One of the most common questions regarding electric bikes is how far can I ride on a single charge?
A very important question to ask yourself is how far you realistically planning on riding, your style of riding, over what sort of terrain, and what environmental factors come into play. For commuters, it is good to remember that charging and topping up the battery is very easy to do in the home or office.
To give an idea of the range these bikes can give we rode an Electric Urban, Road and Mountain bike in real-world situations and places to give an accurate representation of range.
Our tests on how far you can ride an electric bike on a single charge
To see just how far we could ride, we generally stayed in the most efficient mode of assistance known as Eco Mode. This proved to be ample, though we occasionally used the next level up of assistance on the steepest climbs.
The days were not very windy, and we did not carry large packs, or have much luggage on the bikes. The results can be seen below, with an accompanying video.
An All-day ride around town
We took out a Raleigh Motus electric urban bike for a ride around our local area. Real world conditions with a little wind, plenty of stop-start and a few hills. We mostly used the least level of assistance as that was all we needed to make the ride very easy, known as "Eco mode" its similar to riding with a good tailwind. We occasionally used the next mode up "Touring mode". This bike has four power modes that include "Sport" and "Turbo" giving more power, but we did not feel the need to use these modes.
The Raleigh has a crank driven Bosch Active line motor, with a relatively small 300Wh (Watt-hour) battery. We were incredibly impressed, we rode over 70 km (44 miles)! there was still one bar of battery left when we stopped and considering that it has a 300Wh battery we were amazed.
Where could you ride with this assistance over such a big range?
If you’re commuting to work as quickly as you can, in Turbo (full power) mode, on poor road surfaces, with few hills but lots of traffic lights, then you can expect to ride to ride over 50km.
400Wh = 50km
500Wh = 62km
If you are cycling on the open road at a steady pace, in Tour mode (low to mid power), on good road surfaces over hilly terrain but with no traffic lights, then your range will be further:
400Wh = 80km
500Wh = 100km
Bristol to Cardiff on one charge?
We took the Giant Road-E+ 1 Pro to Bristol to see if we could ride it back to Cardiff on one charge. Riding mostly Sustrans cycle routes and country lanes, our planned route was 100 km (62 miles) with 460m (1500ft) of elevation. This Giant is much faster rolling and gives a more aerodynamic profile than an urban electric bike. With slick 32c tyres, carbon forks and seatpost with Shimano Ultegra gearing it is already a high-spec road bike.
The power comes from the 250W SyncDrive Pro motor by Yamaha, giving up to 80Nm of torque and up to 360% assist over 5 modes. Powered by a large capacity 500Wh integrated battery. Amazingly this bike was able to complete this ride with 25% battery remaining, with an estimated remaining range of 35 km (22 miles)!
Smooth, consistent and comfortable, what road rides could you do with a range of over 80 miles?!
W2 trail plus extras at Afan Forest - 51 km (32 miles)
The infamous W2 trail at Afan in South Wales is a 44km loop with over 3000ft (915 m) of climbing, could we ride this loop, plus a few extra parts on one charge?
Known for it’s steep and technical climbs, tight forest singletrack and challenging descents adding to the demanding distance and elevation the W2 trail joins the famous Whites level trail with the notorious Wall trail . We added a few black run options to make the total ride 51km.
The Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 has the Bosch 250W Performance CX Motor giving up to 300% assistance with 75 Nm of torque powered by a large capacity 500 Wh battery.
The bike performed amazingly, and completed the ride with a remaining range showing of 14km on the Bosch Purion display!
For a mountain bike ride on soft ground riding at a reasonably fast pace, in Sport mode (mid to high power), up lots of steep hills with a few stops and starts, this is how far you can expect to ride:
400Wh = 25km
500Wh = 31km
700Wh = 44km
Another point to note is that any external units that are powered by the battery will affect the range, for example, integrated lights, an onboard computer, or if the bike has a USB output and is powering a device.
The distance that an e bike battery can assist your ride depends on many factors. There are rider variables, bike variables, and environmental variables to consider.
E bike variables
Tyre tread type
Rider weight - One of the main contributing factors to battery life is the total weight of the rider, bike and any luggage. Doubling the bike/rider weight loses around 20% of total distance/power available
Average Speed - Halving your average speed will increase total distance/power available by around 20%
Assist mode - Each motor model and type will vary but on average the most powerful mode will give around half the distance of the most economical mode.
Motor type - Each type and brand of motor will be tailored toward a certain application from commuting to give balanced power and good distance to mountain biking motors that give much more power at the sacrifice of distance
Battery capacity – A larger battery will give more distance but will weigh more, for general commuting a 300Wh (watt-hour) should suffice, whereas mountain bikers might prefer a larger capacity 500Wh and up.
Tyre tread type – A narrow and slick road tyre will give less rolling resistance on tarmac, therefore, increasing efficiency on smooth tarmac, but not off-road. On the flip side, a wide tyre with a deep tread will be efficient off road but very inefficient on smooth tarmac.
Tyre pressure - Along with tread type tyre pressure has a big effect on efficiency and therefore total distance available. A harder tyre will roll faster over smooth tarmac but no off-road, where a softer tyre will roll faster over rough terrain but drag when on smooth tarmac.
Hills – The amount, gradient, and length of the hills on your route will greatly affect the total distance available. In general mountain biking will involve significantly more elevation than commuting, this is reflected in the size of battery and power output of electric mountain bikes compared to commuter bikes.
Surface – a fast rolling smooth tarmac surface will give more total distance from a battery than a rough, soft and undulating forest or mountain path.
Wind – One of the most important factors to consider is the wind direction and strength, riding directly into a strong headwind will drain a battery much faster than light or no wind, conversely, a tailwind will prolong battery life and therefore extend total distance available.
How long does it take to charge the battery?
Electric bikes are easy to charge, and most batteries can be charged either on or off the bike. Charge times will vary depending on the capacity of the battery and the technology of the charger. On mid to high-end e bikes expect to see charge times of around three and a half hours for a 400Wh battery pack rising to six hours for the largest 700Wh battery packs. Entry level electric bikes tend to have extended charge times.
The way that the lithium ion battery technology works means that partial charges are much quicker than full charges. For most e bikes you will find that you can get the battery charged up to 80% in a little over half the time of a full charge. Great to know if you are in a hurry.
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