E-Bike 101 (FAQ's)

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E-Bike 101 (FAQ's)

What is an Electric Bicycle?

 Electric Bike is simply a bicycle with an electric motor, motor controller, and battery pack. Some look like your average everyday bike. Others come covered in plastic body kits with lots of bells and whistles which look like mopeds or scooters- but in fact, they are just very fancy and functional bicycles.

 

Why are there so many different prices for similar looking e-bikes?

 Motors, batteries, accessories, and chargers! You get what you pay for! Not all e-bikes are made the same. Most well-known Brand Name e-bikes for sale in the US are in fact made by the same 2 or 3 factories in China. But each of those brands orders the bikes made with different components depending on their specific sales goals. Again, you get what you pay for. Three brands can order the same frame and body kit from the same manufacturer with different criteria. (Warranty is offered by the brand not the factory they were made in.) 

Added Comment 9/9/14: Beware of misleading advertising like EVELO's comparison to the Prodeco Stride R.We hope to post something in detail about it soon, but they were either using 2011 specs for the Stride or just looking at specs from a generic China-made bike. The short version of it is, they are comparing their $2100 bike with a $1200 bike, quoting their range as 40mi in automatic pedal assist mode (with 20mi electric only) then saying the Stride's range is 25-35mi without adding (electric only) [in reality, all ebicycles are pedal assist but not all are AUTOmatic assist. Currently, the Stride is manual pedal assist- by twisting the throttle to the assist level you want while you pedal...], Prodeco does claim 18mph against the Evelo's 20mph. Stop by for a test ride and using your gps phone, you will see you will likely be going 19-21mph depending on your weight. Prodeco is conservative on the specs so customers are never dissappointed. The range also follows suit. Our customers under 200lbs can really expect to get the upper range or higher of the 25-35 miles per charge without pedaling even once. Next they promote their energy saving 250w motor against the power guzzling 300w... so why does their 250w with a 10Ah battery get only 20mi and the 300w Prodeco get 25-35mi with a 9Ah capacity battery? Don't worry, you can pay extra to upgrade the motor to 500w and the battery to 17Ah and almost get the same performance and range as the Stride R... But wait, there is more. They claim the Stride has 7spd Shimano gears but it actually has 8spd Sram gears. They claim the Stride weighs 55lbs like theirs but it only weighs 49 including the battery. They are nice enough to point out that Prodeco offers a full 2 year warranty (they left out lifetime frame guarrantee for 1st 2 owners) to their 18 month warranty. Their comparison goes on to rave about their name brand components... So, Truvativ, Promax, Zoom, Sram, and Avid are really not the some of the top name brands? I hope they don't find out that the Stride 500s now come with Rockshox like the Evelo, that was their only advantage over the Stride R's Zoom forks. Why do I mention the Stride 500? Because the 500 would have been a better choice to compare their bike to but it would be even more evident of the benefits of the Stride over the Evelo. In an ebike expert's opinion, their comparison actually proves to any sensible person that buying a mail order Evelo over a test-ridable Prodeco is a huge waste of money and an even bigger gamble. Why pay $900 extra for less range, 1mph faster, same comfort level, same gearing, extra weight, same quality components, and a 6mo shorter warranty period? There are hundreds of Prodeco Dealers to get parts and service from but for Evelo, you would need to call them and have them diagnose your issue over the phone or pay us $65/hr to service your bike, then wait for parts to arrive. Our competitors charge $100/hr if you did not purchase the bike from them... Evelo's FAQ alludes to the fact that they are indeed using standard and generic parts (which can be aquired on ebay). But again, mid-drive motors are not easy to repair. If your motor does go out, you would need to dismount it, send it to them, wait, and re-install it hoping you are doing it the right way... if you even have the special tools for doing that.

We get lots of calls for advice on mail order bikes and we do not mind sharing what we know. There are only a few name brand production ebikes in the USA. Stealth and Prodeco are the 2 American made brands. Xtreme, CurrieTech, A2B/F4ward, Pedego, Ewheels, Gio, and a few smaller new ones are the China or India made brands. Compare apples to apples and bang for the buck AS IT APPLIES TO YOUR NEEDS. If you do want Auto pedal assist, F4ward has a nice one and Prodeco will be releasing kits (we just ordered our own add-on module) to add on for about $160 later this year. The Xtreme XB300 series has auto pedal assist for only $800. Actually, it compares very well to the Evelo minus the warranty. But if you need cargo hauling capacity, you will need an A2B or Gio. If you seek speed, Stealth (30-55mph). If you just need a temporary transport or occassional recreation, Xtreme. If you love curvy beach cruisers, Currie or Pedego. If you need long range commuting or are a fan of locally made products, Prodeco. We could go on and on.... there are 2 or 3 new options every month now and there will be more coming. Also 2-3 new ebike companies and even local stores will go out of business monthly... But, be informed, avoid hype, and get what will fit in to your lifestyle and budget. By the way, if you have no budget, please visit our store and buy one of every model and we will give you your own page here to tell the world what you like and dislike about each! 

