Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better When it Comes to Electric Bikes

Not every person on a bicycle considers himself or herself an expert. For some, the technical aspects of its components are the last things to worry about. What matters most is how comfortable and practical is it to ride, and can often be the difference between investing in a great bike or passing on something that’s “not quite right”.

For a novice, walking into a bike shop can often feel intimidating, and if you add to that all of the extra technical information about the battery and motor of an electric bike, it can be enough to make you turn around and walk back out the front door.

In order to minimize some of that anxiety, here are some details to demystify e-bike batteries, and give you the confidence to choose the best machine for your needs.

The most important thing to understand before making your purchase is the difference between a 36v and a 48v battery for an electric bicycle. A common misconception is that bigger is better, but as you’ll discover, when it comes to e-bikes, the opposite may be true, depending on how you plan to use your new ride.

The best place to start is to explain exactly what volts, amps, and watts mean. You may be an electrical engineer and need no explanation of these terms, in which case, you can skip this part. For the rest of us, though, a little clarification is very helpful.

In short, volt refers to the amount of stored energy available, while amps are the current at which that power flows – higher amps mean a faster current. Watts are the amount of power generated as a result of how fast the stored power flows.

But what does this mean for electric bicycle batteries? Essentially, the higher a battery’s voltage or wattage, the more power that is available when you need it.

A 48v or a 500w battery will have more power. That’s better, right? Well, maybe not.

A 36v e-bike battery will have less power in the sense that you’ll experience a slower acceleration, and will have to use a little more leg power than with 48v, but it will last for a longer period of time, because less energy is needed to power the bicycle. In turn, this means a 36v battery will have a better range on a single charge, because it requires less energy consumption sustained over a longer period of time.

For Surface 604, this played a factor in selecting a 36v battery for the Boar, their fat-tire e-bike. A longer period between charges means users can focus more on the joy of the ride than worrying about how far they are from the next charging station.

While a 48v battery on an electric bike would mean a quicker acceleration, because of the higher voltage required, it also means a larger, and therefore more expensive battery. For an individual hauling large or heavy loads, like cargo or children, less physical exertion makes perfect sense, but if all you need is a little push to make hills or distance easier to manage, then a lower voltage will do the trick just fine.

An e-bike battery in the 350w range, such as the Boar, offers riders the electric assistance they may need to enjoy the ride a little longer, without giving up the reason they like to ride a bike in the first place. They provide the perfect balance between the exhilaration of being able to use your own propulsion to move you, with the added benefit of that little boost to get you up even the steepest hill.

No matter what kind of power you’re looking for, e-bikes are definitely on the rise around the world, allowing people of all ages to maintain the freedom of riding a bike no matter what life may throw at them. And we hope this very brief primer on e-bike batteries makes the next trip to your local bike shop a little less intimidating.

Written by

“A co-founder of Modacity, a multi-service communications and marketing firm focused on inspiring healthier, happier, simpler forms of urban mobility through words, photography and film”

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