Electric Bike FAQs

Aventon Aventure on a Bike Path
Aventon Aventure on the local bike path.

If you’re new to electric bikes, you probably have a lot of questions about how they work, and how best to maintain them. This is a list of some of the most commonly asked questions regarding ebikes and ebike ownership.

 

Can You Pedal an Electric Bike Without the Battery or Motor?

 

If an electric bike runs out of power from its battery, it can still technically be pedaled. Whether, that is practical or not depends upon the bike. Many ebikes weigh in excess of 50 lbs, which makes pedaling quite a chore, and nearly impossible on a hill. Also, gears play a huge role. Most ebikes have basic gears, since they have assistance from a motor, so pedaling them up a hill without a working motor is difficult.

Lighter ebikes, those with more available gears, and more efficient tires, can be ridden without the motor much more practically. As examples, bikes like the Marin Sausalito E1 or the budget friendly Ride1Up Roadster, are quite practical to pedal without the motor. Basically, you want to look for an ebike that weighs less than 50 lbs, has a good gear ratio and narrow tires.

Mid-drive ebikes are typically easier to pedal than hub-drives, though some mid-drive motors have some drag or resistance when pedaling. For example, the Yamaha mid-drive motor on my Liv Amiti E+4 has almost no resistance, making it very easy to pedal without the motor, while my Ride1Up Prodigy with a Brose mid-drive motor does have some resistance.

A reason why ebikes with mid-drive motors are typically easier to pedal without the motor, is because they are often paired up with good drive systems, and lighter frames, which are found on better quality bikes. Ebikes with hub drives can also be practical to pedal without assistance from the motor, if they are lighter weight and have a good gear ratio. I’ve discovered a good size freewheel or cassette for an ebike is one that ranges from 11-32 teeth or better. Generally, a wide range of gears is better than fewer.

Hub Motor

Does Pedaling Charge an Ebike Battery?

For most ebikes, the answer is no, but ebikes that use direct drive motors can recapture some energy by means of kinetic energy through regenerative braking. It’s a small percentage, but it’s something. Since the energy is created when you’re braking instead of pedaling, it obviously isn’t as ideal. I hope someday we have an ebike that recharges when pedaling. That would be nice!

How Long Does an Electric Bike Motor Last?

Ebike motors can last for thousands of miles. Anywhere from 3-10 years is average. A direct drive motor has a longer lifespan than a geared hub motor because there are fewer moving parts. To extend the life of an ebike motor, keep it from excess moisture and heat. Also, choose an ebike with a motor that provides enough power to do what you need it to do. A motor that’s always running at max output, causing overheating, will have a shorter lifespan.

Mid-drive motors put much more strain on the bike’s chain and gears, so you can expect more wear and tear on them. However, mid-drive motors last about as long as hub motors, but are more expensive to replace.

RadWagon Battery
RadWagon Battery Mounted on Frame

How Long Do Electric Bike Batteries Last?

The lifespan of an electric bike’s battery can vary quite a bit. Lithium-ion batteries, which are typically used on ebikes, require some care. Make sure to follow the recommendations from the manufacturer of the battery.

Typically, if you’re going to store a battery for more than a few days, keep the charge between 40-80% and store the battery in a cool and dry place. The cold isn’t as hard on lithium-ion batteries as is excessive heat. It’s a good idea to keep them at or around room temperature when storing. Don’t leave them in an excessively cold or hot garage.

Don’t completely discharge the battery to 0%. Most ebike batteries will shut off before getting this low, but it’s not a good idea to try to get every last bit out of your battery. Also, if you fully charge your bike’s battery to 100%, it’s a good idea to make sure you use the battery within a few days.

If properly cared for, ebike batteries can last from 3-5 years before needing replacement. Of course, that will vary depending upon their usage and proper care.

Lithium-ion batteries also pose a small fire risk. I keep mine in a non-flammable bag, designed specifically for ebike batteries.