Electric bike terminology explained: Jargon busting
The world of electric bikes is filled with jargon and it can all be a little confusing to those who are new to it. We hope to clear up some uncertainty around electric bike terminology by explaining the keys terms you’re likely to hear when researching ebikes.
TYPES OF ELECTRIC BIKES
First off, not all electric bikes are created equal. There are a few different types of electric bike, and they have certain features that set them apart from each other.
Pedelec (or EAPC)
A Pedelec, otherwise referred to as an electrically assisted pedal cycle (EAPC) is what many people think of when they hear the term “ebike”. It’s a bike with a motor that assists the rider’s pedalling – it does not provide assistance unless the rider is pedalling. In the UK and Europe, Pedelecs are limited to a power output of 250W (we’ll discuss this unit later) and 15.5mph (25kph), meaning the motor will switch off if the bike exceeds this speed. They’re legal to ride, treated exactly like a traditional pushbike in the eyes of the law. Our Furo X is a perfect example.
An S-Pedelec is much like a Pedelec, the key difference being the speed at which the electric motor switches off. S-Pedelecs assist the rider up to speeds of (45kph) and have a power output of 500W. Given this high-speed capability, they’re not legal for general use. In order to use one in Europe and the UK, riders will need to register and insure the vehicle and possess a driving licence. And yes, the “S” stands for Speed.
E-mountain bikes (E-MTBs) are simply electric mountain bikes. As a result, they’re hardier than other ebikes, with better suspension, different tires and braking systems, and additional weight-carrying capabilities. As long as they conform to the EAPC standards, they’re legal to ride in the UK and Europe. Take our very own Sierra as an example.
Twist & Go bikes
Twist & Go bikes are bikes that you do not need to pedal in order to make them move. Much like a motorbike or moped, you simply twist the throttle in order to go (hence the name). These aren’t road legal in the UK and are treated the same as motorbikes due to the lack of pedalling involved.
The motor is a key component of an ebike. It’s the part that converts electrical energy, supplied by the battery, to mechanical energy. In other words, it uses the electricity supplied by the battery to help make the ebike move.
The following are terms that are closely associated with motors.
Power is the rate of “doing work” or transferring energy over time. The more power a motor produces, the more energy it converts each second. To put it in context, more powerful ebikes are faster than less powerful ebikes because they produce more mechanical energy (or do “more work”) per second.
Watts are a unit of measure used to describe the power output of a motor. The standard way of measuring power is in Watts.
Torque is the rotational power of the motor. The higher the torque, the more turning power the motor produces, and the better the bike is at assisting the rider. Torque is particularly important when travelling uphill.
Newton-metres are a unit of measure used to describe the torque output of a motor. In other words, torque is measured in Newton-metres.
The battery is the other key component of an ebike. It’s the part that supplies electrical energy to the motor. The following terms are closely associated with batteries.
While there are many types of batteries, most ebikes use lithium-ion batteries (including our ebikes). They’re a type of rechargeable battery that’s very lightweight for the energy it provides. Lithium-ion batteries can be found in a range of electrical devices, including smartphones and laptops.
The range is simply the distance an ebike can travel one a single charge. The range of an ebike will be affected by the size of the battery, how efficiently it uses power, its weight, the terrain on which you’re riding, the incline, and even the direction and strength of the wind. We designed an online range calculator to evaluate the range of light electric vehicles.
A volt is the standard unit of measure to describe electrical potential between two points. In other words, voltage is the energy per unit of charge. It’s the “push” that moves electrical charges from one point to another (giving us a current).
Watt-hours are the unit of measurement used to describe a battery’s capacity. The higher the Watt-hours, the higher the capacity of the battery, and therefore the greater the range of the ebike (as a general rule).
Amps are the standard unit of measurement for current, which is the rate of flow of electrical charge. The higher the amps, the faster the flow of electrical charge.
Ampere-hours is a unit of measure that describes the rate of the flow of current over time. It can be thought of as the amount of energy that passes a particular point in an hour and is often used to describe a battery’s capacity.
As well as the technical, scientific terms, there are a number of features that are common to most ebikes. It’s helpful to be aware of them when you’re researching which ebike you should buy.
Walk assist is a useful feature that helps riders to move their ebike around when they’re unable to ride, or help them to start riding. The motor accelerates the ebike to a speed of approximately 6kph, making it easier when walking with the bike or when you’re just starting to pedal. It’s especially useful when you’re setting off on an incline.
Regenerative braking is another innovative feature that improves the energy efficiency of an ebike. When braking, kinetic energy is lost as you slow down. With regenerative braking, the ebike will store this energy instead of allowing it to be lost. In essence, it charges the battery a little each time you use the brake.
We hope this guide is useful and helps you to make a more informed choice of an electric bike. Start by checking out our very own Furo X, one of the most powerful folding ebikes you can buy!