What is an electric bike?

Power-assisted or E bikes have the pedals as the main form of propulsion with the motor used to give a bit of extra power, especially uphill. Many motorized bicycles are based on standard bicycle frame designs and technologies, although the modifications to the design to support motorization may be extensive or purpose built as in the case of the Ultra Motor A2B.

In the United States a motorized bicycle or LEV (light electric vehicles) is defined as having a top speed of no more than 20 mph and the electric motor power rating of no more than 750 watts. They are not considered motor vehicles by the federal government and are subject to the same consumer safety laws as unassisted bicycles.[11] Their legality on public roads is under state jurisdiction, and varies; see the main Electric bicycle laws article for details on the law in individual states.

Electric bicycle history

In the 1890s, electric bicycles were documented within various U.S. patents. For example, on 31 December 1895 Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted  U.S. Patent 552,271 for a battery-powered bicycle

By 2001 the terms, E-Bikes, power bike, pedelec, assisted bicycle and power-assisted bicycle where commonly used to describe electric bicycles. E-bike, according to Google, is a term that has increased in trend. This term generally referred to an electric bicycle which used a throttle.

The modern electric bicycle is true to the concept of a pedal bicycle with assisting propulsion, being ridable without power. Batteries have finite capacity, which means that the hybrid human / electric power mix is much more likely to be emphasized than is the case with a combustion engine. Electric bicycles are gaining acceptance, especially in Europe and Asia, in response to increasing traffic congestion, an aging population and concern about the environment.

Types of electric assist

Electric motorized bicycles can be power-on-demand, where the motor is activated by a handlebar mounted throttle, and/or a Pedelec, a European term that generally refers to an electric bicycle that incorporates a torque and/or a speed sensor and/or a power controller that delivers a proportionate level of assist and only activates when the rider is pedaling. Ohm  BionX and the Ultra Motor A2B Hybrid electric bikes uses this type of technology. These have a sensor to detect the pedaling speed, the pedaling force, or both. An electronic controller provides assistance as a function of the sensor inputs, the vehicle speed and the required force. Most controllers also provide for manual adjustment as in the Ohm and BionX.

Electric bike conversion

Converting conventionally powered bikes to electric assist is also increasingly common. Kits are available with or with out batteries, front or rear wheel drive, and come laced to common size wheels, 20",24",26" or 700c. We can even have custom wheel sizes laced to any type of hub motor. The most common voltage used is 36v and a motor with a nominal 500w, peak 750w power rating. Converting a conventional bike to electric assist can be accomplished by a mechanically inclined individual in about 1.5 hrs for a rear wheel and 1 hr or less for a front wheel conversion. Front wheel kits run about $330 with out batteries, $475 with a lead acid battery. LifePo (lithium) batteries can add another $550 + depending on the capacity of the battery (amp/hr. rating). The important thing to remember in doing a conversion is that the axle for the electric motor must not be mounted to a cast aluminum  drop out. Due to the high torque developed by the electric motor these types of drop outs can crack and snap. Also having disc brakes front and rear is recommended due to the potential for higher speed and quicker acceleration. If you are unsure about doing the conversion yourself have our qualified technicians at The Green Commuter perform the conversion.   

 Federal laws concerning E-bikes, States must follow

The Green Commuter is and advocate for using E-bikes safely and legally. It is the buyer's responsibility to check the local laws in his or her home state and the District of Columbia concerning helmet laws. And always, wear a helmet!

On December 4, 2002, the 107th Congress voted upon, and passed H.R. Bill 727. This bill defined a low-speed electric bicycle as any bicycle with fully operable pedals, an electric motor not to exceed 750 Watts (1 H.P.) and a top motor-powered speed not in excess of 20 mph. The bill would later become Public Law PL107-319 and be signed into law by President George Bush on December 9, 2002. Simply put, the only laws that apply to electric bikes are those that apply to conventional bicycles.

The following are Federal law guidelines.

