What is an Electric Bike? – Benefits You Probably Hadn’t Considered

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As the world continues to turn, technology continues to dominate. Cars have become smart cars. We've gone from VCRs to 3D TV. Writers, who once spent long hours in the painstaking process of typing on a typewriter, can now dictate to a computer exactly what they want written down. Robots are a thing. There are a million and one examples of how technological upgrades continue to change society and the world we live in, and the electric bike is one of them. You're in good company if you're left wondering “What is an electric bike?” And if that's the case, you've come to the right place to get the answer.

Electric bikes are being used throughout the world as a means of transportation, and some people may even use it as their primary means of transportation. They're sleek in design, come in a plethora of shapes and sizes, and are truly wonderful to ride. They can make your bike ride easier, less sweaty, and definitely more hi-tech. However, you may be wondering how exactly an electric bike works, or why it is people would want to fork over hundreds of dollars just to own one. Well, we've got you covered. We can teach you all about an electric bike and show you five benefits about owning one that you probably hadn't considered.

What Is an Electric Bike?

blue bicycle near mountain

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Like all bicycles, an electric bike (or an e-bike) is a means of transportation designed with two wheels, handlebars, and a frame that seats one or more persons. What distinguishes an electric bike from the rest is its motor. An electric bike's motor runs off a rechargeable battery (just like a cellphone or iPad). The purpose of the motor is to make pedaling easier. In other words, an electric bike won't just go on its own; you actually have to exert at least some effort. Some electric bike owners claim that they make pedaling on even ground like pedaling downhill and pedaling uphill like pedaling on even ground. Nice, right?

Speed and Battery Life

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Electric bikes can often reach speeds of 20-28 mph depending on their make, size, and other factors. Their batteries typically take about 8 hours to charge, and that charge usually lasts about 25 to 30 miles (40 to 48 km) if you're going at a constant speed of about 20 km/h. However, other factors also come into play. Riding uphill, carting around heavy cargo, or riding against the wind can all have an effect on how long your battery lasts as well. Still, you've got to be impressed by a bike that can go that fast for that long on only eight hours worth of charge! Electric bikes are undoubtedly pretty amazing creations.

The History Of Electric Bikes

Now that you've asked “what is an electric bike” and received a cursory answer, it might be helpful to dive into the history of these complex and intriguing inventions. You might be surprised to know that the first electric bike ever patented was made by Ogden Bolton Jr., who received his patent on New Year's Eve, 1895. His e-bike had a motor mounted in the rear wheel and no gears. Just a couple of years later, Hosea W. Libbey also came up with an electric bike of his own that was powered by a “double electric motor.” His bike went on to be a sort of prototype for the e-bikes made by Giant Lafree in the late 1990s.

As time marched forward, inventors started offering varying answers to the question, “what is an electric bike?” In 1898, the first real-wheel drive electric bike was made by using a driving belt and putting it on the outside of the wheel. This one was created by Matthew J. Steffens; a similar creation which operated in a roller-wheel style was made by John Schnepf a year later. Schnepf's bike was expanded upon by G.A. Wood Jr. in 1969; Wood's bike utilized fractional horsepower motors which were connected through a series of gears. There are clearly many styles of e-bike, although only some have stood the test of time.

Fast forward to the 1990s, and Takada Yutky in Japan filed a patent for a bike with torque sensors and power controls. Vector Services Limited started selling an e-bike named Zike in 1992 which had NiCd batteries built into a frame member; they also had an 850 g permanent-magnet motor. However, the Zike didn't change the fact that almost no commercial e-bikes were available at this point in history. It wasn't until later that electric bike finally caught on and more and more people started asking “what is an electric bike?” When that day came, a particular invention had largely standardized e-bikes everywhere.

The Origin of Modern E-Bikes

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Yamaha, the world-renowned automotive behemoth from Japan, revolutionized electric bikes forever when they invented one of the prototypes of what has become the most popular kind of e-bike on the market today. Their revolutionary design was the pedal-assist system, which is what the pedelec, pedal-assisted, and power-assisted electric bikes have as their point of origin. Though other types of electric bicycles still exist and are obtainable, it is this style in particular that this article will be discussing in detail. So those who ask “what is an electric bike?” need only look to Yamaha's creation for the definitive answer.

Who Uses Electric Bicycles?

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Depending on where you live, you may not have ever seen an electric bicycle. They're certainly not the most popular type of transportation by any means, but they are nevertheless used and even used widely in some countries. For instance, in 2007, it is said that electric bikes made up 10-20% of every two-wheeled vehicle on the streets of several major Chinese cities, and by 2010, it was estimated that the country had over 120 million e-bikes on the road. This explosion in e-bike usage was caused by the government's attempt to cut down on motorcycles, as they were common problems with traffic disruptions and accidents.

India also has a large population of citizens that use electric bikes. By 2008, electric bike sales surpassed moped sales. In more recent years, two and three passenger model e-bikes started appearing on the streets, although the three passenger models were designed for two adults and one child. The Netherlands has over 18 million electric bikes on their roadways, too, and the total revenue of bicycle sales in 2009 was comprised of 25% e-bike sales. The U.S. itself has over 200,000 e-bikes, and they have been a popular method of food delivery in New York in times past.

5 Benefits of Riding an Electric Bike

Now that we've answered the question “what is an electric bike?” and seen some of the countries in which their use has been popular, it's now time to learn about the fantastic benefits of riding them. Here's what an e-bike can offer you should you choose to hop on and ride.

It's a Great Way to Exercise

It's Cheaper Than Traveling by Car

It's Green

It Can Get You Farther

You Can Carry More


Red Electric bicycle

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Though they aren't the most popular means of transportation, electronic bikes are still impressive pieces of technology. They have a lengthy history and have been used widely in a number of countries. Likewise, riding an e-bike has several benefits which include health benefits, financial benefits, and more. So if you're looking for an alternative and fun way to get around, give the e-bike a try! You'll be glad you did.


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