 

     The differences are not always easy to pick out. The top things to look for are these:

Motor type- Hub Motor? Friction Motor? Side Mount? Mid Drive? Im 2005 Friction and side mount motors were good. In 2008 the hub motors became the new standard. Recently, mid-drive motors are making a rise in the traditional bicycle framed bikes. NEVER pay more than $100 for a friction or side mount motor bicycle! The friction bikes like the Currie ezips were good 10 years ago but we would never recommend them to anyone. They should be considered toys. They wholesale from china for about $70 including batteries. The side mounts are essentially the same, obsolete. We stand behind hub motors as the best type to purchase. Easy to fix, fast, inexpensive, reliable, and interchangeable.  

Mid-Drive kits like our special order Bafang BBS02 750w 48v kit, are made for those who prefer to pedal the bike instead of using the throttle. They are also more expensive, harder to repair, and kind of heavy. 

[Exceptions to "you get what you pay for": Since we wrote the FAQ in 2012, alot of new brands have come on the scene. Game changers, in fact. The number one selling brand of ebikes fits the rule in the context of its own brand. Currie Tech has ancient ebikes like the TrailZ which are awkward, cheap, outdated, and even dangerous in certain conditions. But they also have some decent bikes for $3k-$4k which we have sold in the past in the $3k-$4k price range. We do not carry the brand, but our advice is to avoid a Currie (except the trike which is priced right) bike which retails for less than $2700. If you can afford that and like the style, then you can afford the repairs! We think they should drop their prices about $800 across the board to be priced right for the quality of the components. Pedego is in a similar boat but these bikes have lots of style. You do not get what you pay for in terms of an ebike, but in style you will draw some attention. Pedego has made some recent positive changes and have some of the coolest retro looking beach bikes on the market. If 1950s cruisers aren't your thing, then look elsewhere. In the Kit market, we have been getting alot of kit bikes in for repairs- mostly BionX. For kits, you pay for the seller's marketting costs. You can buy a $300 + battery kit on ebay (all china made, simple but effective for novice ebikers) and it may or may not work great for you. You can just as easily buy a BionX, Amped, or similar (low power, good options, proprietary, pro install needed, prepare for surprises and needing extra install parts for your bike) systems for $1100-$1600 including battery. They perform just as well as the ebay stuff but you get support from the actual brand. We are adding what we believe to be a superior kit than these options very soon. We have been sending customers directly to Golden Motor for kits since we learned about them on Youtube... look them up there. They trump all other kit brands by far. $600-$1200 fully customized kits with programmable torque, range, top speed, and efficency. You actually get what you pay for with these kits. 

Bottom line, what we carry in stock is priced at what it should be compared to the overall ebike market. There are a couple exceptions based on the brand's wholesale price being higher or their shipping cost being higher. But be assured, if a product isn't selling in our market, we drop the price then drop the product!

Motor Rating- Wattage= power. A 350w motor will work harder to move a 300lb load than a 600w motor.

Battery Rating- The higher the AH number, the more range you can expect to get per charge. The higher the Voltage, the more power you will be sending to the motor. The battery's voltage multiplied by the motor's wattage is the amount of power that the system is producing. Therefore a 48v battery with a 600w motor will be faster than a 36v/600w system in almost every case. And a 10AH battery will only go half as far as a 20AH battery.

Warranty- Does the Brand stand behind their product? Note that the cheaper mail-order bikes often have shorter warranty periods than bikes bought at local stores. This is likely due mostly to the logistics of servicing parts to expanded areas. Local stores (like us!) provide full service repair and warranty work and often have spare parts already on hand. If the warranty is short, there is probably a reason!

There is alot more to consider, but most of our customers or potential customers all ask the same questions.

How FAST does it go? WARNING, anyone claiming that their electric bike goes 30mph is either lying or  actually looking at 30kph and thinking it is mph. All electric bikes in the USA have a top speed of at most 23mph unless highly modified. Xtreme, eWheels, Gio, and most other major brands have speed limiters built in so you can't sue them after you get a ticket or your bike is impounded for the qualification as a moped or motorcycle without proper tags/reg. If you own a brand new bike sold by a dealer in the USA that goes faster than 23mph according to a gps (almost all scooters made in china have the spedometers set to show top speed of 40km but indeed have a 32kph top speed), then let us know! A lead-acid scooter bicycle typically has a top speed of 21mph from the factory. A Lithium powered bike typically has a top speed of 23mph from the factory.

For an ebike to be legal, it must have a top speed no higher than 20mph with a 170lb rider. All bikes sold new which exceed 20mph require a license plate, registration, and a driver license. They are classified as mopeds or motorcycles. 

That being said, our technician's personal ebike came with a 21mph top speed. Adding Lithium batteries, power/range/efficiency boost service, and some motor work, it now goes 24mph with the wind behind him. With the stage 2 boost service, it might get as high as 26mph based on a 500w motor. The 600w motors in one of our bikes got the same stage 1 & 2 services and is running 25mph or faster with lead acid. With Lithium, it should go near 29mph. That is 6mph or so over stock which costs about $1000 extra. 

