Electric bikes are changing the UK’s transport landscape for sure, and it’s no surprise that many are curious about them. Whether you’re a regular cyclist, someone looking for an eco-friendly commute, or just exploring the world of e-bikes, questions are bound to arise. And we’re here to answer them!
At E-Movement, we’ve made it our mission to advocate for cleaner, greener, more affordable mobility solutions, and this includes clearing people’s confusion and misunderstandings about them. IRuban “Part I: The Basics”, we’ll tackle the most common queries regarding e-bikes and their legal status in the UK to give you a clear understanding. Let’s get started.
- 1. What is an electric bike
- 2. What is a hybrid electric bike
- 3. Do you have to pedal an electric bike
- 4. How fast can an electric bike go?
- 5. How does an electric bike work?
- 6. How to ride an electric bike?
- 7. How to make an electric bike?
- 8. How Long Do Electric Bike Batteries Last?
- 8. Are Electric Bikes Waterproof?
- 9. How do you charge an electric bike?
- 10. Are electric bikes a fire hazard
- 11. Are electric bikes legal or illegal in the UK?
- 12. Are electric bikes allowed on trains in the UK
- 13. Do you need a license to ride an electric bike in the UK?
- 14. At what age can you legally ride an electric bike in the UK?
- 15. Can you ride an electric bike if banned from driving
- 16. Is it allowed to ride electric bikes on the road?
1. What is an electric bike
An electric bike (e-bike) is essentially a bicycle equipped with a rechargeable battery, motor, and pedal sensors. This allows riders to benefit from an added electrical force that allows them to reduce their manual pedalling efforts – a feature especially useful for tackling steep hills or longer distances.
When riders pedal, the e-bicycle’s pedal sensors detect the effort and command the motor to provide the desired level of electrical assistance, ensuring a smoother ride. The higher the pedal assist level you set, the more electric kick you’ll get.
2. What is a hybrid electric bike
A hybrid electric bike fuses the design elements of road and mountain bikes while incorporating an electric motor. It offers riders the versatility to tackle both urban streets and rougher terrains like gravel paths. The motor provides an added boost, simplifying rides over challenging landscapes. This combined functionality makes hybrid e-bikes a top choice for both daily commutes and weekend adventures.
Their rising popularity is attributed to their adaptability, eco-friendliness, and the seamless blend of traditional cycling with modern electric assistance.
3. Do you have to pedal an electric bike
In general, whether you have to pedal an e-bike or not depends on whether it has a throttle or not. You can ride an electric bike without pedalling if it has a throttle.
Standard pedal-assist e-bikes demand pedalling as they’re designed to offer electrical assistance in proportion to the rider’s effort. If you deactivate the throttle, this pedal requirement remains. On the flip side, many ebikes come equipped with a throttle. When this feature is activated, it allows riders to move without any pedalling, letting the motor do all the work. This dual functionality provides riders with options, catering to both fitness enthusiasts and those looking for a leisurely, effortless cruise.
4. How fast can an electric bike go?
In general, electric bikes can go as fast as 40-80mph depending on motor power, terrain, rider weight, and battery health. However, the law requires e-bike manufacturers to restrict this speed to 15.5 mph (25km/h) in the UK. In the US, the limit is typically 20 mph (32 km/h) for bikes with a throttle and 28 mph (45 km/h) for pedal-assist e-bikes. Riders can still pedal beyond these speeds, but the motor won’t provide any further assistance.
Always check local regulations and the specific e-bike model for precise speed capabilities. If you reside in the UK, read through all the updated electric bike laws here.
5. How does an electric bike work?
Electric bikes operate through an integration of traditional cycling mechanics and modern electronic components. Essentially, a battery-powered motor in these electric bicycles helps the rider pedal.
At their core, e-bikes have three pivotal elements: a rechargeable battery, an electric motor, and sensors, often pedal-assist sensors or throttles. When a rider pedals, the sensors detect the effort and determine the amount of electrical assistance to provide. The electric motor then draws power from the battery to assist the rider. This assistance can range from a gentle push to a robust force, depending on the rider’s preference and the e-bike’s settings.
Some e-bikes also come equipped with a throttle, allowing the bike to move without pedalling. E-bike controls are typically handlebar-mounted, offering easy access to adjust power levels, monitor battery life, and more. For more in-depth information, read our blog on e-bike parts.
6. How to ride an electric bike?
Here’s what to do:
- Start Safely: Begin by adjusting the saddle and handlebars to ensure a comfortable riding position. Always wear a helmet and other protective gear as required.
- Power Up: Switch on the e-bike using the handlebar-mounted controls or the main switch, usually located on the battery or frame.
