1. Hill climbing
That may sound obvious, but it’s the primary advantage. A good electric bike effectively flattens hills, increasing your average speed and eliminating the ‘groan’ factor when a gradient comes into view. Provided you supply a reasonable amount of effort, you can expect to climb hills of 1 in 10 (10%) on an electric bike with ease, and clear a maximum gradient of 1 in 7 (14%), or much more.
It sounds unlikely, doesn’t it? But the mathematics is compelling. Think of a steep and busy road, with cars climbing at 60km/hr. If you previously slogged up the hill at 6mph, but can tackle the same gradient at 20km/hr with an electric bicycle, you will see 33% fewer cars, and they will pass you at 25km/hr rather than 40km/hr. Or at least, we think that’s right. Whatever the figures, there’s no doubt that an electric bike helps to keep you out of danger. The same applies to road junctions – the faster your acceleration, the sooner you can get out of trouble.
Purchase cost is broadly similar to a conventional bicycle, mechanical wear and tear is unlikely to cost more, and electricity is so cheap as to be largely irrelevant, but there is an extra expense in terms of battery depreciation. Consequently, an electric bike costs more to run – typically $0.04-$0.08 per km against $0.03 per km for a non-assisted bike. However, electric bike running costs should really be compared with those of a moped, or a car, when the electric bike replaces car mileage. With cars costing $0.50-$0.80 per km, an electric bike can save a great deal of money.
4. Personal Fitness
Surely a conventional bike will keep you fitter? That, of course, depends how much – if at all – you use it. Research has found that 46% of conventional bikes are used only once or twice a week, with a further 30% being used once every two weeks, or even less. By contrast, a recent survey of electric bicycle owners reveals that a third ride their bike at least once a day and 81% use the bike at least once a week. The figures confirm our experience that an electric bike typically gets used at least twice as often as a conventional machine. Because riding an electric bicycle is a great deal more enjoyable in hilly country, into strong winds, or when carrying heavy loads, users tend to make better use of them. The motor provides up to half the effort, but more regular use means more exercise for the rider.
5. No Sweat!
Sweat may not be a serious issue when you’re out for a leisure ride, but it’s more important if you’re cycling to work. Although some employers are rather grudgingly providing showers and other facilities for cyclists, the great majority have no intention of doing so. An electric bike eliminates the problem at source. In hot weather, it’s possible to maintain a normal schedule by transferring a bit more load to the electric motor. In colder weather – or if you feel in need of exercise – just throttle back, or turn the motor off.
6. Clean & Green
Electric bikes obviously consume energy, where a conventional bikes does not (if we ignore the environmental cost of growing and processing food – see below). However, the amount of energy used is very small compared to a moped, motorcycle or car. The only consumables are the batteries, and these can normally be recycled when life-expired. As for energy use, electric bikes typically consume fuel at an average rate of 100 to 150 watts of electrical energy, against 15,000 or so for a car (admittedly traveling much faster). In terms of fuel consumption, an electric bike achieves about 290 – 700 liters/kilometer. No other commercially available vehicle can match figures of this kind. If it’s hard to place these numbers in your own lifestyle, think of a 100 watt electric light bulb burning unnecessarily for an evening – that’s enough energy to propel an electrically-assisted bike for 35-70 km…
There’s a lot of talk about sustainability in transport, but an electric bicycle can be made genuinely sustainable. Purchase electricity from a ‘green’ supplier, or generate your own with a roof-mounted windmill or solar panel array, and the vehicle’s fossil fuel consumption will be zero. Surely a conventional bike does that already? Only if you grow the food you consume whilst riding it. Unfortunately, most modern food production and distribution is so fuel-intensive that the consumption of a typical cyclist is not terribly good.
8. Faster travel
In theory a car can average a high speed, but in practice speed often falls below 15km/hr in cities. The problem is congestion – motorcycles get around this to some extent, but they’re still confined to the road network. An electric bicycle can maintain a higher average speed than a bicycle but take advantage of the same network of cycle facilities, giving ready access to areas that cars and motorcycles cannot reach. The result is often a faster door-to-door journey time than any other mode.