Everything you need to know about the different types of e-bikes available in one article.
Just like with regular bicycles, there are quite a few types of electric bikes, depending on the type of motor and battery, its location on a bike, the types of bikes itself and purposes of use.
To understand the types of e-bikes, you only need to learn one thing. They are divided into three large groups, depending on the type of motor (also called “class of electric bike”), and then three smaller groups, depending on the type of location of the motor and the battery. That’s it.
Electric bikes can also be classified into the same types as regular bikes, dependent on the different types of frames and other parts, manufacturers and activities or reasons for use of the bike. We’ll address this too.
If you are not confused, let’s have some fun!
Electric Bike Motor
The motor is the first important thing for the correct classification and choosing of an electric bicycle.
There are three main types (or “classes”) of electric bikes, depending on the type of motor and the need to push the pedals:
- E-bikes with throttle mode or “power-on-demand” mode (or simply “throttles”). You don’t have to pedal at all: you decide when to turn the motor on or off.
- E-bikes with assistance mode (“pedal electric bikes” / “pedal assistance bikes” or simply “pedelecs”). You need to pedal. The motor starts when you start pedaling, speed up, or climb. And you control its power. The motor only helps you (“assist”) – pedaling becomes easier.
- Electric bikes with both throttle mode and assistance mode. You pedal alongside the electric motor to increase distance per charge. But these bikes are quite rare.
The most common type of e-bike nowadays is the second one — eBikes with assistance mode or pedelecs.
All e-bikes have a motor, but they can have different power, which is measured in watts.
The most popular motor for electric bikes in Europe has a power of 250 watts — this is the legal limit for riding an eBike, you cannot have a more powerful motor and ride it legally. In some countries, the power limit is lower, at 200 watts, as in Australia. In the USA and Canada, on the contrary, you can ride a 750 watt electric bike.
There are also more powerful e-bikes.
Among motor manufacturers, you will most often find the following brands: Bosh, Yamaha, and others.
This is second and also a very important factor that determines which type of electric bike belongs to. It is also called a “drive”. Depending on the location of the motor, e-bikes are divided into two main types:
- Electric bikes with the hub motor. The motor is built into one of the wheels and transmits energy to it. As the wheels are two, these bikes are immediately divided into two other types: front hub motor (or front-wheel drive) and rear hub motor (or rear-wheel drive). There are quite many differences between these two types of the location of the motor, but the main difference is that in the first case, riding a bike you feel that the motor is pulling you, in the second case, that motor is pushing you. Riding an eBike with a rear hub motor is more like riding a regular bicycle.
- Mid-drive motor. The motor is not located in one of the wheels, but in the middle of a bicycle in the pedals area. It does not transmit energy directly to the wheels, but to the transmission (drivetrain). Riding a bike like this is even more like a normal bike because the motor engages both wheels directly through the transmission.
We will discuss other differences between all three locations of the motor in a separate article.
Now let’s move on…
Electric Bike Battery
The battery is the next important thing after the motor, when we speak about types of e-bikes.
There are two main types of batteries, but there are more in general:
- Lead-acid batteries (SLA) are the cheapest. It is enough for 500-600 charges for an e- bike.
- Lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion, LIB) are the same as in smartphones and notebooks. It costs more and can withstand 1000 charging cycles.
Just like a motor, the batteries vary in power.
Battery power is measured in watts per hour (Wh), not watts. Because of similar names, watts and watts per hour are often confused, especially when it comes to electrical devices such as e-bikes. However, the two units of measurement refer to different physical quantities.
Power (watts) is the amount of energy consumed by the device per unit of time. And watts per hour is the unit of measurement of the energy itself. That is to say, it is not the device’s characteristic, but the amount of work done by the device.
Let’s take the example of an incandescent light bulb to show how these two values are related.
If a 100 W light bulb worked for 1 hour, its operation required 100 Wh of power. A 40 watt bulb will consume the same amount of energy in 2.5 hours. This means that it shines weaker, but uses less energy and will last longer. That is a simple difference.
