When I was recently looking to get a new electric bike, I wanted to know whether or not it would be worthwhile. So, I did some research to find out about the benefits and disadvantages that e-bikes have.
So, are e-bikes worth it? Whether or not an e-bike is worth it for you will depend on your situation. If you want to cycle but can’t ride an ordinary bike or you need something to travel up to 10 miles with then it could be worthwhile. If you are looking to save money with it in place of a car then you’ll need to add up the costs of the e-bike compared to the costs of running a car to decide.
Electric bikes have a lot of uses and there are actually a lot of things to consider when deciding if an electric bike would be worth it for you. What would be worthwhile for one person might not be for the next.
Are E-Bikes Worth It?
Electric bikes work just like ordinary bikes do but they also have a battery and motor that give you some extra power. If you have a pedal assist e-bike then the motor will give you assistance by pushing you along when you pedal helping you to go faster. These types of e-bikes are very common and must be pedaled in order to make use of the electric motor. The other type of e-bike is throttle assisted where the motor will make one of the wheels turn when you push or twist a throttle.
Benefits of E-Bikes
There are a number of benefits that e-bikes provide that I will talk about below.
Even though you don’t have to work as hard on e-bikes as you would on an ordinary bike you do still have to pedal to make the bike move (assuming it’s pedal assist). This means that you can still get health and fitness benefits when using an e-bike. This was actually shown in a recent study where 20 sedentary people were asked to ride an e-bike for 40 minutes three times per week. After, one month it was found that they had made fitness and health improvements.
- Easier to use
Many people can not use regular bikes because they are too demanding. Electric bikes give many of these people an opportunity to cycle when they previously wouldn’t have been able to. It could be that the person has a knee issue preventing them from being able to put too much pressure on it or they could be weak from old age. In both cases, electric bikes can present an opportunity to cycle that they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.
- Make journeys seem less challenging
The extra power that the motor provides on e-bikes means that it’s possible to cycle them long distances more easily. This can make longer commutes seem less daunting and can persuade people to cycle to work when they previously would have driven. This can help people to get more exercise that they previously wouldn’t have gotten.
- They’re enjoyable
When cycling an electric bike each pedal will make you feel like you have super strong legs and it is a lot of fun for most people. Electric bikes also help to deal with some of the problems that ordinary bikes have. When cycling into the wind or up a hill on a normal bike you don’t have any option but to put more effort in. This can be demotivating for many people and cause them to give up after a while. The power that e-bike motors provide can help to deal with these issues since when you need more power you can simply increase the level of assistance on the bike. This ease of use can help people to stick with it in the long-term where they previously wouldn’t have on an ordinary bike.
- Reduce car costs
Many people choose to cycle to work instead of driving. This can help to reduce the costs that cars come with such as gas and maintenance fees. With that being said e-bikes do have costs of their own with the main one being needing to replace the battery after a certain number of charges (usually 500).
Problems With E-Bikes
There are, however, a number of reasons that you might not want to get an e-bike some of which I will mention below.
- Initial cost
Electric bikes tend to cost a lot more than ordinary bikes. To get a reasonably reliable low-end electric bike you will still be looking at needing to spend around $1000 and the higher quality ones tend to start at $2000 and can go up to $7000 or even higher. Where ordinary bikes can often be seen as a good investment the high initial cost of electric bikes can make it harder to justify it as an investment. If you’re looking to get an electric bike then consider the health and enjoyment reasons for getting one since from an investment perspective it’s not always a good choice.
The higher cost of electric bikes are mainly caused by the high cost of the batteries that they use. But, since they tend to be cycled more quickly, they also tend to have higher quality parts that increase their cost. I have written more extensively about why they cost more in the past here.
- Cost of battery
Electric bike batteries are the biggest factor in elevating their price. They can cost between $300 – $800 and can sometimes cost as much as $1000. The batteries on electric bikes are normally Lithium batteries that are more efficient than other battery types but also cost more. They are normally able to go through 500 full charging cycles before they are less than 70%-60% as efficient as they were new. This means that you will have to replace the battery on the e-bike every few years. This is the highest ongoing cost that e-bikes have. Maintenance costs shouldn’t be too high since you’ll normally be able to have parts replaced at a bike shop. However, there are measures that you can take to increase the lifespan of the battery that I have written about here.
- Not as much of a workout as normal bikes
Even though you can get a workout when using an e-bike they are not as demanding as ordinary bikes. So, if you switch from using an ordinary bike to an electric bike then you will not be getting the same workout that you would have been. This means that if you’re thinking of switching from using an ordinary bike to an electric bike then you could be reducing the amount of exercise that you will be doing.
Due to the added weight of the motor and the battery that electric bikes have they tend to be between 20-30 pounds heavier than hey would have been if they were an ordinary bike. This means that they will be harder to pedal without the assistance turned on. It will also mean that they are harder to carry so if you plan on taking it up flights of stairs then you might have a hard time.
Do They Save Money?
Whether or not the e-bike will be able to save you money will largely depend on what you intend to use it for and whether or not you will be able to replace your car with the bike.
Electric bikes will normally cost at least $1000 up front, they will need to be maintained and the battery will need replacing every 500 full charging cycles or so. The maintenance costs on electric bikes will typically be very low. However, replacing the battery on electric bikes can cost between $300 and $800. This means that if you don’t plan on actually replacing the car with the e-bike then the fuel savings won’t be enough to make up for the initial cost of the e-bike and the replacement of its battery.
With that being said it could be that getting an electric bike will help to save you time by getting you to where you need to be faster. This saved time could help you to earn money. Also, since cycling instead of driving is more healthy it could help you to reduce medical costs.
How far they can go?
The range of electric bikes will vary but most electric bikes have a range between 20-50 miles. There are a number of factors that will affect the range that you will actually be able to get that doesn’t only involve the size of the battery.
It will be affected by the power of the motor, the level of assistance that you cycle with, the speed that you cycle at, the width of the tires, the pressure of the tires, the weight of you and your luggage and a whole host of other things that I have written more in-depth about here.
Are they faster than ordinary bikes?
Depending on where you live, electric bikes are normally limited to provide power up to a certain speed which is usually 20 mph in the US. After you reach the limit the motor will stop providing power and, to go faster, you will have to do it by pedaling by yourself. So, the real speed limit of electric bikes is how fast you can pedal. But, electric bikes weigh more than ordinary bikes so in a certain sense normal bikes are faster since you can pedal them faster.
How much do they cost?
Electric bikes will normally start at around $1000 and higher quality ones will cost closer to $2000. The main reason that they cost more is due to the high cost of the lithium batteries that they use. I have written more about why they cost more, in the past, here.
Rent one out and see
If you’re still unsure of whether or not an electric bike is for you then an option for you would be to just rent one out and see. Depending on where you live there will often be bike shops that will let you rent an electric bike out for the day and see if you like it. You can expect to pay around $40.
Should I buy a used e-bike? You can buy used electric bikes. However, you’ll often find that you’ll need to replace the battery which can cost between $300-$800 so you might not be saving much money. I have written about buying used e-bikes here.