Here is some of the most common questions I’ve come across regarding electric bikes. For more detailed coverage of some of these topics please refer to our Buyer’s Guide.
Q: How far will an electric bike travel?
A: It varies depending on the bike, the battery, how much you use the motor, hills, the weight the bike is carrying, and other factors. However, most electric bikes when fully charged will assist you in pedalling for at least 20 miles. Some will do much more.
Q: Are there any UK Laws about ebikes?
A: Yes there are but most apply to manufacturers not to riders, so average continuous motor power output must be no more than 200 watts, maximum speed at which the motor can assist you is limited to 25kph / 15.5 mph, there must be pedals, and a bicycle mustn’t weigh more than 40 kg (doesn’t apply to tandems or tricycles). There are other laws for manufacturers when it comes to electric bikes with throttles as well. The bets thing you can do is ensure your electric bike complies with UK Law.
For the rider the main thing to consider is that you must be at least 14 years of age to ride an electric bike!
Q: Do I need insurance and pay road tax for an electric bike?
A: No you don’t that’s why there are laws to govern the upper speed limit of electric bikes. Because ebikes are expensive though its probably advisable to have them insured under your home insurance policy if not a separate bicycle insurance cover.
Q: Do you still have to pedal an electric bike?
A: There are two types of electric bikes, those with throttles, and those with pedal assistance. Throttled ebikes will carry you up to the legal limit of 15.5mph without you pedalling, and then if you want to travel faster you will need to pedal. The large majority of electric bikes on the market are pedal assistance ebikes, and with these you pedal and the motor assists you. Many ebikes have pedal Assistance Systems (PAS) where you can set the amount of assistance the motor will provide.
Q: Does an electric bike charge as you pedal?
A: No they don’t, well a few do, but the large majority don’t. The battery charge comes from plugging your battery into the mains. At some point recharging via solar panels or pedalling may become more popular.
Q: How long does the battery take to charge?
A: Most Li-ion batteries will take 2.5 to 4 hours to fully recharge from flat. They will usually charge to about 80% capacity in half of that time, so if you’re short on time you should get away with a shorter battery recharge if you don’t need to travel too far.
Q: Where can you ride an electric bike?
A: The answer to that is anywhere you can ride a standard bike. The reason they are regulated by UK Law to 15.5mph is so you can take them anywhere you would a standard bike. If they generated more power they would fall into the same category as scooters and mopeds and therefore would require a licence, registration, road tax, and insurance. Please check on paths before you cycle on them because some paths are prohibited for cyclists to protect foot pedestrians and countryside.
Q: Can you ride an ebike in the rain?
A: Not a silly question actually, because as we know water and electricity don’t mix! If you’ve bought a UK approved ebike then the battery case would need to protect it with water resistance. They’ve not necessarily waterproof, as in can be submerged in water. As long as the battery is 36V or lower you would also have a very low chance of electrocution. So for standard cycling in the rain you should be OK, but do take precautions.
Q: How much does it cost to charge an electric bike?
A: Depends on the battery and how much you pay for your electricity but it should cost somewhere in the range of 3p to 5p to fully charge. For a more detailed analysis of the costs of running an electric bike please refer to the post how much does it cost to run an electric bike?
Q: Do you get exercise on an ebike?
A: Yes you do because the bike is only assisting you to pedal, so it will help you maintain a higher speed than your legs alone would, and if you slow down or get to a hill, depending on what PAS system you have, it will kick in to help out even more. But replace a standard car journey or bus commute with an electric bike and you’re certainly getting more exercise.
Q: Can I add an electric motor to my current bike?
A: Yes you can, you can buy an electric bike conversion kit which turns your current bike into an electric bike!
Q: How do you clean an electric bike?
A: The same way you clean a standard bike. All of the electrical parts are sealed and won’t be affected by a sponge and hose down. For best results use a bicycle cleaning product like Muc Off. Don’t forget to re-lubricate your chain after washing, and don’t use a pressure washer as it can remove the grease from wheel bearings or get into the motor.
Q: Do electric bikes fit on bike racks?
A: Yes they do, they’re physically similar to a standard bike, with a different rear hub and a battery attached. This shouldn’t affect your ability to attach it to a cycle carrier. However, electric bikes can be a bit heavier than a standard bike so ensure your roof rack system is still reachable for you with say a 23kg bike.