Episode 156: What are electric bikes?

Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses how electric bikes work and what they can be used for.

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Intro to EBikes from Grin Technologies

AB-1096 Vehicles: electric bicycles from California Legislative Information

E-Bike Research at Portland State University from Portland State University

Transcript

HOST:     Have you heard about electric bikes, and wondered how they work?  On this week’s Energy Bite, Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

VENKAT:  Electric bikes are regular bikes that can operate in two modes — the normal pedal mode that a typical bike uses, and an assist mode where a battery can be used to help you pedal.  You might use the assist mode, for example, when going up a big hill or windy conditions.  These bikes may also be useful if you become injured or suffer from asthma in providing power when you can’t.  E-bikes, as they are called, can go 15 to 20 miles in assist mode before the battery needs to be charged.

HOST:  If I want to buy an E-bike, what factors should I consider?

VENKAT:  There are two main considerations when you are buying an E-bike.  First, how long can the e-bike operate in the assist mode, when the battery is being used.  Second, how fast can the E-bike go in the assist mode.  Just like pedal-only bikes, the price of E-bikes vary widely.  On the low end, you can retrofit an existing bike so that it becomes an E-bike. On the high end are bikes that go really fast, which require use of a premium battery pack.  E-bikes can also be rented instead of purchased.

HOST:     Would you buy or use an E-bike?  Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

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