What are the Best Electric Bikes for Commuters?
A lot of people who commute to work each day may be asking themselves if an electric bike would be a practical way to make the journey.
If you are new to ebiking deciding which is the best electric bike for commuters could present you with a problem. There are a vast array of ebikes to choose from. Trying to make an informed decision can be daunting and completely overwhelming.
The best electric bike for commuters is simply the bike that meets as many of the criteria as possible that you feel is important to you! None of the bikes for sale will be a perfect choice for everyone
- Are Pedal Assisted Ebikes The Best Electric Bikes for Commuters?
- What is the Range of The Best Electric Bikes for Commuters?
- Are The Best Electric Bike for Commuters those with a Full Throttle?
- Will You need to Take Your Commuter Electric Bike onto Public Transport?
- What’s the Best Electric Bike for Commuters that can also be used Recreationally?
- How much does an Electric Bike for Commuters cost?
- Why are Electric Bikes for Commuters so Expensive?
The things that you need to consider when you are deciding on the best electric bike for commuting are:
- Are you happy to do some pedalling or do you want to be able to ‘freewheel all the way’?
- How far will you ride the bike each day?
- Will you be riding the bike on the road only or are there ‘off road shortcuts’ that you might want to take?
- How much money do you want to spend on your commuters electric bike?
- Will the entire journey be made on the bike or will some of it be made using public transport?
- If you are going to take the bike on public transport would a folding electric bike be the right choice?
- Is your ebike solely for commuting or will you want to use you e-bike for recreational purposes?
- Are you able to take your ebike into the office with you or will it be parked outside?
Are Pedal Assisted Ebikes The Best Electric Bikes for Commuters?
The majority of commuters are most likely to want to choose an ‘electrically assisted pedal cycle’, or EAPC for short.
There are a number of different types of electric bikes available but the EAPC option is the one that most resembles a normal pedal cycle. Most of the electric bikes on the market tend to resemble their manual counterparts visually but the EAPC option is the closest direct replacement for the traditional bike.
An electrically assisted pedal cycle is exactly what you would expect it to be. It is pedal cycle that allows the rider to choose the option of engaging an electric motor to make pedalling easier. You do however need to do some pedalling, the bike will not propel itself!
This type of machine offers the best of both worlds. The bike can be used as a normal bike if the rider wishes. Alternatively the rider has the benefit of being able to get some assistance with the pedalling if he/she decides that they need it. Even with pedal assist engaged the rider is still getting at least some physical exercise.
If you are stuck in an office all day riding your ebike to work may be the only physical exercise that you get all day. This is important at any age but if you are an older commuter using an ebike then making sure that you get sufficient exercise is even more important.
Pedal Assist Electric Bikes come in all shapes and sizes and are available in all price ranges. When choosing your commuter e bike make sure that you get the best value electric bike that meets your needs.
The electrically assisted pedal cycle is also the style of ebike that virtually anyone can ride without restriction. Generally speaking anyone can ride an EAPC machine on a public road. The only restriction is likely to be one of age. In the UK for example anyone over the age of 14 years of age can ride these types of ebike. The only other criteria (again using the UK as an example) is that the motor size cannot exceed 250w, and pedal assist cannot be provided once the speed reaches 15.5mph (25kph)
It is obviously wise to check regulations in your own location but in almost all parts of the world the electrically assisted pedal cycle will have the least restrictions placed upon it.
What is the Range of The Best Electric Bikes for Commuters?
If you are using your ebike for commuting you will need to know how far you are going to travel each day to and from work. There is very little point buying an electric bike for commuting that will not complete the journey. OK, with an electrically assisted pedal cycle you do have the option of pedalling your bike home but it. Buying an electric bike for commuting to work and then having to rely on pedal power does somewhat defeat the object.
Calculating the range of your commuter electric bike is not an exact science. There is a formula that is often used but even using this the resulting figure is little more than an educated guess.
For those of you that are in to this sort of thing the formula that is commonly used is:
(Battery Voltage x Amp Hours = Wh of energy) / 20
Every ebike manufacturer will generally give the information relating to the battery power of their bikes. This may be something along the lines of 10Ah/36v or 13Ah/ 36v for example.
Using the above formula the first part of the equation would be either 36 x10 or for the second example 36 x13. Giving figures of 360 and 468 Watt hours of energy respectively.
