You’ve been hearing a whole lot about electric vehicles of late, and probably even thinking of investing in one. An electric cycle is a great place to start. This of course brings us to the question – ‘Which electric bike should I buy?’ There aren’t many tips on buying your first electric bicycle out there. So we have compiled some tips to select the best value electric cycle, for a first time buyer, in this blog. If you’re confused about how to choose an electric bicycle, we’ve got you covered.
Take a look at this buyer guide for an electric bicycle, before you go shopping.
#1 Where is the motor placed?
The motor on your battery operated bicycle is a major component, and there are multiple possible configurations in which it can be placed. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages with each configuration. When you are buying an e cycle, note where the motor is placed. It will define your experience with the bicycle.
Typically, the motor can be placed at the centre of the front wheel (front wheel drive), at the centre of the rear wheel (rear wheel drive) and near the centre of the frame (mid drive).
Mid drive has a mechanical connection to the pedal and chain. The centre of gravity of the bicycle is much lower, so the configuration is specialized for uphill climbs.
With the front wheel drive, the weight distribution is even, but it’s generally harder to steer. It’s ideal if the bicycle you are buying has gears and multiple speeds.
Rear wheel drive has a better traction, due to the weight being placed on the rear wheel. This higher traction results in faster speeds at a given torque.
#2 Is the battery removable?
The electric bicycle will be powered by a battery which itself comes in many varieties. It’s ideal if the battery is removable. This becomes useful in case you want to replace the battery or take it for repairs. It also becomes convenient when you are not going to be using your electric cycle and need to disconnect your battery to avoid leakage.
A removable battery ensures that you have more flexibility for servicing other than just your vendor/reseller/manufacturer. This will avoid vendor lock-in and give you more control over pricing.
#3 Is the battery portable?
A portable battery completely changes how you interact with your e cycle at the end of the day. The unit will require regular charging near an electric port. If the battery is not portable, it becomes cumbersome to do it. You will always feel a nagging resistance in using your battery powered cycle because it is just that little bit more inconvenient to charge it after usage.
However, if the battery is portable then there is no such problem. It is much more user friendly to just remove the battery and carry it with you wherever you wish to place it for charging. It is little different than charging your cell phone at the end of the day. Such simplicity allows for these steps to become a natural habit. It will add up to how frequently you use your electric cycle.
Also consider where the battery is parked on the frame of the bicycle if the battery is portable. Some locations are far easier to access than others. Centre of the frame is a recommended location.
#4 Are the electronics water resistant?
Electric bicycles are partially intended as a replacement for your regular vehicles. It is absolutely essential that you should be able to use them in all the conditions that you can use your regular vehicle in. There is no reason why monsoon should be an exception. Check if the electric bicycle you are considering has water resistant electronics.
You can get an idea regarding water resistance from the IP65 and related certifications. These are international standards that signal that the product can withstand dust, water and general intrusions. These certifications are issued by the International Electrotechnical Commission. Ask your vendor regarding these certifications when you are considering the electric bicycle.
When you take this precaution, you give yourself the option to use your e cycle in all seasons, including monsoon. Given that your e cycle is your companion in outdoorsy activities as well, you can make the most out of it in scenic settings with rain drizzling down and you pedalling in euphoria.
#5 If the company claims that the battery charges itself as you pedal, ask for details.
At the first sight, it seems like a very good feature to have, to charge your battery while you are pedalling the bicycle. However, remember, this just means that the energy that you are putting in will be used to charge the battery. If this is being done via an electromagnetic mechanism, you will feel an obvious heavy drag when you charge the battery.
Also ask which battery is being charged. This could be a small, secondary battery used to power the Multi Feature Dynamic Display, which is not a very helpful feature anyways. The proposition of charging the battery while you are pedalling is just a feature that seems nice to unsuspecting consumers but is often misunderstood, and purposefully vaguely described.
When you ask for more details, it is possible that you will find out that the mechanism is regenerative breaking. Regenerative breaking is a very useful feature in heavy vehicles, but it only adds to complications in a lightweight vehicle like the e cycle.
#6 What is the battery life in terms of full charge cycles?
The battery of your electric bicycle is its heart and its lifeblood. It is also one of the most expensive components of your e cycle. When you make a purchase for an electric cycle, you should ensure that the battery is one that is long lasting and does not need to be replaced soon. Ask for the number of charge cycles that the battery is rated for. The more, the better.
Also be vigilant to note that these charge cycles are supposed to be full charge cycles. It would be ideal if you could get near 1000 full charge cycles on your battery. A number in the high triple digits is also a good choice, as that means you will have the battery for years with you even if you use it daily.
#7 What is the actual battery range when you ride the bicycle with a healthy blend of throttle and pedal assist?
Electric bicycle manufacturers would like to make lofty claims about the range offered by their battery. However, as we discussed in the case of battery that charges itself while you ride, there might be some obfuscation involved. Some details might not be given purposefully.
The figure of the battery range is one that is given with little use of throttle and pedal assist. However, when one uses them liberally or even moderately, the battery is drained. The acceleration required in these two modes means that the power consumption is higher and the range is decreased.
So, when you hear a claim for your electric cycle’s range, have an explicit conversation about the range when throttle/Pedal Boost is used as a normal user would. Be careful if the vendor claims that the mentioned range is the actual range upon normal use of the throttle.
#8 Does it have Pedal Boost, or does it only have a throttle mechanism?
Electric cycles have different mechanisms to use the electric motor while driving. One is the throttling mechanism, which requires you to twist a throttle on the handlebar or press a button to speed up. This is very similar to a normal scooter or a traditional two wheeler. The utility in this mechanism is little if you want to use your electric cycle for exercise, as it is nothing but a fancy and toothless scooter.
There is also the Pedal Boost mechanism, which knows how much power you are exerting on the pedal – among other features. You can turn the Pedal Boost on to modulate the effort that you have to provide to run the e cycle. This is a sophisticated way to reduce your effort compared to geared bicycle. Also, in a geared bicycle, you still have to do all the work even though your instantaneous effort is reduced. Here, effort and work both are assisted by the motor. This mechanism allows you to train on the e cycle at different levels.
So, when you are looking for an e cycle, make sure that you know what you are going to use it for. After that, enquire about the different mechanisms by which you can engage the electric motor. It will make a huge different in how you end up using your electric bicycle.
#9 What is the warranty period on the electronics?
When making the purchase, make sure that you are being offered a warranty period on servicing and repairs. The higher the warranty period the better it is. Electric cycles have a lot many electric components in them and its best that are covered by a warranty. This will give you peace of mind in trying the electric bicycle in all its different possible use cases. If something goes wrong, you can rest assured that the damages will be covered.
A good warranty period and a healthy, reliable after sales support will help you get mentally accustomed to a new vehicle (and essentially a new vehicle class) and adopt it into your routine.
#10 What do you do when you need customer support?
A good after sales support team is the hallmark of a healthy and trustworthy business. Sure, the team has made a good product that has your attention, but will it be there for you when you need assistance? What if something goes wrong?
You should ask for all possible means through which you can reach the customer support? Do you give them a call? Do you get treated by an IVRS when you call? Is your message received immediately by the customer? Can you reach them via a website? Do you have to email them? Are all of these means responsive? What is the turnaround time?
Check to your satisfaction that the customer support is healthy and the means to reach them exist with a good responsive time.