So you’ve finally made the leap and purchased an electric bike, but instead of seeing the world, you keep seeing the “Empty” indicator on the battery meter. How come?
Well, a number of factors can influence the range and energy consumption of your eBike. Like any bike, an eBike encounters a frictional force known as rolling resistance when you cruise down the road. This rolling resistance is caused by the interaction of the rubber tires with the roadway surface. Fully inflated tires encounter less rolling resistance than tires which are only partially inflated and soft. So make sure that you properly inflate your tires. But don’t over-inflate. Over-inflation can cause blowouts or other tire damage. Find the maximum inflation pressure on the sidewall of the tire (it should say “inflate to 50 – 60 psi” or something similar), and follow the recommendation. Psi is the abbreviation for “pounds per square inch”, and it’s a measure of how hard the air inside your tire is pushing outward on the tire’s surface.
It may not be possible to generate enough pressure with a hand-operated bicycle pump to fully inflate your tires, especially if it is a bargain basement brand. The alternatives for self-inflation are a foot-operated pump, which uses leg power to develop higher pressure, or an electric inflation pump, which plugs into either an ac outlet or a car’s 12-volt accessory outlet. If you don’t mind paying for air, you can use the compressed air pump at your local filling station, which typically charges 50c – $1.00 for three minutes of air pressure. But if you use a filling station air pump, you must purchase and use a tire pressure gauge which is properly calibrated for bicycle tires, since service station inflators are notoriously inaccurate and have the potential to blow your electric bicycles tire off the rim before you even know there’s a problem.
In addition to the rolling friction discussed above, ebikes and their riders are subject to air resistance, which is caused by friction with the molecules of the air in the atmosphere, which, hopefully, is present wherever you are. Unlike rolling resistance, which tends to increase in proportion with your speed, air resistance increases faster as your speed increases, so that there can be four times as much air resistance at 30 mph as there is at 15 mph. What does this mean for getting the most range out of your eBike? It means that by keeping your tires properly inflated and traveling at moderate speeds, you should be able to cut back considerably on the amount of electrical power that you need to use.
Think of the electric bike’s battery as a bottle filled with water that you are allowing to drip out slowly, and use just enough power to keep moving smoothly as the terrain becomes hilly or when you must make frequent stops. Riding this way, compared to simply keeping the throttle open, will allow you to cover more distance while consuming less power.
Most electric bikes are made to assist your pedaling effort rather than replace it. So continue to pedal normally while riding, just as you would on a regular bike. Your pedaling effort produces fractional horsepower which blends with the power from the electric drive system and reduces the amount of power that the battery needs to supply.
In general, a route over flat terrain consumes less power than a route over rolling, or hilly terrain. That’s because it requires power to lift weight uphill against gravity, and most ebikes do not have a way to regain the energy expended going uphill when they descend again on the other side. So try to select a route which is as flat as possible, and keep steep hills to a minimum.
Always begin your trip with a fully charged battery, and try not to run the battery down all the way before you recharge, as this can potentially weaken the battery and diminish its charging capacity.
If you have read this far, now you know some tricks and tips to use to extend the range of your ebike before it needs to be recharged. Using these techniques should help your machine perform at its best and allow you to significantly increase the range of your electric bike.