You cannot compare anything in the world to the simple and enjoyable nature of riding a bike down the street as the quote accredited to John F. Kennedy goes, except if of course, the motorcycle aids you in pedaling – all of the fun, tranquillity, happiness and freedom, and substantively less of the effort as compared to other modes of transport, like a car.
As most countries in the world like the US reconsider their dependence on individual car ownership, bikes motorized or backed by electric motors—e-bikes, for short—are selling like hot cake and are slowly becoming the in thing in countries in the west and north. Customers are snapping them up, and venture capitalists are pumping cash into small businesses that promise they will make these incredibly shared fleets part of the urban-transit infrastructure.
It will sound somewhat futuristic. However, e-bikes are a surprisingly one of those vintage generational technologies. The start-ups were filed in the late 1800s and early nineties, but it took a century for advances in battery technology to make them commercially feasible. It first happened in China, which is as we all know the birth city of all technological instruments, then Europe, and now, slowly and gradually, in the United States.
The E-Bike Obsession

With that, let us take a motor-assisted spin.

36.8 million: These were the estimated e-bike sales in China in 2015

40.1 million: Assessed total global e-bikes sales in 2015

2 million: Projected e-bike sales in Europe in 2015

37%: Percentage of China’s lead-acid battery market fervent to e-bikes in 2011

5,100 miles in 34 days: The Guinness World Record for an e-biking set in the US in 2016

91%: Percentage of North American e-bike proprietors who ride daily or weekly

$1,000–$6,000: Series of prices on Prevalent Mechanics’ best e-bikes list

0.1%: The fraction of energy disbursed by an e-bike in comparison to a small electric car

10 volts: The size of the battery that motorized the first patented e-bike, in 1895 Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

How E-bikes Work

There are two main types of e-bikes. There are the Pedelecs, short for “electric pedal cycle,” that are low-powered e-bikes. They give an electrified boost when you pedal. Then there are the throttle-controlled bikes which do not require any pedaling—lucky for you these go.
So, before we jump into both of them, let us first talk about pedelecs.
Pedelecs, which are electric-assist bikes, have a few basic mechanisms: a motor that offers you a boost, a torque sensor that measures how hard the rider is pedaling, a battery that gives you the actual power, and a motor controller, which, as you can guess, panels the output to the motor.
The main difference in most electric bikes is the motor’s location. It can sit unswervingly on the front or back wheel, or it can be on the frame towards the central point of the bike (a “mid-drive”), in which case the power moves via the transmission. The controls for the motor are usually placed on the handlebars, for ease of access.
In the US, pedelecs are permitted to travel up to 20 mph while using the potent motor power (they can go faster. However it has to be specifically from human pedaling).
Throttle-controlled e-bikes, on the other hand, can travel up to 20 mph with motor power alone, as per the federal regulations.

How to Ride an E-Bike

If you are one of those people thrilled by riding an e-bike in Europe or Japan, you probably own a pedelec, as per the statistics and findings of Edward Benjamin, the founder and senior managing director of the incredible consulting firm eCycleElectric.
If you are however in the US or China, the throttle-controlled bikes are the go-to bikes. Your local pizza delivery or newspaper delivery guy might be zooming by on one.
However, with the world changing rapidly that could be changing, especially in the US, if e-bike startups get their way. Companies like Jump (purchased in April), Motivate (sponsored by Lyft in July), and Lime are toiling day and night, summer and winter to make shared electric-assist bikes available to more riders in the US.
You can purchase your e-bike, but it will cost you. A reliable and functional consumer model can easily top up to $2,000. For those who are not such big fans of riding e-bikes, the infrequent rider, renting an e-bike tends to be cheaper.
For example, Lime charges $1 to unlock one of its lime-green e-bikes and another $1 for every 10 minutes of riding. Jump charges $2 for 30 minutes on one of its fire-engine red pedelecs.

Timeline

1895: The well-known Ohio inventor Ogden Bolton Jr. is contracted US patent #552271A for an “electric bicycle.” It includes a battery suspended from the bike frame.

1897: Humber, a motorcycle company, generates an electric tandem bike.

1932: Electronics company Philips and bike company Simplex team up to develop the first commercial e-bike.

1991: The development of a commercial, rechargeable lithium-ion battery offers the lightweight power that e-bikes require to take off.

