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.
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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.