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Range Anxiety: How to Get the Most Distance from Your E-Bike

Posted by Svethlana Milanes on

Getting the most battery range from your electric bike

Courtesy of Dave Atkinson - E-Bike Tips

Don't want to find yourself out of power when you're out riding? Read these handy tips.

One of the top questions we get asked when customers are selecting their new electric bike is what is the distance range one can expect. That is a complex question. While manufactures have an estimated range, a lot of other issues need to be taken into account. Weight of the rider and bike, speed of the bike, terrain of the ride, weather factors, and age of the battery factor into the equation. There are however some tips that one can think about to get the maximum range possible.

Running out of juice in the middle of nowhere is probably not high on everyone's list of things they'd like to experience when out on their e-bike. At least it's not like running out of gas: you still have a usable (albeit heavy) bike to get you home, but it's unlikely to be much fun. Here are some of our top tips for making sure there's enough oomph to get you to where you're going.

Getting the most battery range from your electric bike

Be realistic about range. It's not as simple as you think.

There's all sorts of e-bikes out there, with different motors and batteries. Whatever e-bike you have, it probably has a manufacturer's stated range. This is an estimate only.

Do not believe this number. Test the range for yourself.

It's not that it's untrue exactly, just that the range the manufacturers claim is always going to be a best-case scenario. If they say your bike can do 50 mph it probably can: on pan-flat terrain, in the lowest assist mode, with a 110 lbs. rider, in warm, calm, perfect weather.

If you experience hills, or cold, or you're a typical rider, all these things will have an impact on the range of your bike. So if you unbox it and immediately head out for a 50 mph ride based on the manufacturer's claim, chances are you'll come up short.

The best way to get a good feel for the true range of your bike is to try a range of different rides on it and see how long the battery lasts. That way you'll get a good understanding of how far the power is likely to go, and you can also tailor any longer rides to fit its real capacity.

Keep it topped up always. Keep the electric bike fully charged.

It’s so obvious that it almost doesn't need saying: whenever your bike is where your charger is, get the battery on charge. It may be that you can normally go a week without plugging the bike in, but if you suddenly find yourself needing to do a longer ride and you haven't stuck in the charger all week, you may not have enough juice. Better to be safe than sorry.

Take it easy. Like any type of machinery taking it gently will prolong its life.

The lower assistance modes on your bike will enable you to go further on one charge. You probably won't be able to go as fast, though, especially if it's hilly. If you accept that and plan for a bit of extra time for a ride then you can extend your range considerably. Try and gravitate towards the lowest mode wherever possible. You can even turn the assistance off if you're rolling along on a flat straightaway, or downhill. Save the higher power modes for when you really need them.

Getting the most battery range from your electric bike

Carry your charger (or buy a spare). One never know when it might be needed.

If you throw your charger in your bag before you go then you can ride more or less indefinitely. Most coffee shops won't mind you plugging in for a recharge while you sip your coffee, and chargers aren't particularly heavy.

Alternatively, if you mostly use your e-bike to get from one place to another (home to work is the obvious case) then you could get another charger and have one at both ends so you're always ready to charge your bike if you need to.

Pick a flatter route. Terrain is the #1 factor affecting achievable range.

Nothing sucks the life out of an e-bike battery like having to push up a huge hill. Invariably you'll have to go up an assistance mode or two as well, which only drains more power. If there's a choice of a shorter, less hillier route and a longer, flatter one you'll often find that the flatter route uses less power, even though it's further.

Getting the most battery range from your electric bike

What if I do run out of juice? This is where one learns the range quickly!

Well, the first and probably simplest option is simply to ride to your destination under your own steam. Assuming that it's not too far and you don't live at the top of a massive hill it probably won't be too onerous. You might surprise yourself!

If that's not really possible then you'll need to consider your options. Can you ride to a station? Is there somewhere you can lock up your bike and pick it up later? Will your bike fit in a taxi? Is there anyone who could pick you up? 

E-bikes are generally quite big and heavy, so if you can remove the battery and take it with you to charge, then head back to the bike later, that will likely save a lot of puffing and panting (and dismantling) to fit the bike into a car.

Why don't more e-bikes have regenerative charging?

In theory it's a great idea for e-bikes to charge the battery when they're coasting downhill: you get some free energy back to extend your range. In practice though, it's much less clear cut. 

Regenerative systems are only really feasible when your motor is in the wheel, and they require a different design of motor that's generally heavier. Even then you're only really likely to extend your range by a few miles. Generally speaking, the negatives outweigh the positives, which is why most e-bikes manufactuers don't bother.

Hopefully these couple of tips will serve you well and make you think of possible solutions to get the most miles for your electric bike out of each and every ride.

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