Electric Bike Range
Range Anxiety. If you've been immersed in the electric vehicle world long enough, you've probably come across the phrase. It's those sweaty palms that come from not being sure if you're going to run out go juice before the next charging point.
Range Anxiety and You
One of the beautiful things about electric bikes is that even when your battery is depleted, you can still continue to move down the road on pedal power alone to your next charging point. This simply isn't possible with other electric vehicles.
Range matters. It's the reason why we sell so many more of our long-range Alphas than our other Outriders, it's also the reason why the Tesla Model S with its 270 miles of range has been so much more popular than the Nissan Leaf with its 90 miles of range. With more range, electric vehicles become practical and fun for more trips. More range means your worrying less about where and when you're going to charge next.
Electric vehicle manufacturers know that range matters to buyers. So many will significantly inflate their range numbers, giving arbitrary numbers in the best case conditions, some that are simply unattainable in the real world.
How do we cut through the smoke and mirrors?
There are a few key tools in understanding the real world range of electric bikes. Range is a function of overall energy in the battery and efficiency. Think of overall energy as how much water you have in a bucket, and efficiency as the size of the hole in that bucket.
The first important number to look at is the overall energy storage of the battery. This is stated in watt-hours or kilowatt-hours. More watt-hours or kilowatt-hours is equivalent to more "gas in the tank". Our 422 Alpha has a total energy storage of 2131 watt-hours, it's the most energy of any production electric bike battery.
The second important aspect to consider is the efficiency of the bike. This is a function of its weight, rolling resistance, aerodynamics, and motor efficiency. Let's take a look at our Alpha as a case study for efficiency. The Alpha trades weight for increased battery capacity, so while there are lighter electric bikes, their are none with a battery that has as much energy as the Alphas. The Alpha also trades a bit of rolling resistance for the increased braking power and stability that comes with three wheels instead of two. Because of its recumbent chassis, the Alpha is one of the most aerodynamic electric bikes available. Lastly, the Alpha's motor is 93% efficient, making it the most efficient electric motor available in an electric bike.
Finally ask the manufacturer what the range of their bike is at 20 mph. Speed is the most important variable to hammer down when comparing one bike's range to another. As speed decreases, range increases, and vice versa. Many manufacturers will rate their range at 15 mph. We rate our nominal range at 20 mph, we also have a graph of our Outrider's range at various speeds.
Where can I find an unbiased source of information on an electric bike's range?
The electric bike industry is in need of a standardized testing process for unbiased real world range data for electric bikes. While the US EPA now has a standardized testing process for calculating the real world range of electric cars, this doesn't yet exist for electric bikes.
We believe that the most intuitive and informative way to show the range of electric bikes is to standardize a testing process, and have an output of real world range at a variety of speeds, with and without pedaling, up to the bike's maximum speed. For instance:
Bike A, no pedaling (180 lb rider, 5.2 mile track, 72F):
10 mph: 80 miles
15 mph: 62 miles
20 mph: 42 miles
25 mph: 36 miles
30 mph: 31 miles
Bike A, 100W of pedal assistance (180 lb rider, 5.2 mile track, 72F):
10 mph: 98 miles
15 mph: 87 miles
20 mph: 54 miles
25 mph: 47 miles
30 mph: 38 miles
Until this organization or independent testing process exists, the best testament to real world range is owner experiences, or long distance test ride on the bike you're interested in. Remember to ask owners their average speed when inquiring about range numbers.
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