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Pros and Cons of Electric Bikes
Okay. So, I’m guessing you’ve found your way through to my website for one of two reasons:
You’ve decided you want an ebike. You’ve chosen the one you want. Picked the color and all the accessories you need. Decided where you’re going on your first ride. About to hit BUY NOW… but you’ve had a moment of indecision and need a little reassurance that you’re doing the right thing.
You decided you wanted an e bike. You bought the e bike… and now you need to justify the purchase to your wife / husband / significant other / kids / dog / all of the above (Delete as appropriate).
Well, don’t worry, I’m here to help with both of these situations.
Without further ado, I present to you the Pros and Cons of Electric Bikes. Feel free to use these in any debates you have with yourself / anyone else.
Good Luck. May the force be with you.
As a quick note of clarification, some of these points will compare ebikes to traditional bikes. But where it’s more relevant, I’ll also be comparing them more widely. Say against other forms of transport, such as cars and motorbikes.
Ready to arm yourself with some powerful justifications for your recent / forthcoming electric bike purchase?
Okay, let’s go.
Short on time? Here are my headline pros and cons of electric bikes:
- Remove barriers to cycling
- Makes bike commuting possible
- Cheap to run
- Burn calories
- Low Carbon Footprint
- No parking costs
- Expensive to buy
Those arguments in detail:
The Pros of Electric Bikes
1. Remove barriers to cycling
For many people cycling on a traditional bike isn’t an option. They might have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, or be carrying long-term injuries, like knee damage. They might even consider themselves to be too old, too overweight or too unfit.
I think the most fantastic thing about electric bikes is that they make cycling accessible for people who find themselves in this situation.
If you can use the pedals and balance on two wheels, then you can let the motor do the heavy lifting and take you up the hills and for longer distances than you thought were previously possible. If balancing on two wheels isn’t achievable for you, then there are even three-wheeler ebikes that are much more stable than a two-wheeler.
2. Makes bike commuting possible
Commuting to work on a traditional bike is not necessarily an attractive option: you fight your way up hills, for mile upon mile, with traffic whizzing past you, and end up at work in a sweaty mess. Yuck.
On an ebike it’s a different experience altogether. The motor carries you up the hills and along the miles. Because you’re traveling at higher speeds than a standard bike, traffic will pass you at a much slower relative speed. Or you may be passing the traffic when it’s gridlocked!
Finally, when you arrive at work, you’ll be fresh, dry, and ready to kick some corporate butt.
3. Cheap to run
This is a huge advantage for ebikes.
In comparison to a car, electric bikes are vastly cheaper to run. Some studies have suggested that a regular-sized car with a single occupant will have running costs of up to 15 times that of an ebike.
Interestingly, ebikes can also be cheaper to run than traditional bikes. One study found that, when you take into account fuel for traditional bikes (i.e. food!) then ebikes use less energy to run.
4. Burn calories
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first.
No, you won’t burn as many calories cycling the same distance on an ebike as you will on a traditional bike.
Having said that, you will still burn a substantial amount of calories. Maybe 20% less than on a standard bike, but still plenty.
What is likely to happen though is that you’ll end up cycling further on your ebike, than you would normally. You’ll also end up using your ebike on more trips that would otherwise be in the car. “Honey, we’re out of canned apricots. I’m just popping to the store on my ebike to get some more, it’s only a 20-mile round trip”.
Result? More calories burnt in total, because you’ll be riding more miles. Winner.
5. Low Carbon Footprint
In a study commissioned by the European Cyclists Federation, an average automobile was found to emit 229g/8oz of greenhouse gases for each passenger per kilometre or 0.6 miles.
This figure can be as low as 16g/0.6oz for an electric bike.
In effective terms, using an ebike will reduce your CO2 balance by over 1,300 percent. This makes the polar bears happy with you. You do not want the polar bears to be unhappy.
6. No parking costs
Where I live, city center parking costs are very high. You either have to buy an expensive residents’ permit or you have to pay an exorbitant amount by the hour. Parking in the city for 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday would set you back around $2000.
Then you have to drive round for hours to actually find a space to park in…
The beauty of all bikes, not just ebikes, is that you can bypass all that, parking in your apartment or at a bike park. With a saving like that you can see a return on your investment in less than a year with a mid-range electric commuter bike.
Riding ebikes will make you happy. The world needs more happy people. 😉
The Cons of Electric Bikes
Often, when people are thinking of buying an ebike, their main concern is what other people will think of them. Will they be accused of cheating? Will they be laughed at?
It’s true that you will get a lot of attention when you’re out on your bike. But, in my experience, folk are usually fascinated and keen to ask you all about it. They may even be a little bit jealous…
2. Expensive to buy
Whilst the price of ebikes has come down rapidly in recent years as (particularly) battery technology has improved, it’s true that they are more costly to buy than traditional bikes.
But is this a fair comparison? For most people, ebikes aren’t necessarily replacing traditional bike journeys. They’re actually being used instead of cars and motorbikes.
So, if you compare them to the price of cars and motorbikes, then they’re a bargain. Added to that, in many countries, you also don’t need to buy insurance for your ebike (or tanks of gas), so they’re even better value.
Due to the motor and battery, ebikes tend to be heavier than traditional bikes.
All in all, the power system can add around 8 kg or 18 Lbs to the weight of a traditional bicycle. The motor itself is typically 4 kg / 9 Lbs, with some units being slightly heavier. The battery weighs generally 3 kg / 7 Lbs, depending on its design and power: the larger the capacity, the more it will weigh. Then the rest of the cabling, controller, etc usually weighs no more than 1 kg / 2 Lbs.
That being said, remember that that unit isn’t just dead weight. It’s there for a purpose, which is to whizz you along with a big grin on your face.
However, the weight is certainly something to consider if you’ll need to carry the bike up flights of stairs. In that case, go for the lightest set of electrical and mechanical components that will do the job you need it to do.
Because ebikes tend to come with a higher price tag, there’s a possibility that they’ll be more likely to be targeted by thieves. Whilst this might be the case, if you take some sensible precautions, then you can minimize any risk. If you leave your bike in a public place, make sure it’s a well-lit area with plenty of people around. Also, remove the battery and take it with you, and fit a good quality lock round the bike frame and a suitable immovable object, such as a bike rack.
Final word on electric bikes
I’ve tried to be as unbiased as possible when compiling this list. But looking back I see that I’ve got a lot more Pros listed than Cons.
I do strongly believe though that ebikes are a fantastic form of transport, and so much fun to use! Frankly, anything that gets more folk off the couch, out of their cars, and exercising in the fresh air, has got to be a good thing.
I hope you agree.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go buy that ebike and get planning your first ride!