Things You Should Know

Before Buying an Electric Bike

(Do Your Homework)

Before you purchase any E-bike from any company you should do some online research as to the types of E-Bikes available and, of course, their pricing. Here we are not offering a primer or tutorial on electric bicycles, just some things you should know and questions you should ask the seller in order for you to make an informed decision.


Pricing Overview

You will find E-bikes priced anywhere from $800 all the way up to $5,000 and sometimes more.  So what’s the difference?  Most E-bikes selling for less than $1,500 are often  Chinese imports with motor power ratings of 250 watts. More expensive bikes may offer power ratings up to 1000 watts,  with 500 to 750 watts being the most popular. Note: 750 watts is the legal limit in the USA.


What Is the Watt  Power Rating?

Those 250 watt  Chinese imports  were designed primarily for the Asian and European markets where the legal power and speed limits are more constrained than in the USA. They are Ok if you just want to cruise around town, but 250 watts is less than adequate for climbing big hills or bucking strong headwinds, or if you weigh over 175 lbs.


Brushed vs Brushless Motors

Brushed motors represent an old and worn out technology.  But you will still see some around, especially on less expensive bikes. Stay clear! Check to be sure the motor is brushless.


Caution:  Know both the volts and watts.

Often sellers will quote  volts (say 36 volt), .but don’t tell you if they are referring to the battery or the motor. Even if they  tell you that, say, the battery is 36 volts, you still need to know the  motor’s watt rating,  which may be only 250 watts.  


Is the Battery Included in the Price?

Often sellers (especially on Ebay) will show pictures of a bike with the battery mounted. You may find out after it is too late that the battery is not included.


SLA Batteries vs Lithium

Lithium battery distributors have done such a powerful job of doubting the advantages of Lithiums and discrediting SLAs that much of the public has been convinced that Lithium is the only way to go. That is just NOT the case.


Volts are volts, amps are amps, and an electric motor doesn’t care where it gets them from–a Lithium Battery, an SLA battery, or a solar panel.


The two most advertised advantages of a Lithium over an SLA is less weight and longer life. You will find Lithium battery distributors saying that an SLA will last only a couple of years, while a Lithium will last 6 to 10. Anyone who has ridden  an e-bike with a Lithium battery for 6 years please step forward. As for 10 years? Lithium e-bike batteries have NOT even been around that long. With that said, yes, the life of a Lithium battery  (a good one that is) will last two or three times as long as an SLA. But 6 to 10 years? That’s just unproven Lithium battery marketing hype. Furthermore, despite their claims, we don’t  see any of them willing to offer a 10- or even 6-year warrantee on their Lithium batteries.


Price Difference:

A 36 volt Lithium battery will cost you anywhere from $450 up to $600 and sometimes more. And don’t forget to add $100 shipping. An excellent 36 volt SLA can be

purchased for less than $200.  Long Beach Electric Bikes offers their 36 volt SLA for only $150.


Battery Weight Comparison:

A 36 volt Lithium battery including the necessary mounting plate will weigh 10 lbs. A 36 volt SLA will weigh 25 lbs–a difference of 15 lbs. Now let’s assume a 190-lb rider, plus a 54-lb e-bike, plus a 10-lb Lithium battery. Total weight 254 lbs. Math shows that the Lithium  battery represents .04 percent of the total weight.


Same Rider, Same Bike:

With a 25-lb  SLA, total weight 269 lbs. The battery









represents .09 percent of the total weight–a difference of 5 percent. Is 5 percent less weight and two or three  years of  longer life worth an additional $450 to $600 more? Only you can decide.



While riding the bike you will hardly notice the extra weight of the SLA. But  when moving the bike about by hand or carrying the battery by hand off the bike you will definitely appreciate the lesser weight of the Lithium.



Speed:  With comparable volts  (Let’s say 36 volts.) the speeds  will be the same.

Range: The distance you can travel on an electric bike is heavily dependent upon the Ah rating of the battery. The more amp hours, the greater the distance. Most 36 volt Lithiums are 9 to 10Ah. A good 36 volt SLA will be 12Ah. Go figure!


But What About 48 Volts?

If you insist on 48 volts, which is rarely necessary, than the weight (and size) become a more important considerations. A Lithium would definitely be the wiser choice. So think about it. But, keep in mind, however, that over-volting the motor will invalate the warrenty.


Reliability and Service:

There are  no Lithium batteries manufactured in the USA–NONE. All  are made in China or some other Asian country. If you purchase direct from China, try to imagine a distributor in China servicing your battery is the USA?


Lithium Problems:

Lithium battery technology has come a long way  and we are not experiencing the many problems of just a few years ago. Now a days,  the problems associated with Lithiums is not in the technology but in the quality of of the delivered product. Remember: They are ALL made in China!  A Lithium battery has a number of features not found on SLA batteries, and happily, not needed on SLA batteries. More features equals more things that can go wrong–both in the manufacturing process and on your bike.  For example, Lithiums have a built-in battery management system known as BMS. It’s purpose is to keep all those 12  cells (36 volts) in balance. This is one of the first things to go wrong and getting it fixed is almost impossible.  And if one of those 12 cells goes bad replacing it  is just a marketing dream, eg, nightmare! That is if you can figure out  which one has gone bad.


An SLA battery does not have BMS, nor does it need it. A 36 volt SLA has only three cells, and each is easily replaced for about $30.  And it is a simple matter to determine  which one has gone bad. However, with that said, it is usually better to replace all three.


SLA Proven Technology

SLA batteries enjoy a  proven technology of  many years and they are made in the good al’ USA.   


Where to Buy Your E-bike

If at all possible, and you can find one in your area, we highly recommend that you purchase from a dedicated

E-bike shop.  See our Directory of Ebike Shops and Service Centers. In contrast to buying online, at a shop you will be dealing with a live person and service is more readily available.  You might also consider  custom E-bike builders like San Diego Electric Bike, or Ev Universe in Del Mar, CA, or Long Beach Electric Bikes in Long Beach, CA.  They will build to your specifications


If purchasing from a local shop is not possible and you must purchase your E-bike online from a distributor, avoid purchasing  from China direct. Deal with a distributor who is located in the USA. Even if that company deals in China imports, you will still stand a better chance of getting a more vetted product and after-purchase service, which is almost impossible when buying direct from China.


What Are the Shipping Charges?

If you make a purchase on line be sure to ask the shipping charges, which may drive the cost up radically. Unfortunately, many sellers get greedy in this area.









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