- Select Assistance Level: Most e-bikes have varying levels of pedal assistance. Choose a lower setting initially to get a feel for the bike’s power.
- Pedal and Go: Start pedalling as you would with a regular bicycle. The motor will kick in to provide the chosen level of assistance. OR
Use the Throttle (if available): Some e-bikes come with a throttle control that propels the bike without pedalling. It’s handy for starting from a stop or cruising at a steady speed.
- Brake Confidently: eBikes often have powerful brakes due to their added weight and potential for speed. Apply brakes gently at first to gauge their responsiveness.
- Monitor Battery Levels: Keep an eye on the battery indicator to ensure you don’t run out of power mid-journey. Never let the battery drop to 0, as the BMS (battery management system) will shut down if you do so.
- Ride with Awareness: Electric bicycles can be faster and quieter than traditional bikes, making it essential to be vigilant, especially in urban settings.
- Park and Secure: When you’ve reached your destination, switch off the e-bike and securely lock it.
Remember, every e-bike model can differ slightly, so it’s a good idea to consult the user manual and get familiar with the specific features and controls of your particular bike.
7. How to make an electric bike?
You can convert your bike into an electric bike in two ways:
- Attaching an e-bike conversion kit that has a motor, battery, throttle, and display – building a ‘homemade’ electric bike
- Giving it over to professionals (like us) for a comprehensive electric bicycle conversion
Usually, the first approach is crude as it may get the job done, but you may not get the most efficiently manufactured electric bike. In contrast, a professional conversion will entail fitting a controller (the e-bike brain), motor, pedal sensors, etc., to build an electric bike the exact way it is manufactured in factories.
8. How Long Do Electric Bike Batteries Last?
Electric bike batteries have two primary longevity measures: the duration per charge (how far you can travel on a single charge) and the overall lifespan (how many years or charge cycles they last before significant degradation).
Duration Per Charge: On a single charge, most e-bike batteries can last between 30 to 120 miles, depending on various factors. These include the battery’s capacity (measured in watt-hours or Wh), the level of assistance you select, the terrain, rider weight, and even environmental conditions.
Overall Lifespan: In terms of years or charge cycles, a typical e-bike battery is good for 500 to 1,000 full charge cycles before it drops to about 80% of its original capacity. Considering real-world usage, where riders may not deplete their battery fully on every ride, a quality e-bike battery can last between 3 to 5 years or even longer. Proper care and maintenance, such as avoiding extreme temperatures and not storing the battery in a fully charged or fully depleted state, can also extend its lifespan.
8. Are Electric Bikes Waterproof?
Generally, electric bikes are water-resistant and designed to withstand typical outdoor conditions, but they aren’t fully waterproof. This means they can handle light rain, splashes, and damp conditions, but they shouldn’t be exposed to heavy rainfall or pressure sprays, submerged in water, or subjected to high-pressure water jets.
The electrical components, like the motor, battery, and display, have seals and protective casings to prevent water ingress up to a certain extent. However, prolonged or heavy exposure to water can potentially damage these parts. It’s best to get a separate battery cover to be extra cautious.
If you find yourself caught in an unexpected downpour, it’s advisable to let the electric bike dry thoroughly afterwards. And avoid charging your bike until it’s completely dry to prevent electrical shorts or damage.
Always consult your e-bike’s user manual for specific guidance on water exposure. Regular maintenance, like checking seals and protective casings, can help ensure the longevity of your electric bike in various weather conditions.
9. How do you charge an electric bike?
To charge an electric bike, start by ensuring that both the bike and the charger are turned off. It’s crucial to use the charger provided with the e-bike or one that’s specifically compatible with your battery model to avoid any potential damage.
Find a suitable location for charging, ideally a dry and well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. Plug the charger into a reliable electrical outlet. Next, connect the charger to the e-bike battery. This can be done either by plugging it directly into the battery port on the bike or by removing the battery and charging it separately, depending on the bike’s design.
Once connected, turn the charger on. Most batteries have an indicator light that will show the charging progress. When the battery is fully charged, the light usually turns green or goes off, depending on the model. Once charging is complete, turn off and unplug the charger before disconnecting the battery. It’s a good practice to occasionally check the battery and charger during the charging process to ensure that they aren’t overheating.
Lastly, always refer to the user manual of your specific electric bicycle model for any particular instructions or precautions related to charging. You can check out our blog which will tell you everything you need to know about e-bike batteries and how to charge them safely.