It is estimated that an ebike battery will be capable of 1 mile of travel for each 20 Wh of energy. Hence the figure in the equation being divided by 20.
Therefore theoretically the bike with the 10Ah/36v battery should give you 18 miles range (360/20 = 18) and the 13Ah/ 36v (468Wh) example should provide a range of 23.4 miles.
This however is extremely misleading and does not give an accurate estimate for the range of a electrically assisted pedal cycle. It merely shows roughly how far the battery alone is likely to propel the bike (if it was able to do so).
It does not take into account any of the variables that occur in real life operation.
Rough terrain (hills etc) will have a negative impact on the results you get. The amount of pedalling you do will have a positive effect on the distance you will be able to travel.
In reality most people who ride an electric powered bike will at least want to do some pedalling. In the case of an ‘electrically assisted pedal cycle’ it is of course mandatory.
The actual range for most people riding an EAPC would therefore be in the region of 15-20% more than the calculated figure might suggest.
Personally I would expect that, on average, an electrically assisted pedal cycle with a 250w motor would probably be good for a round trip of between about 22 to 28 miles in real world conditions.
I have found at least one advert for an ebike with a 13Ah/ 36v battery where the manufacturer is claiming that the battery range is ‘up to 65 miles’.
They do however qualify this by also stating that “the weight of the rider, the terrain and mode of pedal assist will have an affect the actual figures achieved”.
In most cases a round trip commute of twenty miles is the most that the majority of riders would be likely to undertake. Surveys suggest that most commuters felt that anything above this sort of distance would be excessive and they would be likely to consider another option if one was available.
Are The Best Electric Bike for Commuters those with a Full Throttle?
Although the majority of commuters are likely to prefer to ride an electrically assisted pedal cycle there are other options available.
These alternatives are generally referred to as Full Throttle Electric Bikes.
What are Full Throttle Electric Bikes?
A full throttle commuter electric bike has a throttle as opposed to a pedal assist function. The throttle can sometimes be operated with a twisting motion (similar to a motorcycle). Alternatively some machines are fitted with a throttle control that can be operated with the riders thumb.
The main difference between a pedal assist ebike and a full throttle ebike is that a full throttle machine will enable you to pull away without pedalling at all.
Just to confuse matters there are electrically assisted pedal cycles that also have a throttle.
With this type of ebike you have the option of using the bike in pedal assist mode or throttle mode. You do not use both options simultaneously!
You can, for example, set off in pedal assist mode and then change over to throttle mode while you are in motion. Alternatively you can set off using the throttle and then select pedal assist when you are moving.
Some people believe that if you have an ebike with a throttle assist facility the pedals will rotate whilst you are moving. This is not the case. When the throttle function is selected the pedals remain stationary. They are only engaged again when you move out of throttle mode and into pedal assist, or are using the machine with pedal power only.
There is even a third option of throttle ebikes available. There are full throttle ebikes that have no pedals at all. For all intents and purposes they operate exactly the same way as a scooter or moped.
A word of warning about Throttle Ebikes!
As stated above pedal assisted ebikes in the UK are classed exactly the same as any normal pedal cycle. However, if the electric motor generates more than 250w of power and power assist is available at speeds in excess of more than 15.5mph then the classification changes.
This change of classification (in the UK at least) means that a full throttle ebike is treated, in legal terms, in much the same way as a small motorcycle. UK regulations state that to use the vehicle on a public road the this type of ebike has to be registered, the rider needs to have insurance, and a driving licence is required. The wearing of a crash helmet is also mandatory.
If you are buying a full throttle ebike to commute to work make sure that you research all of the regulations regarding their use in your geographic region. In the USA you will almost certainly find that the classification of ebikes varies from state to state.
Will You need to Take Your Commuter Electric Bike onto Public Transport?
People who are considering commuting to work on a bicycle, or ebike, will not all have the same requirements. Some people may be looking for the Best electric bike for commuting the full distance of their journey.
Other people may be looking for an electric bike to cover part of the journey only. They may, for example, be currently making the first part of the journey, to the station perhaps, by car and feel that an ebike would be a healthier alternative. In this scenario the ebike could quite easily be left parked at the station ready for collection at the end of the day to complete the return journey.
If you are using your electric bike to get you to the station where it will be parked all day then a standard size electric bike will probably fit the bill quite nicely.
