"How far can I go?" is one of the most common questions asked by eBike buyers. The answer - an eBike's "range" - depends on many factors. As with driving a car, the mileage is a mix of the way the vehicle is designed, as well as the way you use it.
Let's take a look at how ebike range is advertised, and the factors that influence it.
What affects eBike range?
- The capacity of the battery - bigger capacities product more range
- Rider weight - heavier riders consumer battery faster and get less range, all other factors being equal
- Hills - is the terrain flat? Or hilly? EBike motors must work harder in hills, which consumes energy, reducing range.
- Headwinds - as with hills, eBike motors consume more energy with a headwind than a tailwind.
- Use of throttle - some eBike models feature a throttle, which can turn on the electric motor to propel the rider without pedaling. Throttle use drains the battery faster than pedal assist, reducing range.
- Rider contribution - when riding a pedal assist eBike, power comes from two sources, the rider's legs and the electric motor. If you're barely pedaling, expect reduced range as the electric motor does most of the work. Riders who contribute with their legs can significantly improve range.
Real-world eBike range
When shopping for an eBike, it's useful to compare real-world range statistics. EBikes aren't ridden in ideal conditions in a lab. Consider choosing a brand that publishes range figures that reflect your actual likely usage patterns: "this eBike achieved a range of 35 miles in pedal assist level 3 when ridden by a 170 lb rider on flat ground" is useful, whereas a published range of "up to 40 miles" doesn't give you much idea of what to expect.
How much range do you need?
More range isn't necessarily better. Batteries are one of the heaviest components on an eBike, so adding a larger battery in hopes of more range isn't necessarily ideal (heavy bikes are less fun to ride!) Instead, choose a "right-sized" eBike battery - one that has enough capacity to meet most of your range requirements, without too much extra.
If you typically ride 10 miles at a time, an eBike with a 50 mile range may be a needless extra expense. Keep in mind some strategies that can be used to replenish your battery: for example, if you commute to work by eBike, keeping a second charger at your workplace means you only need enough range for the one-way trip, not the round trip. Some riders may also choose to bring along a second battery on very long rides - just swap it out and get going again.