Tag: Electric Bicycle

UK Law: Are electric bikes legal?

Are electric bikes legal? Do you need a licence to ride one? Do they need to be insured? Do ebikes get taxed? These are all valid and very common questions that we receive. Many people want to buy an electric bike, but they’re worried about the legality of them. Unfortunately, these aren’t simple “yes” or “no” questions, but in this article, we hope to clear up any uncertainty.

Most electric bikes, such as our eTura and Furo X, are officially classed as Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPC) in the eyes of the government. EAPCs are legal to ride in England, Wales, and Scotland for anybody over the age of 14. Of course, being legal to use in public isn’t the same as being legal to ride without a licence or insurance – cars are legal to use on public highways for those over 17 years old, but you must have a licence, pay road tax, and be insured. In the case of EAPCs, however, you do not need a licence, to pay tax, or be insured.

You can ride electric bikes anywhere you would ride a regular pedal bike. This means they can be ridden on public highways but not pavements and must follow driving customs and road signs at all times. Riders of EAPCs must also obey the highway code and use front and rear lights when riding between sunset and sunrise. Failure to follow these rules and customs can result in serious fines.

 

 

What qualifies as an EAPC?

In order for an electric bike to qualify as an EAPC, it must meet certain criteria. Unsurprisingly, it must have pedals and the pedals must be in use for the electric motor to activate and provide assistance. If the electric motor can be activated without pedalling, for example with a throttle or switch (often called “twist & go”), then the vehicle is not an EAPC.

EAPCs must clearly display either the maximum speed of the vehicle or the battery’s voltage, and they must also display either the power output or the manufacturer of the motor. The power output of the motor cannot exceed 250 watts, and must not provide assistance when the bike is travelling at more than 25kpm (15.5mph). EAPCs may have two or more wheels, so it’s possible to have an electronically-assisted tricycle. If an electric bike does not fit these criteria, then different rules may apply to it.

 

furo x EAPC bike

 

 

Electric Bikes that are not EAPCs

An electric bike that is faster than the above specifications, i.e. it provides assistance when travelling faster than 25kph (15.5mph) then it is classed as a moped or motorcycle in the eyes on the UK government. This means it must be registered, taxed, insured, and you must have a driving licence to ride one. You’re also legally required to wear a motorcycle helmet when riding one on public roads.

If the electric bike’s motor can be activated without pedalling, it also fails to meet the EAPC standard. For instance, an electric scooter is classed as a Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV) and is therefore illegal for use on public highways and pavements in the UK. PLEVs are, however, legal in many other countries in Europe and some states in America (hence their popularity in Paris, Madrid, and San Francisco).

 

 

Exceptions to the rule

There are some bikes with a “twist & go” throttle that are exceptions to this rule. Some electric bikes, including our entire range, have a throttle that is limited to speeds of 6kph (3.7mph); the reason for this throttle is to help those who struggle to begin cycling – it helps them get going. Once 6kph is reached, the throttle will cut out unless the rider starts pedalling. These vehicles are classed as EAPCs and are fully legal to ride without a licence, tax, and insurance.

The laws surrounding personal transport can be confusing and are often changed to meet new demands and cater to new transport trends. We hope that the UK follows other countries around the world and legalises the use of PLEVs so that our electric scooter – the Fuze – can be enjoyed beyond just private land. The good news is that all of our electric bikes – the eTura, the Furo X, and the Sierra – are legal to use in the UK and Europe as if they were normal pedal bikes. Our electric bikes are capable of reaching higher speeds than the legal limit for public roads and can be modified if you wish to ride on private land or in countries with more liberal restrictions.

Lithium-ion Batteries vs Hydrogen Fuel Cells in Electric Vehicles

Today, most electric vehicles use batteries, often based on Lithium-ion or Lead-acid chemistry. These batteries allow storing energy that was produced away from the vehicle and subsequently use that energy to create mechanical motion and make an e-bike, car or motorcycle move forward. Hydrogen Fuel cells, a rather old technology, created in 1839 by Sir William Grove and refined through the years, also allow storing energy in the form of hydrogen to power electric vehicles. Like a battery, a fuel cell harnesses a chemical reaction to produce energy in the form of electricity. More specifically, Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity, water and heat from hydrogen and oxygen.