How FAR does it go on a charge?  Each bike is different. Most lead acid 48v 14ah bikes go about 30 miles per charge. 48v 20ah lead acid bikes can go as far as 40 miles or 50 with lithium. 36v 10ah bikes usually go 20mi per charge. 36v 14ah bikes can go 25 miles. We can custom order battery packs up to 40ah to get you up to 90 miles per charge- $1300 for LiFePo4 lithiums.

How and where do I get SERVICE?

For our Prodeco bikes, you can get parts and service at authorized dealers across the US and Ontario (other areas too) for the electric components. Because the bikes are made from American parts, any decent bike shop will have or be able to order the mechanical parts as they are readily available.

For our Luxury ebikes (you might call em scooters), most parts are only a few days away by mail if you live too far away from our store(s). But, with ebike dealers opening up around the country each week, you should have no trouble finding a shop near wherever you are. Our TaoTao brand has a great parts department. Our eWheels brand has a slower but friendly parts dept and both are moderate on prices. The X-Treme brand we can order for you usually has parts in stock but they charge as much as Currie bikes do for repair parts- usually 3x more than the parts are worth (in our opinion). Hence, we do not recommend either brand but we do provide service for both. 

Is it LEGAL? (Where can I ride it?)

How much do service items COST? (Batteries, Tires)

For those last 2 questions, here are the short answers:

All the Electric Bikes we sell are classified as Electric Bicycles even if they are shrouded in scooteriffic plastic panels. You can ride them EVERYWHERE a bicycle can be riden EXCEPT on sidewalks or areas marked for pedestrians only. You can pedal them on a sidewalk but be careful that you do not interfere with pedestrian traffic. Otherwise, they are legal on the far right side of the road as close to the curb as you feel comfortable driving, bike lanes, and on residential streets with posted speed limits no higher than 25-35mph depending on local ordinance. You do not need a drivers' license because it is a bicycle. They cannot be registered because there is no title. We give you a bill of sale and a warranty card. On scooter style bikes, you may get looks from police who think it is a gas moped (needing a plate & license) . The bicycles we sell have pedals, leave them installed to help police identify them as bicycles. The Federal rule H.R. 727 infers that pedals are not mandatory on them so long as the speed limit is 20mph. Contact a lawyer if you want an expert opinion of the law...

Batteries and Regular Service? Expect to replace the batteries in about 3 years. Lithium batteries currently cost $485 for most 48v/20AH models we sell. If you buy the ebike today and replace the batteries in 3 years, Lithium battery packs should cost much less than today's prices if the trend continues as it has for the last 4 years. So, you may be looking closer to $300-$400 for Lithiums in 3 years. Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) cost anywhere from $180-$300 currently depending on the AH rating. The average retail price per 12v/14AH unit is $70. For a 48v system, you'll need 4 batteries - $280 retail. Those prices don't show any signs of change coming. The owner of a consignment scooter we've had said his (4) 12v/18AH cost him about $550. If he had known about us, we would have saved him over $200! He went to the wrong store! Actually, for that specific bike(scooter style) we could've put in SLA batteries with a 22AH rating for around $300 or put in a Lithium pack for $485. In summary: SLA $200-$300 or Lithium $300(24v or 36v) - $500. We have seen one customer wear down a tire on his Scooter styled ebike after about 3500 miles. Another customer with similar mileage still has plenty of tread left at the time of this writing. New tires cost around $30-$40 at the most. Our general service price on a new tire/tube change is $75 for the rear (motor) tire including labor. Should you encounter non-routine repairs like motors or controllers, they are readily available through our manufacturers or online. The general price for a controller is $60 and for a motor could range from $140-$200 for legal wattage replacements. Now of course there are those who want to get an 800w or 1000w non-street-legal size motor. If that is you, then keep in mind that the motor and controller have to be matched and the battery pack needs to have the proper discharge amperage too! Do your homework.

*** New FAQ; Can GRelectricBikes.com retrofit my current bicycle/tricycle with electric bike components? Answer: maybe! We are interviewing ebike "kit" suppliers to find one that will stand behind their product. Most of the ebay and internet stuff is junk... you get what you pay for. If the kit does not come prematched with a battery pack by the engineer, you might be asking for trouble. That is the reason Kits that ebike stores sell are more expensive. They have to last. The store's reputation is on the line. It is almost always more economical to buy a brand new ebike in your preferred style than to install a kit on a regular bike. But, if you really love your bike, call us and we will try to guide you to the best one for your budget.

A final note: In Feb 2013, a great meeting transpired between all the ebike industry leaders around the world. Their press release indicated that by 2020, 40% of all bikes manufactured will be ebikes. So, as we head toward that date, we can expect the quality to continue to rise and the costs to continue to lower. 

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