How is Electric
How far can eBikes go and how long do they last is far and away (no pun intended) the most asked question when it comes to eBikes. From watt hours to April showers, we explain everything that can affect your electric bikes range (including the weather).
Smiles per Hour
The majority of eBikes come equipped with a handlebar mounted display which, very nicely, displays the range in miles or kilometres alongside a battery level indicator. A useful way to think of it is how far you can ride on the current battery level based on the current riding conditions - because nobody wants to get stranded with a dead battery.
In most cases the range is dynamic and will vary based on the ever-changing riding conditions - we all know mother nature can be cruel sometimes. The method used to calculate the range for an electric bike is similar to a car, which looks at how much fuel is being used currently and what’s left in the tank. In the case of an electric bike the system would calculate how much energy is being drawn from the battery and the current voltage left in the battery, then predicts the range based on those figures.
Think of it like your petrol tank in a car (only a lot more environmentally friendly). If your foot is flat on the accelerator, you'll burn more fuel and you're probably going to need to head to the petrol station a little sooner than expected - well it's the same when it comes to eBikes (minus the expensive fuel bill or pollution). If you're cranking up a steep climb in the highest power setting, the range will decrease dramatically compared to if you're just pootling along a nice, flat canal towpath in the lowest power setting.
What Affects eBike Range?
Whilst eBike range is based on a relatively simple calculation, there are many external factors that can affect it. Anything that would traditionally make a bike more difficult for you to pedal will likely mean more work for the motor and therefore more energy being used which, you guessed it, equals a shorter range.
It goes without saying that the bigger the battery on the bike the bigger the range. Battery size refers to the capacity of the battery or how much energy it holds when it’s fully charged. Battery capacities are measured in watt hours (wh) and you will find many of our bikes list capacities such as 400wh and 500wh. It’s worth considering carefully what type of journey’s you will be making to ensure you get a battery size to provide a long enough range.
Bigger isn't always better though; a 400wh battery could be ideal for those punchy commutes when you're not travelling a massive distance or if you're short on desk space in the office when you need to charge the battery. A bigger battery not only refers to the capacity but the actual size and dimensions of the battery - after all, a double A battery isn't the same size as a triple A battery and the same logic applies to eBike batteries.
You can read more about eBike batteries here: https://www.raleigh.co.uk/gb/en/electric-bike-knowledge/electric-bike-batteries/
Bike Set Up and Environment
There are a handful of other factors that can influence your eBike’s range: the level of assistance (mode) the bike is in, weight (rider & luggage), your cadence (how quickly you pedal), the ambient temperature, the surface you are riding on, headwinds, the style of bike you’re riding and tyre tread pattern.
Unfortunately, we can't control the weather, even though we do love those sunny, summer evening rides. Colder temperatures are always going to have a small effect on the battery and a strong head wind will always mean more power output from your bike's motor.
How To Increase eBike Range?
Now we know everything that can lower your bike's range, but what steps can you take to increase it? Some of these suggestions may seem obvious but there might be a few you haven’t considered.
The first thing to think about is the power mode. All of our eBikes have selectable power levels that allow you to choose the level of assistance the motor provides; the higher the level the more battery power you will be using. Consider switching the power mode to a low setting and only using the higher modes when you really need them (like on those steep hill climbs). When on the flat or riding downhill the assistance can be turned off altogether allowing you to pedal the bike yourself saving precious battery power.
The next thing to consider is weight. More weight means more energy used by the motor to provide assistance. It’s simple, the less weight you carry the further you can go. So try to only carry the essentials and consider leaving some items in your locker at work.
Plan your route, if you really want to see how far you can ride on your eBike try to plan a route with the smoothest surfaces that’s as flat as possible.
If your eBike has suspension with a lockout use it when you’re not off road. Suspension's great when it gets a little bumpy, but you don't really need it on those smooth roads so locking it out will provide a small efficiency bonus allowing you to get that little bit more out of your battery.
Check your tyre pressure because under inflated tyres perform poorly and aren’t efficient. It's also worth considering how appropriate your tyres are for the terrain you are riding - if you've got a set of big, knobbly mountain bike tyres but only use the bike to commute then consider swapping them out for something smoother. Knobbly off-road tyres offer superior grip, but the penalty is higher rolling resistance which means more work for your motor to do.
Last but not least, think about cadence. A good tip to squeeze out that little bit extra from the battery is to up your cadence. Faster cadence i.e. spinning the pedals at a faster rpm in a lower gear is far more efficient and friendly to your motor than grinding it out in a harder gear and might just give you that much needed bump to your battery range.
Hopefully some of these tips and tricks come in handy, but if you really want to geek out on eBike range - our Motus and Centros models are all powered by Bosch eBike systems, to see a dynamic guide to range and how it’s affected check out Bosch's interactive demonstration here: https://www.bosch-ebike.com/en/service/range-assistant/.