By the way, what can be done with such energy? This is a small amount of energy, so let’s increase it by 10 times. With the help of 1000 Wh you can extract 75 kg of coal, bake 88 loaves of bread, and plow 250 square meters of land.
Ok, let’s go back to eBikes. The typical battery power is 200 to 500 or more watts per hour.
The battery can be attached to the bike in various places: on the boot, on the frame approximately in the middle of the bike, or built into the frame.
Well, we have sorted out the motor and the battery of e-bikes. We will only add that the battery (and the computer) manufacturer are usually the same as the motor manufacturer.
E-Bikes Frames and Other Parts
Next, it’s easier: electric bikes are still bikes, so they are divided into all the same kinds and types as regular bicycles, depending on the frame and other parts of a bike, and the purpose of use.
Let’s deal with that too.
- Frame size. Like clothing, bicycles come in three basic sizes, depending on frame size: small, medium, and large. The size of the frame is the height of the part called “seat tube” — to which the saddle is attached. It is measured in inches. But the length of a “top tube” to which the steering wheel is attached is also important. Small bicycles are for children, medium bicycles are for small and medium people, and large bicycles are for tall and/or heavy people.
- Frame material and weight. Frames come in two basic materials: iron and aluminum. The first is cheaper and heavier, the second is more expensive and lighter.
- Frame form or geometry. The top tube of a frame can be straight or tilted at some angle. Women’s electric bicycles and electric mountain bikes are usually with tilted top tubes to make it easier to get off. Road and touring bikes are usually with a straight top tube.
The steering wheel can be straight, curved a bit to a rider or curved downwards. The first one is usually mounted on mountain bikes, the second on city bikes, and the third on racing bikes.
Bicycles can be with one speed or with many. In the first case, you can only ride on flat surfaces; in the second case, you can climb mountains, adjusting the loads to make pedaling easier or heavier.
It can be rim brakes or disc brakes — these are the two main types of electric and regular bike breaks.
The saddle can be wide and soft as on city bikes, or narrow and rigid as on sports bikes.
Pedals can be without bindings (usually city bikes) — you can ride them with normal shoes, or with bindings — you can ride them with special shoes that are inserted in the pedal to make it easier for you to pedal (usually mountain and racing bikes).
Wheels may also be of different sizes and made of different materials (metal or aluminum). Big wheels make it easier to ride, small wheels make it heavier to ride.
The tyres can also be different in type, size, and patterns. City bikes have medium-thick tires, racing bikes have thin and unpainted tires, and mountain bikes have the widest and largest tire patterns.
Electric Bikes Manufacturers
Every bike has a manufacturer.
Usually, when we say manufacturer, we mean the frame. But one bike may have different manufacturers: the frame is made by one, the transmission by another, the seat by a third, and the wheels by a fourth. That’s because making a seemingly simple thing like a bike from start to finish is quite difficult. But usually, the manufacturer of the frame and other important parts is still one, but the transmission is made by another manufacturer.
Activities (Purpose of Use of an E-Bikes)
Finally, bicycles can have different types, depending on the purpose of use (activity): city bikes, mountain bikes (MTB), hybrids bikes to ride both on a road and mountain or forest roads, touring and trekking bikes, cargo and family bikes, and others.
There are also bikes that fold up so that they can be carried comfortably. We also have such bikes in our range.
How to Choose the Electric Bike From a Variety of Types: Brief Instruction
- Decide that you really want an eBike, not an ordinary bicycle, and think about what you need it for.
- Choose a bike class depending on the motor, take a look at the different types of batteries and their location.
- Choose the manufacturer of a bike, the store you will buy it and a bike itself, depending on your budget.
- Match your bike strictly to your height and weight by type, size, and frame weight.
- Ask about warranty, repair conditions and the cost of individual parts, if they have to be replaced after some time.
You can also check our article about the list of best electric bikes we collected to choose the right e-bike for you.
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