What is an e-bike?
An electric bike, or e-bike, is a standard pedal bike fitted with a battery and electric motor. If you want to cycle further, negotiate the hills in your area, or just make your ride easier, e-bikes are a good option to get people cycling.
Most e-bikes have a range of power settings so that you can adjust the level of assistance the bike provides. It can also be turned off completely, so you can use it like a standard pedal bike. The bikes can be charged at home. The adapter, cables and other charging equipment are generally sold with a bike, depending on the make and model.
You don't need a special licence to use an e-bike, and it doesn't need an MOT, but insurance is recommended. As long as you're at least 14 years old, you can pick one up and pedal straight out of the shop and travel anywhere a regular pedal bike can.
Types of e-bikes
As technology has improved, batteries have become smaller and e-bike designs have become more stylish. There are a range of e-bike types available, from folding cycles, mountain and road bikes, to step-through designs and cargo bikes.
Consider what you're going to use the bike for to help you decide which type is best for you. For example, if you travel on public transport you could buy a folding e-bike to improve your access onto trains, particularly at busy times. If you commute in the week but ride forest trails at the weekend, a hybrid (combining elements of mountain and road bikes) might suit you better.
Try before you buy
To help you decide which type of e-bike suits you best, and how you could benefit from using it, you can try out a bike before committing to a purchase.
In the borough, you can try out an electric bike at Halfords in Kingston and/or New Malden. Find your nearest free test ride, and see a list of retailers, on the e-bikeslondon website.
Alternatively, Park Cycle, just outside the borough in Richmond Park, hire out e-bikes for up to two hours.
How much do e-bikes cost?
E-bikes tend to cost more than regular bikes because of the battery and motor, and are typically priced between £500 and £2,500.
But, running costs are low - they're easy and cheap to recharge, costing between 5 and 10 pence per charge - and you do not need a licence, or to pay for an MOT or Vehicle Excise Duty. You'll never have to pay for petrol either, so e-bikes are much cheaper than owning and using a car or other motor vehicle.
The law and e-bikes
You should be aware of these legal requirements if you are considering riding an e-bike:
- You must be at least 14 years old to ride an e-bike
- E-bikes have a legal maximum motor power output of 250 watts and a power-assisted speed of up to 15.5 mph (25 kph)
- You must follow the rules of the road, as you would if you were using any other vehicle on the UK's roads. Refer to the Highway Code for more information.
E-bike case study
Senior Project Engineer Younes Hamade has been trialling an electric bike through the council’s bike to work scheme.
He’s now parked his car and is regularly using the electric bike to get him around the borough to site visits and meetings.
“I used to cycle before but I gave it up as I had to travel 8 miles and the hills were becoming too much for me. I decided I wanted to give it another go and I thought I would try an electric bike as it would make it more comfortable for me and help to enjoy cycling again,” he said.
“I applied for the council’s bike to work scheme, they approved the application and I went to the relevant store who sells the electric bike and I got one.
“I used to take the car, now I take the electric bike. It’s practical and it’s easier and it’s better for me. I don’t have to worry about finding spaces to park. It’s good and it’s healthier for me.”
Younes said because the bikes are power assisted, you don’t work up as much of a sweat, so there’s no need to worry about carrying a change of exercise clothes.
“For people who want to take up cycling but they are worried about it being too much exercise, the electric bike is a good option. You don’t need to get changed, you can take it easy and cycle at your own pace. It’s really good to have all the pleasure and work altogether.”
If you want to find out more about electric bikes get in touch with the sustainable transport team: [email protected]
Transport for London
Transport for London has recently developed an e-bikes webpage which provides a lot of information, including test rides, offers and bike security.