How is Electric
"How far can you go on an electric bike?" and "how long do e-bike batteries last?" are far and away (no pun intended) the most asked questions we hear when it comes to e-bikes and range. If you're thinking of investing in an electric bike, you need to know how much of a boost you can get and how long you can ride on it.
So, we've put together a guide to electric bike range with everything you need to know. All electric bike manufacturers will provide a fairly accurate 'range', though there are of course lots of real world conditions and many factors that can impact range.
From watt-hours to April showers, we explain everything that can affect the range of your electric bike (including the Great British weather)...
How electric bike range is measured
To measure the range of your e-bike, most models come equipped with a handlebar-mounted display which displays the range in miles or kilometres alongside a battery level indicator. A useful way to think of it is how far you can travel on your battery capacity 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 calculates how much energy is being drawn from the battery plus the current voltage remaining, and then predicts the range based on those figures.
Think of it like your petrol tank in a car... just 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 e-bikes (minus the expensive fuel bill or pollution from fumes). If you're cranking up a steep climb on hilly terrain with the highest assistance levels engaged, the range will decrease dramatically compared to if you're just leisurely cycling along a nice, flat canal towpath in the lowest power setting.
What affects electric bike range?
Whilst e-bike range is based on a relatively simple calculation, there are many external factors that can affect it. Anything that would traditionally make a standard bike more difficult for you to pedal will likely mean more work for the e-bike motor and therefore more energy being used - which equals a shorter range.
It goes without saying that if you have a larger battery on the bike, you'll have a larger available range. Battery size refers to the full capacity of the battery or how much energy it holds when it’s completely charged.
Battery capacity for electric bikes is measured in watt-hours (Wh) and you will find many of our Raleigh electric bikes list capacities such as 400wh and 500wh. It’s worth carefully considering the type of journeys you will be making to ensure you get a large enough battery size to provide a long enough range. Some electric bikes will have multiple power modes for pedal assist, so maximum range may vary.
Bigger isn't always better though. A 400 Wh battery could be ideal for those punchy commutes when you're not travelling a massive distance. Or, a smaller size like this is ideal if you're short on desk space in the office when you need to charge your battery. A bigger battery not only refers to the capacity but also the actual size and dimensions of the battery. After all, AA batteries aren't the same size as AAA batteries, and the same logic applies to e-bikes.
You can read more about e-bike batteries here.
How to measure the capacity of your e-bike battery
If you ever notice that your electric bike pedal assist doesn’t last as long as it used to, you might want to check the capacity of your battery to make sure it’s all up to scratch. Before thinking about getting a replacement battery or having it reconditioned, it’s worth checking the capacity.
Feel free to visit your nearest Raleigh bike shop to ask one of our friendly team to help. Or, you can measure battery capacity yourself at home, using a digital multimeter.
How to use a multimeter
Start by detaching the (fully-charged) battery, and placing it on a flat surface. Some multimeters work differently, so make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions in full before you start. Some multimeters are equipped with fuses that blow if used incorrectly or with too high a current. You don’t have to throw away the whole device if this happens – you just need to change the fuse.
Once it’s connected and working properly, you should be able to read the voltage value of the battery on the digital display. A battery in good condition should show a minimum reading of 36V.
The total capacity of an e-bike battery is determined by the electrical voltage (V), the amount of charge (Ah) and the resulting stored electrical energy (Wh). In other words, the more watt-hours (Wh) a battery has, the more powerful it is. A reading of less than 36V indicates that your battery is pretty much worn out.
Get your e-bike battery capacity measured by an expert
Though it’s convenient for spot-checks, measuring your battery capacity with a digital multimeter at home isn’t as precise as having it professionally measured. A specialist can also measure what a battery is capable of while in operation. Plus, a reading of 36V or more doesn’t automatically mean the e-bike can deliver optimum performance.
One of our team will be able to provide you with a more in-depth analysis of the battery, along with the battery parameters obtained from the measurement. They can also discuss whether you need to buy a replacement battery. You may also be able to recondition your bicycle battery, which involves replacing the old cell block with a new one.
Electric bike set up and environment
There are lots of things that can impact how much range your e-bike can offer. Some of the most important factors include:
the assistance level (mode) the bike is in
luggage and rider weight
your riding style and cadence (how quickly you pedal)
the ambient temperature
the average speed (cycling at higher speeds will reduce remaining range)
the surface you are riding on
headwinds and other weather conditions
the style of bike you’re riding and tyre tread pattern
Unfortunately, we can't control the weather - if we could we'd guarantee the ideal conditions found on those sunny, summer evening rides. Colder temperatures are always going to have a small effect on the battery and a strong headwind will always mean more power output is required from your bike's motor.
Can you increase electric bike range?
So 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 electric bikes 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 steep hilly terrain). 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. If you're commuting, consider leaving some items in your locker at work.
Plan your route carefully, thinking about factors like incline, commuting traffic and trails. If you really want to see how far you can ride on your e-bike, try to plan a route with the smoothest surfaces that are as flat as possible.
If your e-bike has suspension with a lockout, use it when you’re not off-road. Having assistance from the suspension is great when it gets a little bumpy on rough terrain, but you don't really need it on those smooth roads that are great for cycling. So locking it out will provide a small efficiency bonus allowing you to get that little bit more range out of your battery.
Check your tyre pressure before you start cycling. Under-inflated tyres can really impact your ride efficiency. It's also worth considering how appropriate your tyres are for the terrain you are riding. Electric mountain bikes are ideal for trails and rugged conditions, but if you've got a set of hefty electric mountain bike tyres on but only commute on smooth roads, consider swapping them out for something smoother. Off-road tyres offer superior grip for electric bikes, 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 electric bikes is to up your cadence. Faster cadence (increasing the pedalling input and spinning the pedals at a faster rpm in a lower gear) is far more efficient for your motor than grinding it out in a harder gear. In fact it might just give you that much-needed bump to your battery range.
Find out more about looking after e-bikes and more on our Electric Bike Knowledge Hub.