What are the 3 Main Categories of Electric Bikes?

February 08, 2017

What are the 3 Main Categories of Electric Bikes?

Electric bikes are taking the world by storm. There are an estimated 200 million electric bicycles ridden around the world today and by 2050 that number is expected to reach 2 billion, according to the Electric Bike Worldwide Report.

Still, many are unaware exactly what an electric bike is and the different types of electric bicycles. 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 following are the three main types of electric bikes:

Pedal Assist --Pedal Assist electric bikes, sometimes referred to as “pedelecs,” are equipped with electric motors that provide additional power when the bike is being pedaled. A sensor detects when the bike is being used, and provides the selected level of assistance. Some people explain the experience like having an invisible hand pushing them as they ride. Pedal assist bikes are limited to 20 mph and 750 watt motors.  

Most pedelecs allow the rider to tailor the bike’s power to meet specific physical needs and geographies. For instance, if you know if there is a big hill on your route, you may want to increase the power so you have additional assistance while pedaling.  Pedelecs electric bicycles are a great for all around use, since they allow riders to adjust how much or how little assistance they need at any given time.

Power on Demand -The primary difference between pedal assist electric bikes and power on demand electric bikes is that power on demand bikes allow for manual control of the electric motor. Similar to operating the power on a moped or motorcycle, riders can activate the motor with a throttle, button or trigger located on the handlebar. Just like pedelec, power on demand electric bicycles are limited to 20 mph and 750 watt motors.

Power on demand electric bikes are ideal for those who like the options of pedal assist and a manual throttle. These are generally great for people who are easing back into cycling or want to gradually increase their level of exercise while riding an electric bike. Power on demand bikes are also great for people who may want to switch between a physically strenuous bike ride one day, and an easy commute with less sweat another day.

Speed Pedelecs - Speed pedelecs, or “S-pedelecs,” are similar to normal pedelecs except that riders can combine the power of their legs with the power of the motor to achieve speeds greater than 20 mph. Most s-pedelecs have motors at 750 watts or lower and that max out at 20 mph when used as the only source of power. Yet they don’t prohibit the bike’s overall speed when the motor’s power is coupled with the rider’s own pedaling power.

It’s important to check your state and local laws regarding any possible restrictions when riding S-pedelecs.

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