Of E-bikes and range and efficiency

So I decided to run a bit of a test for range. You see, the e-bike has a simple '5-bar' battery meter, not really letting you know how much farther you could go before you are doing all the work. Unlike a car, the downside of running out of juice is not as terrible, you just have to handle all the hills yourself. Also, unlike a car, the amount of work the battery/motor puts in is not 100%, and is variable. But, despite all that, I still want to know how often I have to charge / do I have the range to go there and back without having to charge or do all the work.

The setting I have available 'Pedal Assist' is a level from 0...9. When its on '0' the electronics are all sleeping. As you step this up from 1...9, as you pedal, the motor puts in some work to match. In practise I've found that higher than level 1 is just not needed unless you are in a real hurry and a bit lazy. So all my riding is on '1'.

So for the test. My round-trip commute is 6k, so 30k/week. I started the week off with a 20k ride in ~14degree weather, followed by the weekly commute and associated errands, followed by a ~20k ride in ~6degree weather. This lead to 73.5km according to the trip odometer. I started this out 'full' (5 bars) and ended it on 2-bars (so ~40% if I believe the meter). This implies that I could go probably ~100km before running fairly low on battery.

The battery is 48V @ 16AH, or ~800WH. Now lets compare. Our car (Chevy Bolt) is 60kWH, and has a maximum range of about 500km in perfect conditions. So I have 1.3% the capacity, and 1/5 the range (its a much much lighter vehicle and of course no AC/heat/... so its not a fair test). In other words, the car is 6.4% the efficiency of the bike if we look at it from solely a 'moving 1 person from A to B' standpoint.

Lets compare against another electric. If we look at a Tesla model X P100D, this vehicle has 100kWH for 465km range, or about 3.6% the efficiency (again on the sole metric of moving 1 person from A to B).

So despite my 'fat' tires having lots of rolling resistance, it seems an e-bike is pretty efficient (mainly due to power/weight ratio) compared to a car.

3 comments on “Of E-bikes and range and efficiency
  1. db Jayme Snyder says:

    I don’t understand the e-bike.
    To me it’s still either a half-baked bike or a half-assed motorcycle. I’m normally overly enthusiastic for either.

    I feel many people are too hesitant to join the leather pants club because they feel safer going slow. I’m not sure this is the case though since studies keep coming in suggesting: “e-bike–related trauma may involve serious injuries and have typical injury patterns that resemble those seen in motorcycle-related injuries”. Cycling in traffic under power or otherwise is inherently dangerous. Maybe the barrier of entry into the world of moving with the speed of traffic is fraught with too much training about defensive driving/blocking positions and safety equipment? E-bikes are becoming slow motorcycles with proper awesome full speed electric motorcycles like the Zero weighing as little as DUI bikes like the Daymak.

    As far as bicycles go, isn’t half the fun trying to exceed the e-bike’s speed limit under your own power? Beating your own times on commutes and feeling like you actually got a work out? Or taking trails where electronic bits will likely be damaged?

    Cyclists and motorcyclists often group together and make it a social thing. You don’t often see groups of e-bikes going for a ride together or waving at each other. There are no e-biker bars or charity e-bike rides. Will we see this in the future?!

    I realize my opinions are exactly that – so I am curious for you and all the e-bike owners out there to understand the motivations.

    • db db says:

      this is the new-style of e-bike. Its a bike with a motor/pedal-assist. Its designed to be primarily bike.
      Its not like those crappy scooter w/ pedals that we saw on the roads a few years ago.
      Regulation allows me to treat it like a bike. I can ride anywhere a bike can (trails etc).

      This means that my commute to work is not in traffic: I don’t go on the road, its through the park and trail.

      Its no different than other varieties of bikes (mountain, road, hybrid, …), its not a new category.

      As for trauma etc, its not faster than a bike.

      • db Jayme Snyder says:

        I guess I will have to try it out. I know Waterloo is getting more friendly towards these electronic mobility things on trails as Lime scooters are popping up…

        Meanwhile Cambridge seems to have a pretty clear intolerance for anything motorized on their trails.

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