Chapter 1: What is an Electric Bike?

April 18, 2017

Most electric bikes are, first and foremost a bicycle. The main difference is an electric bike is powered by a rider’s legs and an electric motor when needed. The idea of an electric bike isn’t new, as the first electric bike was invented in 1881 by Gustave Trouve in France, who constructed experiments with an electric drive on a bike.


Over the years various hobbyists and companies have added gas-powered motors to bikes in a way that is similar to motorized scooters. However, gas-powered motors pollute, are loud and often unsafe. With the advancement of electric motor technology, electric bikes have hit their stride.


Most electric bikes include the same design, geometry and components of a standard bicycle, but have an added electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery. The electric motor gives riders extra power, automatically or manually, to tackle hills or just cruise down the street at a quick pace.


By having additional power on demand for an electric motor, electric bikes have made it possible for more people to ride bikes than ever before, and go further than they thought imaginable. That’s because electric bikes have removed the obstacles that have made cycling prohibitive for many people: headwinds, steep hills and commutes that leave riders sweaty and exhausted. Thus, electric bikes have become for many a preferred means for commuting to work or school, running errands, exploring new areas, or simply riding around town.


Electric Bikes Grow in Popularity

Electric bicycles have long been an idea as far back as the late 1800s and only somewhat recently become a viable mode of transportation. Now, electric bikes are a part of the fast growing electric vehicle movement that includes electric cars, motorcycles, scooters, boats, busses, Segways and more.


The usage of electric bikes has had rapid growth since 1998. In 2016, the Asia Pacific region saw sales of 32.8 million electric bikes, while Western Europe had 1.6 million and North America had 152 thousand sales, according to Navigant. In China, which is a worldwide leader in electric bikes, there are an estimated 200 million electric bikes on the road and 20 million are sold each year.


Sales of electric bikes are also increasing in India, the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Switzerland. Electric bike sales in the Netherlands surged by 24 percent from 2014 to 2015, while in Germany, electric bike sales grew by 11.5% compared to 2014[1]. Germany even uses electric bikes for its mail service Deutsche Post, which uses 6,200 e-bikes to deliver mail.


The growth in electric bikes is due to a number of different factors. Electric bike technology has improved dramatically and people throughout the world are seeing the numerous benefits of having an electric bike. Electric bikes allow everyone the ability to ride long distances, including those that need an extra push or are looking to get back into shape. This technology helps numerous commuters living in urban areas to ability to expedite their commute and contribute to lessening traffic congestion and pollution.