric bicycle? An e-bike is just like a regular bicycle, but with the addition of a motor, a battery, an electronic display, and a controller. Basically, a bicycle with an integrated electrical system.
To understand how an-ebike works, learning about its parts and functions is essential.
The main function of the motor is to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. Essentially, it is the driving force of the electric bike. The 2 common types of motor for e-bikes are mid-drive motor and hub motor.
An example of a mid-drive motor.
Inside the motor is the stator, or the circular sequence of wires, which serves as electromagnets for the electric current. When current runs through, the electromagnets repel and attract the permanent magnets found in the rotor, causing it to spin. The stator is attached to the shaft, and its placement depends on the motor type.
The shaft in mid-drive motors spins to generate torque, which allows the rider to enjoy the pedal assist feature. The shaft in hub motors is also the axle, so it does not spin. The spinning motion is generated by the rotor itself, which creates torque to help spin the wheel where it is placed.
An example of a hub motor.
Motors come in different power ratings - 200W to 1000W, or even more. Most states require a 750W limit, but other states could set their own rules, Oregon with a 1000W limit for example. The higher the power rating, the stronger its capabilities to pull more weight easily. This comes with the expense of using more battery charge.
To know more about e-bike motors, check this video.
If the motor is the driving force, then the battery is the life force. It is the source of electricity for all electronic components of the bicycle. Nowadays, electric bicycles are equipped with Lithium-ion batteries that are lightweight, high-capacity, and have a longer life span.
On average, the battery is estimated to properly function for 3-5 years or until it reaches 500 charge cycles. After that, the battery performance starts to decline and there will be a noticeable difference in range and will require more charging time. On a single charge, you can expect to ride 35-100 miles depending on how much assistance you use.
The battery can be fully charged in 3.5-6 hours, and it is pretty simple to charge. All you have to do is to turn off the battery pack switch, remove it, connect the charger, and plug it into an outlet.
To know more about e-bike batteries, watch this video.
There are two kinds of sensors in an electric bike: cadence and torque. Higher-end e-bikes have both sensors, while others only have the more basic cadence sensor.
The function of the cadence sensor is to switch on and off the motor to allow you to manually use the pedal assist and change its levels. It is located in the interior base frame and paired with a magnet in the rear wheel. When it detects pedaling movement, it turns the motor ON, and when the pedaling stops, it turns the motor OFF.
The torque sensor is more advanced, offering more precision and better adjustments. It is able to measure the actual force you exert on the pedal, so it can determine how much power it will give you. The adjustments are made in real-time, making riding more efficient and offering an optimum riding experience.
The controller serves as the brain of the ebike. All wirings are connected to the controller, and these wirings are connected to the respective parts of the electrical system. The controller is responsible for allocating electricity to all the parts of the e-bike. To do this, it collects all input from the electric components and determines how much current they need in return.
Pedaling modes on an electric bicycle could be classified in three ways:
This mode of pedaling happens when you do not utilize any form of assistance from the electric motor. Basically, you are riding the electric bicycle the same way you are riding a regular bike.
The pedal assist, or pedelec, comes in different levels (usually 1-5), and activating it will engage the motor so you can ride easily, climb through hills more effortlessly, and ride longer. You still have to pedal with this mode on, it only makes it easier. The pedal assist configuration can be found on the left side of the handlebar.
The throttle mode works like a throttle in a motorcycle. Activating this will take away all the burden of riding because the bike will automatically pedal for you. Depending on the variation, it can be activated either by a push or a twist.
Most people ask: with all the electrical stuff and assistance, will I still get a good workout? The answer is YES. Indeed, the purpose of electric bikes is to make riding easier but it does not take all the opportunity to have a nice exercise.
Additionally, it offers more opportunities to fine-tune your ride. If you want more effort, then minimize the use of pedal-assist or throttle mode. If you like to have a chill ride, then utilize more assistance at the expense of using more battery charge. If you need to go faster, then consume the battery charge as fast as you want. It all depends on your riding preference.
The electric bicycle works in its best condition if all parts are properly functioning. Each part has its own purpose, and a missing piece will screw the whole operation. It is important to conduct regular check-ups and maintenance on your e-bike parts to keep them working well.