10. Are electric bikes a fire hazard
Electric bikes, like any electronic device with lithium-ion or similar batteries, have the potential to pose a fire hazard, but incidents are relatively rare. Most risks come from faulty batteries, improper charging practices, or using non-compatible chargers.
Reputable electric bike manufacturers implement several safety precautions in the design and manufacturing processes to ensure that the bikes, their batteries, and charging systems are safe for regular use. Moreover, modern batteries are equipped with built-in safety mechanisms, like overcharge and short-circuit protection.
To minimize potential risks:
- Always use the charger provided with the e-bike or one that’s specifically recommended by the manufacturer.
- Never let the bike’s battery fall to 0 – this can turn the BMS off.
- Avoid charging the battery in extremely hot or cold environments.
- Regularly inspect the battery for any signs of damage or wear.
- Don’t leave the battery charging unattended for extended periods.
- Store e-bikes and their batteries away from flammable materials.
While e-bikes are generally safe when used and maintained properly, it’s crucial to be aware of potential hazards and to follow recommended safety practices to ensure the long life and safety of the bicycle and its components.
11. Are electric bikes legal or illegal in the UK?
Electric bikes are legal in the UK, but they must meet certain specifications to be considered “EAPCs” (Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles). To be legally used on roads and cycle paths in the UK, e-bikes must:
- Have a motor with a maximum power output of 250 watts
- Not assist riders when they’re travelling at more than 15.5 mph (25 km/h)
- Be fitted with pedals that can be used to propel the bike
The rider must also be at least 14 years old to ride an e-bike on public roads or paths. There is no requirement for a license, insurance, or helmet (though wearing one is advised), and the e-bike doesn’t need to be registered, taxed, or MOT’d.
If an electric bike exceeds these specifications, it may be classified as a moped or motorcycle, which would then require licensing, insurance, and other legal requisites. Always check the specific regulations and stay updated, as legislation can change.
12. Are electric bikes allowed on trains in the UK
Generally, you can take an electric bike on a train in the UK, provided specific conditions are met.
To be allowed on a train, your electric bike must often be folded and you must not charge it either on the train or within the train station premises.
It’s worth noting that from 1st June 2023, a new regulation prohibits e-scooters, e-unicycles, e-skateboards, and hoverboards on UK trains. However, this restriction does not apply to electric bikes, which remain permitted. Always check with specific train operators for any additional guidelines or requirements they may have.
13. Do you need a license to ride an electric bike in the UK?
As per the UK’s law, you do not need a license to drive an electric bike in the UK, provided it meets the specifications for “EAPCs” (Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles).
As long as the e-bike has a maximum motor power output of 250 watts, doesn’t assist riders above 15.5 mph (25 km/h), and is fitted with pedals that can propel the bike, it’s considered an EAPC. Anyone aged 14 or older can drive an electric bike under these conditions on public roads or paths without a license. However, if the e-bike exceeds these specifications, it may be regarded as a moped or motorcycle, which would then require appropriate licensing. Always ensure you’re familiar with the latest regulations.
14. At what age can you legally ride an electric bike in the UK?
In the UK, you must be at least 14 years old to ride an electric bike on public roads and cycle paths. This applies to e-bikes that meet the specifications for EAPCs (Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles – see questions 11 and 13).
It’s worth noting that while you can legally ride an e-bike from the age of 14, there’s no requirement for a license, insurance, or helmet (though wearing one is strongly advised). Always ensure you’re adhering to the latest regulations when considering age and e-bike specifications.
15. Can you ride an electric bike if banned from driving
In the UK, if you have been banned from driving, you can still ride an electric bike that qualifies as an EAPC, i-e., it has a maximum motor power output of 250 watts and no assistance above 15.5 mph (25 km/h). Riding an EAPC doesn’t require a driving license, and it isn’t treated the same as motor vehicles in this context.
However, if the electric bike exceeds the EAPC specifications and falls under the category of a moped or motorcycle, then riding it while banned could lead to legal consequences.
16. Is it allowed to ride electric bikes on the road?
There are two situations to consider here:
- If your electric bike classifies as an EAPC (See questions 11 and 13), you can ride it anywhere regular cycles are allowed, including roads, cycling lanes, and parks.
- If your electric bike does not classify as an Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle, i-e., it has a throttle, speed above 25 km/h or motor wattage above 250W, you can ride it wherever you’d ride a moped or motorcycle provided that you register, tax, license, and insure it.
Thanks for diving into the electric bile basics with us! At eMovement, your journey towards understanding and embracing electric mobility is our top priority. Remember, every great e-bike adventure starts with knowledge. Stay tuned for more insights and other parts of this series spanning e-bike buying guides, common problems, and much more. Ride on and ride green!