 

Fuel cells consist of an anode and a cathode surrounding an electrolyte called a synthetic polymer membrane which separates hydrogen and oxygen while only permitting the passage of certain ions (H+ or protons). Hydrogen atoms enter the fuel cell at the anode where they are stripped of their electrons. These electrons travel through the vehicle’s circuit to the cathode in the form of electricity. The positively charged hydrogen atoms (or protons) travel through the membrane to join with the oxygen and the electrons in order to eventually form water. Each individual fuel cell produces relatively low amounts of current and voltage and, like lithium-ion cells, therefore need to be stacked together in series and in parallel to reach the target voltage and max current required by the vehicle they are powering.

 

Hydrogen Fuel Cells vs Lithium-ion Batteries - Detailed functioning of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell

 

The beauty of hydrogen fuel cells is that you get electricity, heat and (potable) water as outputs with hydrogen and oxygen as inputs. Oxygen is abundant in the atmosphere while hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. However, hydrogen tends to bond very easily with other elements. Therefore, it has to be artificially isolated before being usable as fuel through processes that are quite expensive and energy-consuming.

 

Hydrogen used in fuel cells has the energy to weight ratio ten times greater than lithium-ion batteries. Consequently, it offers much greater range while being lighter and occupying smaller volumes. It can also be recharged in a few minutes, similarly to gasoline vehicles. However, Hydrogen fuel cells also come with a lot of drawbacks. First of all, hydrogen is mainly obtained from water through electrolysis which is basically a reversed fuel cell and takes electricity and water to produce Hydrogen and Oxygen. The source of this electricity can range from renewables to coal depending on where you are in the world, hence hydrogen extraction can be very clean or dirtier than a typical gasoline car. Nowadays, sadly, it is more likely to be the latter simply because of the way the majority of the electricity is produced on Earth.

 

Other issues are that storing hydrogen as a gas is expensive and energy-intensive, sometimes as much as half the energy, it contains, and even more so when it is stored as a liquid at cryogenic temperatures. In addition, it is highly flammable, tends to escape containment and reacts with metals in a way than renders them more brittle and prone to breakage. Eventually, although it is everywhere around us, hydrogen is hard, dangerous and expensive to produce, store and transport.

 

Fuel cells can also only operate with water, not steam nor ice. Therefore, managing internal temperatures is essential and heat has to be constantly evacuated through radiators and cooling channels which add considerable amounts of weight. Restarting in cold temperatures can also be very complicated and impractical in locations that often experience temperatures below freezing point.

 

Detailed functioning of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell

To conclude, hydrogen fuel cells offer a potentially very clean, energy-dense and easy to recharge energy source for vehicles and other systems, but are currently complicated, expensive and dangerous to operate. In comparison, Lithium-ion batteries, although less energy-dense and slower to recharge, are as clean, much cheaper, easier and safer to handle. More specifically, cylindrical lithium-ion cells like those used in the SIERRA and the FX are very stable and safe to use. In the future, once the technology is sufficiently developed and the drawbacks mentioned above addressed, hydrogen could be a great solution to increase range and decrease charging time in electric vehicles. But for now, lithium-ion technology is the best solution to offer very practical and high-performance e-bikes and other vehicles.

The Furo X is sold out for delivery in May and 10 days left for 25% DISCOUNT

Taking our bikes from paper directly to you and making them your new favorite way of commuting, cycling or just having fun has truly been a formidable adventure and keeps getting better!The FURO community is growing day after day and we have officially just sold out our batch of FX for delivery in May. The SIERRA is almost gone as well with only 2 left in stock.

As most of you are aware, our 25% discount is also ending very soon. You can rest assured that it still applies to all purchases made through our website until it expires. This means that our next batch of SIERRA and FX is still covered by the discount until the 15/05. It is currently planned for delivery in September, although it will most likely come earlier than this as we are working very hard to accelerate our production rate and optimise our supply chain.

If you are thinking about getting a FX or a SIERRA, we strongly advise to make the most of the discount, particularly as our next batch will also have a limited stock.

We are always available and very happy to help you, so if you have any questions or requests please don’t hesitate to contact us.

