You wouldn't leave for a trip in a gas or diesel powered car if you weren't sure that you could refuel along the way. Electric vehicles, and electric bikes are the same way - you need to know where you'll find your power, and how long it will take to put the power into your electric bike.
The first thing to consider when charging is - what type of electricity are you using? 110V? 220V? Most electric bikes will charge by plugging into a 110V outlet in the United States, and 220V in most European countries. To take electricity from the outlet and put it into your electric bike batteries, you'll need a charger. Sometimes this is integrated into the bike, and sometimes it is an external piece of equipment that you may conveniently leave at home or store in your pannier bags.
The goal of charging is simple - fill the batteries of your electric bike as quickly as possible. The faster you charge, the sooner you are back out there on the road or the trail enjoying yourself.
Rethinking Recharging times; Looking at Recharging Rate
While the total time it takes to recharge is important, it's an incomplete picture. It's more important to get a bike with a faster recharging rate, as the rate takes into account the bike's total range, as well as recharge time. Let's take a look at an example:
1 Hour Recharge, 30 mile range. Recharging Rate: 30 miles per hour of charging.
Outrider 422 Alpha
2 Hour Recharge, 100 mile range. Recharging Rate: 50 miles per hour of charging.
As you can clearly see, on a long trip, the Outrider is going to cover ground much more quickly than Bike A, despite the fact that Bike A has a faster recharging time.
Accessing Charging Stations
One of the biggest benefits when it comes to charging electric bikes versus other electric vehicles is the widespread charging infrastructure. While electric cars and motorcycles need 220V power to achieve reasonable recharging rates on a trip, electric bikes can use readily-available standard 110V outlets and achieve good recharge rates.
Let's take a look at an example:
Nissan Leaf recharging rate on 110V: 4 miles per hour
Nissan Leaf recharging rate on 220V: 12 miles per hour
Outrider 422 Alpha recharging rate on 110V: 50 miles per hour
Pulling the Plug Early
When using an electric vehicle for time-sensitive longer trips, it's important to understand how the charging cycle works, in order to minimize time spent recharging. With any lithium battery, there are two phases in the charging cycle. The first is the constant current (or bulk charging) phase, the second is the constant voltage (or trickle charging) phase. The majority of the battery's overall energy (typically 80-90%) is replenished during the first phase. The recharging rate decreases progressively throughout the second phase, until the battery is fully-charged.
With a lithium battery, there is no harm in pulling the plug early to minimize wasted time. For instance, if the overall charge time is 2 hours and 30 minutes and you're in a hurry, pull the plug at the 2 hour mark, so long as you know you won't need those final few miles of charge to reach your destination.
Plan your trip
Planning well can make a trip significantly faster and more enjoyable. Let's take a look at an example of a good trip plan on an Outrider 422 Alpha for full ride of the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway:
Elements to consider when planning: Total riding distance, desired overall trip time, access to small towns along the way, where you plan to sleep and average riding speed.
While it would be technically possible to do this trip in two days on an Outrider 422 Alpha, this route is well-suited for a 5 day trip. It will vary from rider to rider, but we've found that about 150 miles is a comfortable maximum daily mileage limit. More miles than that, and you're no longer stopping to smell the roses.
Day 1: Ride 60 miles, recharge at lunch. Ride 50 miles, camp for the night.
Day 2: Ride 55 miles, recharge at lunch. Ride 45 miles, camp for the night.
Day 3: Ride 65 miles, recharge at lunch. Ride 50 miles, rent a cabin and rest.
Day 4: Ride 50 miles, recharge at lunch. Ride 40 miles, camp for the night.
Day 5: Ride 54 miles to the end of the Parkway, eat a big celebratory lunch.
Note that rather than stretching the vehicle to its range limit, we instead planned in a good bit of cushion for unforeseen circumstances. Also, it's generally nicer to do your longer distance in the morning, and a shorter distance in the afternoon. This allows you to pull the plug early at lunch, enjoy a faster ride in the afternoon, and have time to check out you evening destination before dark.
Click the links below to learn more: