The E-Bike Obsession Explained
Find Out Why Everyone's Obsessed
You cannot compare anything to the simple and enjoyable activity of riding a bike down the street. As John F. Kennedy also once commented. Except if the motorcycle aids you in pedalling, of course. This gives you all the fun, tranquillity, happiness and freedom, but at substantively less effort than other modes of transport, like a car.
However, it’s important to note:
As most countries in the world, like the US, reconsider their dependence on individual car ownership, motorized bikes 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 snatching them up, and adventure capitalists are pumping cash into small businesses that promise they’ll 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 (Learn more about ‘Electric Bicycle‘).
With that, let’s 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 Do 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 (Read more about ‘How do Electric Bikes Work‘).
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. Read more about How E-bikes Outperform Other Modes of Transport.
But let me tell you something:
Throttle-controlled e-bikes, on the other hand, can travel up to 20 mph with motor power alone, as per the federal regulations.
Now, How Do I Ride an E-Bike?
Looking at other countries, however, it’s a different story:
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. Learn more about Choosing the Best Ebike.
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 (Read this article ‘The Future of Transport‘).
Let’s consider this:
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.
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?
Edward Benjamin of eCycleElectric says that the e-bike market could hit 40 million units internationally in 2021, 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.
The Incredible 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. Read about Benefits of Cycling.
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 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 Shock of the New
Once again, this changed:
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, let’s look at China:
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.
All over the world, people are trying out this new trend, but you’ll have to figure out if it’s for you or not. However, all the health benefits of it might be a nice touch to your life.
You’ll be creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself, but you’ll also be helping the environment as well as your bank account! It’s a win-win situation.