First batch shipment and end of preorders

It’s official! Our first production batch is currently at sea and will reach our European warehouse around the 15th of May. We will then unload our containers and ship your bikes to you at lightning speeds, you will receive them within 2-3 days.It’s been a great adventure getting our bikes from paper right to your home and we are pretty sure that you won’t be disappointed! This also marks the end of pre-orders for the FX and the SIERRA. On the 15th of May, all 25% pre-order discounts will be discontinued. Our stock is also limited, so for those of you thinking about getting one of our great ebikes, now is the time 😉

Our mission to get commuters and cyclists beautiful, affordable, high performance ebikes is going better than ever, and we will keep working to get you the best, always!
Thank you all for your support!

A Guide to Lithium-ion electric bicycle batteries

As we just made the preorders for the bigger battery version of the SIERRA, the SIERRA MAX available, today appeared as a great opportunity to thoroughly explain the fundamental principles and physics behind Lithium-ion batteries and why they currently are the state-of-the-art in electric bikes. When looking at batteries, you basically want to maximise stored energy while minimising volume, weight, and price. As a society, we have been primarily using fossil fuels for personal transportation. This is because this type of power source is really good at storing a lot of energy in a small volume and with low weight while remaining affordable. Now that these chemicals are slowly but surely running out, and we witness how impairing they are to our sustainable development, cleaner options such as rechargeable electric batteries are progressively becoming the norm.

There are many types of those: Nickel-Cadmium, Lead-acid, Silver-Zinc, Lithium-Ion, etc. The following graph produced by NASA shows that Lithium-Ion chemistry has the highest energy density and is consequently the best choice to store electrical energy in small volumes and low weights.

Electric bike Lithium-Ion battery energy density comparison

While still 60 times less energy-dense than gasoline, Lithium-ion cells are the best available alternative to store electric power safely and economically in personal vehicles.

The following diagram simplifies the discharge mechanism in a Lithium-ion battery, which is tantamount to the motor pulling power from it. Positive Lithium-ions travel across an electrolyte and a separator from an anode towards a cathode, which is two dissimilar conducting materials. The cathode then becomes more positively electrically charged than the anode. This creates a voltage between the anode and the cathode, which is essentially a driving force that pushes electrons between two points. The higher the voltage, the higher the force. This can be visualised as a waterfall. The taller the waterfall, the greater the force driving the water from its top to its bottom.

Electric bicycle Lithium-ion battery discharge mechanism

This voltage drives electrons across the electromechanical systems of your ebike. They leave the anode to go through the controller, followed by the motor and back to the cathode. As electrons move across the system, the voltage of the battery goes down. The charging process is the exact opposite. A voltage is applied across the cathode and the anode which forces electrons to move in the opposite direction and the Lithium-ions to go back towards the anode. This restores the driving voltage between the anode and the cathode for later discharge.

Electric bicycle Lithium-ion battery charge mechanism 2

These chemical processes are contained within cells. Today most cells, whether in laptops, cars or ebikes, are cylindrical pieces of metal. This allows to contain pressure better and increase batteries’ safety and resilience to their environment. These cells usually provide a nominal voltage of 3.6V. This means that they reach 4.2V when fully charged and progressively go down to a safe minimum of 2.5V during discharge after which a battery management system shuts your battery down to preserve its capacity and health.

Lithium-ion cells have to be connected and assembled to build a battery with a total voltage that is enough to drive its target electro-mechanical systems; the controller, motor and screen in our case. Individual cells are packed and connected in Series to increase the total battery voltage to the required value (for example, 36V). Once this value is reached, these series of cells are packed in parallel to reach the total battery capacity, the value usually quoted in Ah. An average cell packs 3.6V and 2.5Ah, hence a battery producing 10Ah at 36V most likely consists of 4 groups of ten cells connected in series, which are then connected in parallel. I know that this is tough to get your head around but the following diagrams, courtesy of Cadex, should help you understand:

Electric bicycle battery series assembly

Group of cells assembled in Series to increase total voltage.
Electric bicycle battery parallel assembly

Group of cells assembled in Parallel to increase total capacity once the desired voltage is reached.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of the internal workings of your ebike or more generally your laptop, phone or car.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask in the comments!

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