Motor type, rider weight, wind speed…what else?
One of the most common questions that we hear about electric bikes is about the average battery autonomy. In other words, how far you are able to travel with your eBike. This question is quite often difficult to answer, even for the electric bike specialists. There are so many variables that contribute to (or diminish) the battery range on an eBike. Let us try to explain a few main points that affect your battery autonomy on an eBike!
In this article, we would like to primarily focus on the electric assist bicycle equipped with a Bosch mid-drive motor. Bosch is the world leading manufacturer of eBike systems, occupying over 60% of the eBike market. It has won many consecutive awards for its system, for example the Red Dot Award on the Active Line and Active Line Plus models in 2017 and 2018.
Factors affecting the eBike autonomy
The right gear
One of the most common mistakes the new eBike owners make is fully relying on the electric assistance and forgetting about switching gears. The “correct” gear significantly saves the battery power. It is important to remember that your electric bike still works like a traditional one, and the assistance is there to help you pedal easier. And that you still have to switch gears while riding on different terrains. High gears are needed for when you’re going at high speeds on the flat or downhill – you are supposed to feel the pressure when you push on a pedal (torque). That’s what makes your bike go. If you are approaching a hill and turning up your assistance level, remaining in a higher gear, you will exhaust your battery faster. Switching to the lower gear allows to easier climb hills. So it is highly recommended to remain conscious of the elevations and your speed, and switch gears to fine-tune the ride!
Weight of the rider and extra cargo
Another important factor would be rider’s weight and any extra cargo on the bike. The more significant the rider’s weight is, the more energy the engine would demand from the battery supply, therefore reducing the possible travel distance. The same goes for any cargo we strap onto our eBikes, basically every pound counts!
Another factor would be the difference in elevation. A mountainous terrain, although offering beautiful sightseeing experiences, will reduce the overall distance you can travel. The elevation fluctuation requires more battery energy to support the motor when it is assisting you going up hills. On flat, even terrain the energy expense is significantly less because of the momentum created by the speed of the bike.
Stops and starts
Just like when riding a car, frequent stops and starts use a lot of energy power. It is, unfortunately, inevitable when you are commuting in a busy city with the constantly changing traffic lights. So when you are about to take of, switch to the lower gear and help your bike to start, instead of turning the highest assistance level. That might slow down your start but it would significantly impact the battery life.
Keeping your tires pumped up is one of the most important bike life hacks that people sometime tend to forget about (another one being regularly oiling your chain). Low tires significantly drains your battery because now the motor has to work harder to maintain the speed. To avoid the sluggish ride and prolong the life of your tires, keep your ties at the proper pressure!
The Rider’s Posture and the Wind
The airdynamics is a key factor when we talk about speed. If your bike has a comfort style frame and you ride with a more upright position, you will have a harder time accelerating and maintaining high speed. And if you are relying on the assistance to help you gain the speed, it will drain the battery faster. Similarly, a headwind will affect the eBike range as you’re pushing against wind to maintain your speed.
Batteries that experience the extreme cold of winters (like in Quebec for example) will not have the same range as a battery being used at, say, 15 degrees Celsius. Batteries do not like extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold and you will find that the greatest range will be achieved in mild temperatures. There are, however, ways to get around this. Many aftermarket companies have created protective, insulated cases for your batteries in order to keep them at a more constant temperature. This is ideal for anyone wanting to ride their electric bike in the winter!
The surface conditions
A smooth surface such as asphalt will allow more distance than on gravel or off-road paths.
More powerful motors require more energy power. They accelerate faster. Bosch-equipped Ebikes offer four different levels of assistance; Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo. With Turbo mode offering a 250% boost, you can imagine that you will get quite a bit less range in this assistance mode compared to Eco mode, which only outputs 50% assistance.