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What is an electric bike?

“Electric bike” is the common term for a two-wheeled vehicle equipped with a hybrid drive system that assists with propulsion: it works like a traditional bike with pedals that are powered by traction operated by the rider’s legs; they also have a battery system and an electric motor that offers assisted traction to reduce the physical effort required of the rider and make it easier to travel in steep areas or over long distances.

Electric bikes should not be confused with mopeds. With an electric bike or pedelec, the motorized assistance is activated while the driver is pedaling. The necessary pedaling and the limited engine power are the main differences from mopeds, which are motorized vehicles that also have pedals and can operate independently with motorized traction or by means of the pedals.

How much power do electric bikes have?

In general, electric bikes have an assistance limit that reaches up to 25 kilometers per hour. There are electric bikes with higher speed capabilities, known as s-pedelecs, but they usually require permits similar to those of a moped.

The power of an electric bike is measured in watts (W). Most electric bikes intended for city use have 250W of power, though there are models that reach 1.5 kW.

Most pedelecs currently use lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion). The battery capacity may vary depending on the model, but they are usually in the range of 400 and 500-watt-hours (Wh), which lets you travel distances of 30 to 100 kilometers on a single charge, depending on the level of assistance used and the terrain. The batteries are usually installed in the bike frame or in the luggage rack. Some bike models are designed so that the battery cannot be removed; others, though, conveniently allow it to be removed to take it to an electrical outlet for charging.

What ecological impact do electric bikes have?

Electric bikes have seen a huge expansion in recent years. This is due to the advances in electric mobility and the shift towards the cleaner technologies demanded by the market.

If you make a general comparison between a pedelec and a traditional bicycle, you may mistakenly think that the electric bike has a greater carbon footprint because it has more complicated technology, which involves the use of more components, including electrical parts, electronic circuits, and the battery. However, it is important to consider its impact not only at the time of manufacture but also with regard to its recipients and the benefits that this technology will offer throughout its useful life.

In terms of ecology and sustainability, an electric bike does not compete against the traditional bicycle but against other much more polluting means of transportation. This is because it can offer a more sustainable alternative to meet the urban mobility needs of a wider set of potential users than the traditional bicycle. The electric bike is not only attractive and viable for regular cyclists but also for users of other forms of locomotion, such as motorcycles and cars, and even public transit like the subway, buses, and more.

It is estimated that the carbon footprint of an electric bike is 15 grams of CO2 per kilometer traveled. This figure not only accounts for the battery’s electricity consumption plus the emissions to produce the food a human would consume for the necessary energy to make the journey; it also includes the proportion of CO2 emissions that were made at the time the electric bike was manufactured. Moreover, the carbon footprint of the useful life of a car is more than 13 times higher for every kilometer traveled.

Electric bikes, both personal and public, are increasingly present within development projects for smart cities and sustainable mobility plans.

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