How much range does an electric bike with a lithium-ion battery get? This is one of the top questions about eBikes and the answer is “it depends”. In this article we will cover the factors that impact the range of an electric bike and offer some tips to help maximize your range for more fun rides!
There are a lot of ways that you can strategically optimize your electric bike with proper maintenance and riding style to get the most range and avoid “range anxiety”.
#1: Buy an eBike with a high-capacity battery
This may seem pretty obvious, but buying an eBike with a high capacity battery is the foundation for good range. It is important to evaluate how much range you will really need and not get too worried about buying an eBike with the biggest battery possible.
Take a look at your regular ride routes on Google Maps to add up the mileage, and consider that you may charge at work, school, or other places along the way. You might be surprised at how the average eBike battery size will cover your regular rides very well.
This is an important consideration because the battery is generally the most expensive component cost of an electric bike. You could over pay if you go with an electric bike that has a huge battery that you may not really need. The battery is also the heaviest component on your eBike, and larger capacity batteries are heavier, so you don't want to choose a battery that's much larger than needed either - find a balance.
Here is a look at the capacity of a battery. Watt hours are the capacity of a battery (like the size of the fuel tank on a car) and if they are not given in the specifications of the bike you can calculate it by multiplying the volts by the amp hours, for example the Denago City Model 1 battery is:
48 Volts x 13.6 Ah = 652.8 Wh. 652.8 watt-hours is the "capacity" of that specific battery. More watt-hours means more range.
In this example of a 653 Wh battery, 20 to 40 miles of range can be expected and is documented with the various range test results shown above. These range test results should help give you a baseline of riding scenarios to determine if those ranges will fit your riding needs.
This variation in range is dependent on:
- How powerful the motor is
- Which assist levels (or throttle) are used
- The weight of the rider and cargo
- How many hills are on the route
- If there are significant headwinds
- If riding in cold temperatures (affects battery efficiency)
- The efficiency of the bike (tire pressure, lubricated chain, etc.)
#2: Charge It Up!
This is also a pretty obvious one but make sure your battery is fully charged before heading out for a ride.
Tip: when you get home from a ride make it a habit of plugging your battery into the charger and set a timer to remind you to unplug it after the number of hours you estimate it will take to charge your battery. The specifications and owners manual should have an estimate of time to charge the battery to a full charge and you can estimate the hours based on the percentage of charge needed to top off your battery.
If your electric bike has not been used in a number of days or weeks then it's a good idea to top it off before your next ride.
#3: Pedal More
Putting more of your pedal power into the ride equation definitely helps to increase your range. Decreasing the pedal assist level or amount of throttle and pedaling a little harder takes the load off of the battery and gives you more range.
It can also pay off to be strategic when you use more or less assistance. For instance, if you can add more of your pedal power on hills that can help to extend your range. Same thing is true if you are riding into significant headwinds. Class III eBikes with adjustable levels of pedal assist allow you to choose how much assistance you want from the electric motor at any given time.
Similarly, putting more pedal power into accelerating from a stop can help as well. Once you are up to speed on flat terrain the assist can be used to cruise along while using minimal energy.
The cool thing about an electric bike is that even if the battery has run out of range you can still pedal your bike to go somewhere (although it is generally a pretty good workout!). Compare that to an electric motorcycle or electric car which simply stop when the battery is depleted.
#4: Take It Easy
Kick back and enjoy the ride! Riding at slower speeds will help to increase your range and you may notice more interesting places along the way.
It is nice to have an electric bike that can generally average higher speeds than a traditional bicycle but you may not always need to use the max speed all the time. Like being strategic with adding more pedal power, it can be beneficial to take the slow ride sometimes.
#5: Charge at Work or Along the Way
If you have the opportunity to top off your battery along your regular ride routes this can be a good way to add range without having the largest battery in the world. One option is to bring your eBike charger with you and charge at work, school, coffee shop, convenience store, or restaurant along the way.
Another option is to have an additional charger that you always keep at work/school so you don’t have to carry the charger.
Tip: take the battery off the bike for charging in areas where it would be hard to store the bike and charge the battery away from the eBike.
#6: Pump It UP
Having the right tire pressure really improves the riding efficiency for you and the electric assist system.
On most bike tires there is a recommended tire pressure range. The maximum pressure will provide an efficient ride but also a harsher ride. The lower pressure will be more comfortable but less efficient. It's a good idea to find a happy medium for a comfortable yet efficient ride which might take some experimentation at different tire pressures to figure out.
#7: A Well-Oiled Machine
A clean and well lubricated chain also adds to your riding efficiency. Keeping your eBike clean and well lubricated is an easy way to improve range.
This is true for your pedal power with a hub drive electric bike. And this really helps a mid drive electric bike because your pedal power and the motor power are combined at the cranks and then transmitted through the chain to the cogs on the rear wheel.
#8: Riding Temperature
If you can, riding in warmer temperatures will give you better range. Cold temperatures can reduce the range your battery can provide. You can minimize the effect of cold temperatures on eBike range by storing your battery in a comfortable climate, for example, if you're riding in Minnesota in the Winter, store your battery in a heated garage, not outside.
#9: Replace an Old Battery or carry an extra battery
Just like a mobile phone or laptop computer, over time the amount of range a battery provides will diminish and eventually it may get to the point where it needs to be replaced. Most companies recommend replacing the battery when it has less than 80% of the original capacity but you may be okay with this range if your regular routes still work with that range.
Tip: if you get a new battery, your original battery could be used as a 2nd battery for longer rides. Once your battery is no longer useful to you, make sure you recycle your battery through the Call2Recycle electric bike battery program. EBike batteries should not simply be put in the trash!
If you really need to cover a long ride and don’t want to take the time to charge along the way then an extra battery is a good way to go. Batteries are the most expensive components of an electric bike so be prepared to shell out some bucks.
Some electric bikes have the ability to carry 2 batteries on the bike and they can switch over to use the second fresh battery once the first battery has been depleted.
#10: Solar Panels
If you have a long trip without the ability to access an electrical connection along the way then a solar panel with an inverter could be a good solution. These can work great when using an eBike for camping or bikepacking trips.
There are ground mount solar panels that can be used for a charge when you are stopped. Then there are the bike or trailer mounted solar panels that allow you to charge a battery on the go.
Long Live Long Rides
Getting out for a long ride is a great way to get some good exercise and unwind from a busy day or week. Having the skills and knowledge to get the most range out of your electric bike can make these long rides happen.
It’s also nice to know that you can adjust course if you end up doing a longer ride than anticipated and still get home with some charge left in the battery.
Enjoy your long eBike rides!