Electric Bicycle Regulations
·     Federal law says that an electrically driven bicycle is considered a "bicycle" and the laws of bicycles apply if:
o Electrically driven bicycle has less than 750 watt motor
o Functional pedals
o Max speed is less than 20mph
·     The Federal law shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed electric bicycles. (The state must regulate the electric bicycle as a bicycle)

SEC. 38. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, low-speed electric bicycles are consumer products within the meaning of section 3(a)(1) and shall be subject to the Commission regulations published at section 1500.18(a)(12) and part 1512 of title 16, Code of Federal Regulations.
(b) For the purpose of this section, the term `low-speed electric bicycle' means a two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.
(c) To further protect the safety of consumers who ride low-speed electric bicycles, the Commission may promulgate new or amended requirements applicable to such vehicles as necessary and appropriate.
(d) This section shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or requirements referred to in subsection (a).

Does an electric bicycle fit your lifestyle?

Your answers to these questions show how well an electric bicycle fits your lifestyle.

Of the errands run by family members, how many are within 5 miles of home?
Think about it: shopping, automatic teller machines, deliveries, recreation. Trips up to one mile from home are quicker and easier on an electric bike than by car. Trips up to five miles (ten miles round trip) are easy. Multiple stops combined in one trip on an electric bike are convenient and fun.

How many people over the age of 15 live in your home?
More people means more trips- many of which are practical on an electric bike. Do you chauffeur teenagers around? Save yourself time and bother; send them out on their own.

Do you want to get more exercise?
E-bikes assist your pedaling; they don't replace it. Many people find they ride more (and get more exercise) when they have an electric assist.

Do you want to do more for our environment?
Riding an electric bike reduces gasoline use and global warming. It also reduces air and noise pollution.

Do you own a bicycle?
If you like the bike you own, upgrade it with a power-assist kit.

How much do you participate or volunteer in your local community?
Community involvement usually means local trips, many of which are easy on an electric bike. Also, it's easy to greet and meet your neighbors from the seat of a bicycle. Most folks welcome and encourage riders of e-bikes.

Do you want a simpler lifestyle?
An electric bike is simple to use, fix, and pay for. It's the kind of clean, quiet, and people-friendly transportation we want in our neighborhoods.

Is saving money on transportation costs important to you?
Electricity to power an electric bike costs one cent for two miles of travel. Maintenance and repair costs are also much less than for a car, so every mile you ride saves money. When combined with public transportation, you can get most anywhere.

Do you set an example for others? Do you invest in sustainable products?
Electric bicycles are the first affordable electric vehicles. Riding one demonstrates their practicality. Investing in one forwards the entire industry of electric vehicles.

Are you concerned about another oil embargo or higher gas prices?
Even without another oil embargo, Peak Oil guarantees that future gas prices will rise. Electric bikes give you more control over your fuel costs and its availability.

Does local traffic congestion cause you stress?
In addition to helping ease traffic congestion, riding an electric bike enables you to glide past traffic snarls. Instead of stress, you feel like you're beating the system while enjoying the nature, sights, and smells around you.

How many miles between your home and work?
The closer you live to work, the easier to bike to work. Commuting by bicycle can save enough money in one year, just in fuel and maintenance costs, to pay for an assist kit. Even infrequent commutes (e.g. when the car is in the shop) add value. Many people find routes to work that are quiet and pleasant.

Are there adults without driving licenses in the home? How about seniors?
For many who are unable or unwilling to drive, the electric bike or trike is a great option.

How likely is it that you could replace one of your cars with an electric bike?
Dropping one car from your household "fleet" saves enough on insurance and registration to pay for an e-bike in less than one year.


Why do people choose to ride an electric bike?
Because they:

  • want to save money, meet new people, and protect the environment;
  • enjoy the feeling of riding a bicycle - except for hills, headwinds, and starting from a stop;
  • prefer their local errands to be easy, slow paced and scenic;
  • look for extra chances to exercise - even if it's just a little;
  • still need convenient, point-to-point transportation after losing their driving privileges;
  • want their own traffic "lane,"convenient parking spots and shortcuts;
  • considered a gas-powered moped or motor-scooter, but dislike the noise, smell, starting problems and special laws;
  • deserve more fun and freedom in their lives.
  • Not convinced? Click here for The top 10 reasons to buy an electric bike