1993: Yamaha creates the first mass-producible mid-drive e-bike, which is also known as a crank-drive, this style of e-bike powers the bike through the chain drive, instead of sitting directly on the wheel.

2002: US Congress outlines the low-speed electric bicycle as a “two- or three-wheeled vehicle with wholly operational pedals and an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts.” The maximum speed permitted without pedaling is 20 mph.

2018: Start-ups like Lime and Jump set up fleets of shared electric bicycles across US cities. Upon observing the potential, ride-hail company Uber purchases Jump and partners with Lime.

The Hot Question

So, How Far Will This Whole E-Bike Trend Go?

Well, that is the $1000 million question if you go by what Uber paid for the shared dock less e-bike provider Jump. We are still trying to figure out how to make people prefer using bikes than their cars, or into any other mode of transportation, but lucky for us, according to the international sales data and early indicators in the US both point in a promising direction for e-bikes.
Contact Thanks
Edward Benjamin of eCycleElectric says that the e-bike market could hit 40 million units internationally in 2019, and cultivate to 120 million units in the next decade. The bulk of that will come from China, which was selling 25 million e-bikes as of 2014. However, according to Ben, China, Japan, Holland, and Germany are all coming up slowly, and they are trending toward 50% of bicycle sales being e-bikes. He also adds that as per his research, electric two-wheelers will get an additional boost from governments as they upsurge restrictions on gas motorcycles and scooters.
In San Francisco, Uber says e-bike rides through Jump are already dislodging regular Uber trips. In a review done with early Jump users, Uber said it saw bike trips, well, jump during weekday commuting hours, while Uber rides stumbled by 15%. Uber called it a “promising sign” that e-bikes could “lessen congestion and lower the number of car trips.”

Health Spin

Since pedal-assist bikes, help users in pedaling, does that mean that one can still count it as always good exercise? The primary indications are yes—according to the study by the University of Colorado-Boulder; it showed benefits for previously sedentary subjects who rode at least 40 minutes three times a week, in spite of averaging a diffident speed of 12 miles an hour.
Yamaha developed the principal commercially efficacious pedelec e-bike in 1993. However, the actual story begins in 1978, when Japan created riders of two-wheeled vehicles of at least 50cc (about as potent as a low-priced scooter) put on helmets.
Riders swapped to mopeds (generally speaking, less than 50cc and slower than 31 miles per hour). When moped riders were forced to put on helmets, their sales slowed, and Yamaha saw a market void hence the pedelec, which gives an “electronic assist” and is slower than a moped.
So, by doing so, that made it good enough to open up a new class of vehicles—“the bicycle with auxiliary motor”—which passed muster.
So why are the Chinese still leading in e-bikes? Well, just like phones and other electronics, the technology for pedelec bikes is complicated—the bike has to screen the torque from the rider, pass that information to the motor, and unceasingly alter. So they are expensive.
The Chinese did not have the idiosyncrasies of Japanese law to contend with, so there was a much larger market for the straightforward throttle-controlled bikes.

The Shock of the New

Pedal-Assist Pushback

In New York City, e-bikes were prohibited from riding, not that you or anyone would have noticed—as prices started tumbling, they became trendy due to the food delivery market.
That, however, took a new turn last October when NYC mayor Bill de Blasio opted to start enforcing the law after some, about 60% of drivers and pedestrians placed a complaint.
That however changed again in April when there was a backlash to the backlash—from environmental enthusiasts because they use less energy than cars and from immigrants-rights activists since they were a boom to the immigrant-heavy food-delivery industry.
Now, as long as the motor cannot push it past 20 miles per hour, it is allowed.
It is quite a contrast with Europe, where governments are pumping cash to the vehicles to get riders on them. Swedes get a quarter of their cost went up to €1,000. France offered €200 for one year’s time, and now Paris is offering €400 for a new e-bike or an upgrade of the vintage bike to pedal-assist. Oslo has doled out considerable subsidies for e-bikes and cargo e-bikes.
In China, which is the center of the e-bike universe, has been successful in this campaign. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and several other major cities have partial bans because of the increasing fatality rates and since they come with their environmental issues: About 80% of Chinese e-bikes utilize the lead-acid batteries, which are more inexpensive than lithium-ion batteries but they cannot last you up for a full day.
So, new standards have been suggested to bring China’s e-bike regulations in line with other major countries—capped at 25 kph and 55kg.