E-bike performance is about more than just the amount of juice an e-bike will give and how long the power will last. You need to think about how you will use the bike – how effectively it can handle different terrains and elevation changes; how fast it can speed up and come to a complete stop. Will you still be willing and able to use it through heavy rain, wind, or snow? If you want to make an e-bike your primary (or only) means of transportation, then you will have to – though public transit is always an option for those knee-deep-in-snow-days.
The more efficient, effective, and safe you feel on your rides, the more inclined you will be to commit to an e-bike lifestyle. So do yourself a favour and choose a bike you can count on from the start.
Here are the characteristics you should look at in assessing e-bike performance:
Motor power and battery capacity
Generally, e-bike performance is measured by two factors: motor wattage and battery watt hours. Wattage is a measure of the power that the motor produces, and watt hours is a measure of the battery capacity.
- Wattage = Voltage x Amps
- Watt hours = Voltage x Amp hours
Motor performance characteristics
When looking at motor performance, it is important to distinguish between two types of power:
- Nominal power is the amount of power the motor can produce continuously.
- Peak power is the power a motor can produce for short periods, such as from stopping position.
350W is sufficient for medium-sized hills (2% grade), while you will probably want at least 500W to conquer bigger hills of 4% grade.
For the best motor performance, you will want to look for a bike with a high continuous torque motor, as this will bring together power and speed, for better acceleration and hill climbing. Look for a nominal torque of at least 8Nm and a max torque of at least 35Nm. It should weigh as little as possible. 4.5kg (10lb) is a good weight.
Battery performance characteristics
Electric bike batteries are not something you want to compromise on. More Watt hours allow you to go faster, farther, and up bigger hills. Cheap batteries rarely give you even close to the Watt hours they claim.
If you use your bike for short trips, getting a bike with a range of 30 to 60km may be enough, but it pays to have longer range if you have a long commute, don’t have steady access to a place to charge your bike, or plan to take your bike on extended cycling trips.
Lithium NCM batteries are designed for high power application, so you should look for them if you are checking out high performance e-bikes. They can provide a continuous 3C rate for fast acceleration and best sustained hill climbing.
Lithium-ion batteries have several other advantages: they are lightweight, have a high open circuit voltage (which means they can transfer an increased amount of power at a low current), and a low self discharge rate (which means a longer storage life). Lithium ion batteries also have no memory effect, which means that you can charge the battery at any time and still have it operate at full capacity. Many older types of batteries need to be fully discharged before you charge them to avoid developing a memory at certain level and not charging at full capacity the next time.
Acceleration and sustained hill climbing ability
While motor power and battery information are the performance ratings you can find for most e-bikes, they do not tell you what it is like to actually ride the bike. For example, they don’t indicate how fast the bike can go from full stop to full speed, or tell you how long they can help power you up hills before giving out.
To get a fuller picture of how an e-bike functions, you should inquire about the bike’s acceleration and sustained hill climbing abilities. Be sure they are enough to get you up the inclines you need to face: You don’t want your bike to conk out in the middle of a hill! Quick acceleration can also help you dodge accidents.
Regenerative braking recuperates the energy generated while braking, and can extend range up to 15%. This feature is especially useful if your average ride covers lots of hills – you can gain some of that energy back each time you go downhill. Regenerative braking is also a brake saver and makes your brake pads last twice as long.
You will definitely want good brakes to stay as safe as possible. Many bikes have caliper or mechanical disc brakes. If you want extra stopping power, look for hydraulic brakes, which give you precise control over stopping and let you come to a stop twice as fast as you can with other types of brakes.
Like a good car, you should choose a bike with lights that allow you to see and be seen – the brighter, the safer! At minimum, a good e-bike should have front and rear lights. LED lights can be up to five times brighter than other lights while consuming less power and requiring less maintenance, as the bulbs do not need to be replaced. For added safety, look for a bike with daytime running lights. Another feature you can look for is a spatial light strip that allows drivers to estimate their distance to you.
There are other factors you can look at to determine the performance of e-bikes, but these are the main ones. Better performance usually means paying a higher price. You can view this as a short-term cost that will save you money in the long run by providing you with a reliable, eco-friendly form of transport that you can enjoy for years.
Most people think of e-bikes as a hi-tech bike, but when you think of it as a replacement for your vehicle, you’ll see that paying for good performance now will seem like a bargain in the future.
To experience a ride on a bike with all of these qualities – that is what we are talking about when we say you can Ride Like This on an OHM electric bike.