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Why Are Electric Bikes So Expensive In 2021?

If you compare an electric bike with a regular bike on prices, electric bikes are way more expensive. Why then are e-bikes becoming so popular?

The NPD Group, which tracks bike sales worldwide, reported that e-bike sales in the US grew eight times between 2014 and 2018[1].

In this article, we will answer this all-important question: why are electric bikes so expensive?

Differences Between An E-Bike And A Regular Bike

Appearance And Mechanics

Electric bikes and regular bikes look pretty much the same. People have a preconceived notion that electric bikes look more like scooters!

Electric bikes have the same geometry or design as that of a regular cycle. This includes the same type of wheels, positioning of the handlebars, pedals, brakes, etc. These parts also function in the same way as they do in a regular bike.

However, while they don’t look different, there is a lot of difference in the mechanics. E-bikes have an electrical drive system. The system is made of an electric motor, battery, controller, display screen, or console.

Riding Experience

There is a big difference in the riding experience. When you ride a regular bike, it feels more organic and natural. Riding an electric bike is all about comfort and convenience.

In an electric bike, the motor kicks in when you get on and start pedaling. Usually, the transition from manual power to electrical assist is seamless.

Riding on a regular bike requires more effort. You have to power the cycle with your legs. While riding a pedal-assist electric bike, you need minimal effort. You can climb small hills effortlessly with an electric bike. You can also tackle strong headwinds without breaking a sweat.

Speed

The speed of a regular bike depends upon the rider’s strength. An electric bike can be as fast as the motor will take it. The maximum allowed speed limit in America is 25 miles per hour (in most states).

Compare this with a regular bicycle. An average cyclist can go at about 10-12 miles per hour. Professional cyclists can go at 15-18 miles per hour.

Most e-bikes have an auto cutoff to meet legal requirements. As soon as the motor reaches the top speed, the bike’s power supply is cut.

Why Is An Electric Bike Expensive?

Battery

The battery of an e-bike is one of the significant factors that drive its price higher. The type and quality of a battery in an electric bike affect its performance.

The range of an e-bike depends on its battery. The battery’s power is expressed in terms of watts per hour. The greater the watt per hour capacity of the battery, the higher is the cost.

If you require a bike with a higher range, you will need to get one with a higher watt-hour capacity. A standard battery with a capacity of 250 watt-hours in the low and mid-range bikes can cost close to $250.

Motor

The motor is the heart of the electric bike. It powers the bike and turns the pedals for you.

A good motor can cost a lot. Most e-bikes use a 36v battery. If you have a more powerful engine, you can use a 48v, 52v, 72v, or even higher battery.

The more powerful the motor, the quicker your battery will drain. That’s why you need a bigger battery for a more powerful engine.

Motors are of 3 main types:

1. Mid-drive motors

You can find the motor at the center of the frame. The motor rotates a shaft that is connected to a chainring. Mid-drive motors assist your pedaling power.

They can’t run the bike on their own. Mountain bikes use mid-drive engines, using the bike’s gear system to climb up.

2. Hub direct-drive motors

If your motor is in the front or the rear hub, it’s likely to be a hub direct-drive motor without any noticeable moving parts. The motor spins around, turning the axle as it goes. This motor can even generate energy when you are braking (though minimal amounts).

3. Hub geared motors

If your motor uses the bike’s gears, it’s likely a hub geared motor. The gears reduce RPM, thus increasing torque. Hub geared motors can freewheel. They do not have drag when on pedal only mode.

Hub geared motors are a bit expensive but more efficient than hub direct and mid-drive. They use less battery energy because of the use of gears.

Torque

The amount of torque on which an electric bike operates depends on the motor’s quality in the bike. A motor is the main driving force in an electric bike, making it convenient and easy to use.

The motor provides essential support and assistance to the user for traveling. The higher the support it provides, the higher is the price. Motors with higher assist capacities require less effort from the rider for operating the bike.

A motor that offers 100% support to the user can easily climb irregular terrain and quickly reach its maximum speed.

Weight

The weight of the bike is also a deciding factor for its cost and price. Electric bikes with different weights offer a different driving experience to the user. It entirely depends upon your preference what type of electric bike you want.

Some riders prefer heavy and have a solid frame, whereas some riders prefer having a lightweight bike. But the heavier bikes are more expensive as they are more rigid and have more material than the lighter bikes.

Electric Gear

E-bikes also use a lot of electric gears such as wires, digital monitors, motor, etc. These gears are not present in a regular or standard bike. Installation of such electric gear also increases the cost of an electric bike and makes it more expensive.

The digital display or screen attached to a bike keeps track of the speed, time, and distance covered by you. It also displays the amount of charge left in the battery of the bike.

Brakes

The brakes and gears used in a regular bike are far different from ones used in electric bikes, as they can go to much higher speeds than a regular bike.

To keep you safe and sound, e-bikes have a much more robust braking system. A high-end braking and gear system also significantly contributes to the rising cost of an electric bike.

What Is The Average Cost Of An Electric Bike?

In the longer run, electric bikes seem much more affordable to users. Initially, they have a substantially higher cost than a traditional regular bike.

The cost of the electric bike majorly depends upon the type of experience you want. Electric bikes have different models with different features and benefits, and these models have different prices as well.

Electric bikes start at $500 but can easily go up to even $8000. The electric bikes at the cheaper end don’t last much. It would be best to target a price range of $1500 to $4000 for a durable e-bike.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are electric bikes so costly?

E-bikes have an electric motor, a battery, a display screen, and other associated equipment. The electric driving system adds a lot of cost to the bike.

Is it worth getting an electric bike?

There is no easy answer to this. There are pros and cons, and then use cases.

Of course, the cons are clear – e-bikes are expensive, and charging the battery every day costs electricity and effort. Since they move faster than regular bikes, there are safety concerns as well.

The pros are not immediately apparent, which is why this question keeps getting asked.

What people miss is that e-bikes lower the barrier for biking to work every day. For example, in a study by the University of Tennessee[2], e-bike owners rode 3.6 days a week against an average of 2.7 per day for regular bikers.

By offering a bit of assistance, making you slightly less tired, making it just a bit quicker to reach the office, a tad easier to climb that mountain, e-bikes are making commuters leave their gas-guzzling cars and motorcycles behind.

Do you still get exercise on an electric bike?

Yes, you do. E-bikes reduce the number of calories that are burnt if you compare head-to-head on the same distance traveled.

But by making people who would have never used a bike at all, they are improving overall health bit-by-bit. There are several segments – elderly, disabled, or sick, who don’t have the strength to ride a traditional bike long enough to get any meaningful benefit.

But with e-bikes, they at least have the option, and many people use them [3]. Lastly, even though the effort is reduced, only about half of what you put in a traditional bike.

Conclusion

Even though electric bikes are an expensive transportation mode, their benefits are far greater than their disadvantages.

People who ride an e-bike are healthier and fitter. They also have a positive mental state.

Riding an electric bike also has a positive impact on our environment. There is less pollution, noise, and traffic on the streets because of e-bike users’ rise.

References:

[1] Bicycle Industry Statistics 2018 (npd.com)
[2] (PDF) Differences of Cycling Experiences and Perceptions between E-Bike and Bicycle Users in the United States (researchgate.net)
[3] Electric-assist bikes provide meaningful exercise, cardiovascular benefits | CU Boulder Today | University of Colorado Boulder

 

Written by Lee Hill

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