electric bike FAQ's 2016 updated

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Introduction

Please have a read of my short guide on the way to guide yourself through an ebike purchase.
Unfortunately there are sellers out there supplying product that does not meet the law.
Hopefully this will answer the basics!
Electric bikes work by giving you a power boost when you pedal - making it much easier to ride than a standard cycle.

FAQ's

1. What is the range of an electric bike?

The range of a fully charged battery varies dramatically. It is usually between 10 to 60 miles with gentle pedaling depending on a number of variables. Manufacturers sometimes(!) over estimate the range of their products. The  Amp Hours specification gives an indication of the bike's range.  Most manufacturers will  base this on the lowest power setting with a rider between 70-85kgs

Besides battery capacity, factors effecting range include:

The bike itself, the rider and luggage weight (if any)
Topography
Correct tyre pressure and the tyre type makes a massive difference
Suspension and rolling resistance caused by components
The amount of rider input and gearing used
motor/controller power rating
Most of the power is drained when moving off and on hills so pedaling at these points will preserve the power.
If you have specific requirements it is best to talk to us and get some advice before spending your hard earned cash.

2. How fast will it go?

Normally the first question!
For the 2016 regulations-
To gain exemption from the construction and use regulations and to qualify as a bicycle (no road tax, road insurance, MOT tests, vehicle registration, the requirement of a driving licence and wearing a motorcycle helmet) the speed under power is restricted to 15.5 miles per hour (25kph) and the motor is restricted to 250w. They can of course be manually pedalled beyond this speed.
It is no longer permitted to have
  • Throttles that take the bike above 6kph
  • Any form of 'off road mode'
All machines purchased under the 1983 regulations are unaffected by the new rules (bikes imported prior to 31/12/2015).
As the batteries age, their performance decreases. (Actually, in the first 25 or so charge / discharge cycles, many batteries get better, and then start a gradual decline). A good guide would be 600 charges would leave the battery at circa 60% of it's original capacity.
If the battery has been poorly treated – such as heavy use, the wrong charger, stored in a hot damp place, exposed to excessive cold, then the performance will suffer. Chemically the battery has less ability to store less power when it is cold, so you should expect a lower range in winter months.
If you are storing the bike, for example over winter, take the manufacturer's advice. Most will require charging every 2 months to keep the battery management system functioning correctly, some will be OK for 6 months. It's best to store them at room temperature rather than in a cold shed or garage.

3. Do I need to pedal?

The new legislation requires the bike to be pedalled, older bikes are not required to be changed

4. What are the running costs?

Other than charging the batteries at a cost of approximately 6.5 pence per full charge there are no other significant running costs, unless you are exceptionally unlucky with punctures! You should carry out basic maintenance as you would with a normal pedal cycle, however the electronic parts of the bikes are designed to be maintenance free.

5. How can I tell if I am looking at a good electric bike?

Good is as much about you and how you want to use the bike as well as the quality of the machine itself. Speak to your supplier about your needs and they will match you with their best machine.

6. Does the battery recharge when I pedal?

Another frequently asked question, with the electric car market making use of such systems. Mostly the feature is unavailable, however you do maintain the battery power by pedaling! Really the negatives outweigh the positives when you consider using regenerative braking adds weight and cost for a negligible return. Consider bike stopping distances against the power lost in the system alone.
Some motors (direct drive) can generate electricity when the rider propels the bike by pedaling, or while when going down hill or braking.  Essentially, you have to overcome more physical resistance to charge the battery with regenerative braking, if you have ever used dynamo lights on a bike you will understand the feeling. In addition, the power generated may not be particularly stable enough to cleanly charge the lithium cells - potentially shortening their life.

7. Are there any UK laws I need to be aware of?

In Great Britain, if you’re 14 or over you don’t need a licence to ride electric bikes that meet certain requirements, and they don’t need to be registered, taxed or insured.
Electric bikes meeting the requirements are called ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs). They can be 2-wheeled bicycles, tandems, tricycles or quadricycles.

The requirements are:

the bike must have pedals that can be used to propel it
the electric motor shouldn’t be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph
the motor shouldn’t have a maximum power output of more than 250 watts
the bike must have a plate showing the manufacturer, the nominal voltage of the battery, and the motor’s power output - this is typically a sticker on the seat tube

If a bike meets the EAPC requirements it’s classed as a normal pedal bike. This means you can ride it on cycle paths and anywhere else pedal bikes are allowed.

Any electric bike that doesn’t meet the EAPC rules needs to be registered and taxed. You’ll need a driving licence to ride one and you must wear a crash helmet.

The vehicle will also need to be ‘type approved’ to make sure it’s safe to use on the road if a throttle is required.
8. Is there a 10% rule?
My judgement from reading all the available materials is yes, provided you can demonstrate "upmost good faith". It is not written in the statute, but there is case law and European law (written 20/3/17) to support this. The biggest factor in the overall gearing of the bike is the diameter of the wheel. You could exceed 25kph by changing the type of tyre fitted or the air pressure. If your bike has the option to adjust, then you should do this, but a regular cyclist would not be expected to have the equipment to measure this.


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