If, on the other hand, you are wanting to transport your electric bike on public transport then you are almost certainly going to want to consider a folding electric bike.
Folding electric bikes for commuters are an ideal choice for anyone who wants to take their bike with them on a bus or train. They require far less luggage space, and are easier to manoeuvre when getting onto, and off, public transport than an ebike with a standard sized frame. A folding e bike also tends to weigh substantially less than a bike with a full sized frame.
You may also find that a folding electric bike can be conveniently stored in your office at work whereby a standard ebike might just be too big and cumbersome.
What’s the Best Electric Bike for Commuters that can also be used Recreationally?
Although the majority of people who are looking for an electric bike to get them to and from work are unlikely to want to use their bike recreationally there will be some that do.
If you want to do a lot of serious off road ebike riding at the weekend then you are probably going to need to buy an electric mountain bike designed specifically for that purpose. Your commuter e bike is unlikely to fit the bill. There are however electric bikes for off road use that can also be used for commuting, but you may have to make some compromises.
If however you merely want to ride your commuter ebike occasionally at the weekends for fun then there is no reason why it would not be up to it.
If you are simply considering exploring some of the countryside on your e bike, and will be riding on paved roads then your commuter e bike will do the job reasonably well. They are not however specifically designed for off road riding.
Bear in mind however that if you ride on rought terrain you ride on will affect the battery range. If you are going to be negotiating lots of hills then the mileage you will get will be considerably less than it would be on the flat.
If you are riding for pleasure then you are likely to do a higher mileage than you would do commuting. It may be worth considering buying an e bike for commuting with a bigger battery capacity if you are going to be using the bike for weekend jaunts on a regular basis.
It may also be worth considering buying a bike with a more powerful motor as well if you are going to be using the bike recreationally on a regular basis.
If you are likely to be riding your commuter electric bike off road on rough terrain then one other aspect you need to consider is the type of tyres you have fitted to your bike.
Tyres that you would consider to be ideal for riding on a tarmac surface would be less than ideal on a more rugged landscape. Electric bikes designed for rough terrain tend to be fitted with ‘nobbly tyres’ whereas commuter e bike tyres tend to have far less tread.
Changing the tyres on your commuter e-bike each time you want to ride it off road is not a particularly practical option. A better solution would be to have your bike fitted with a good all round general purpose tyre that would perform adequately both on and off road.
This will always be a bit of a compromise but it is probably the best all round solution.
How much does an Electric Bike for Commuters cost?
When you are deciding on which of the electric bikes for commuters you are going to choose the cost is a major factor. Everyone will have very different ideas about how much they actually want to spend.
The price of an ebike for suitable for commuters varies dramatically. The starting price for a new electric bike in the UK seems to be around about the £600-700 ($600-700 in the USA). There are occasionally a few cheaper bikes advertised but they are few and far between.
If you have an unlimited budget there are numerous ebikes available in the £5,000 – £6000 ($5,000-6000) price range, and above.
Personally I believe that most people will easily be able to find a suitable e-bike for commuting for under £1500, or £2000 at the absolute maximum.
Why are Electric Bikes for Commuters so Expensive?
Some people who are considering buying an ebike find it difficult to understand why they are so expensive compared to normal bicycles. In most cases they do not look unlike their manually operated counterparts.
Although most ebikes have a similar appearance to normal cycles they are completely different. The amount of technology involved in making an electric bike work is quite substantial.
An electric bike is in fact more closely related to an electric scooter or moped than a bicycle in terms of engineering.
The components such as the electronics, the motors and the batteries used in the manufacture of an ebike are all quite expensive to produce. There is also considerably more work involved in assembling an ebike than a conventional bike.
All of these things contribute to the overall cost of the ebike.
It may be that you should not be looking at the purchase price of an ebike in isolation. You should also be looking at the benefits and potential savings that it might bring.
One of the main benefits of course is the positive effect that it might have on your general health. Secondly you may be considering riding an ebike to work instead of taking public transport or driving the family car. If this is the case then there will be significant financial advantages to be gained from using an ebike.
There is no doubt that commuting to and from work on an ebike can have definite advantages. If you are currently driving to work or travelling on public transport an ebike will be a far healthier alternative.
If you are currently commuting on a normal bicycle and are finding pedalling is becoming a problem then riding an ebike will certainly help to reduce the physical strain.