How Do Electric Bikes Work? All You Need to Know Before Buying One

Juggernaut Ultra Duo

Electric bikes, known as e-bikes, have become increasingly popular in recent years. While they have many of the traditional elements of a bicycle, they also come with modern technology to provide an enhanced riding experience. 

If you're wondering how e-bikes work, you've come to the right place. We'll discuss all you need to know, including their benefits and components, below.

Basic Parts of an Electric Bike

Electric bikes consist of several vital components that work together to provide a smooth and efficient riding experience:

Frame and Wheels

The frame of an electric bike is similar to that of a traditional bicycle, providing the structure and support needed for riding. 

The wheels are also similar, usually with tires designed for various types of terrain, from smooth city streets to rough trails.

Electric Motor

The electric bike motor can be located in different places on the bike, such as the front hub, rear hub, or mid-drive (near the pedals). 

Electric bike motors assist the rider by providing extra power, making it easier to pedal, especially on hills or over long distances.

Battery

Most e-bikes use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries because they are lightweight and have a high energy density. 

The battery is typically mounted on the frame or integrated into it and can be easily removed for charging.

Controller

The controller is the brain of the e-bike, managing the power delivered from the battery to the motor. 

It regulates the amount of assistance provided based on the rider’s input and settings, ensuring a smooth and responsive ride.

Display Panel

The display panel is usually mounted on the handlebars and provides the rider with important information such as speed, battery level, distance traveled, and power mode. Some advanced display panels also offer GPS navigation and connectivity features.

Electric Bike Frame and Wheels

Types of Electric Motor 

The electric motor is a critical component of electric bicycles, providing the power that assists with pedaling. There are different types of motors and ways they can be integrated into the electric bike.

Hub Motors

These motors are located in the center of either the front or rear wheel. They are generally simpler and easier to install. 

Hub motors provide direct propulsion to the wheel, making them a popular choice for many e-bikes.

Mid-Drive Motors

These motors are located near the bike’s bottom bracket, between the pedals. Mid-drive motors drive the bike's chain, providing a more natural riding feel and better weight distribution. They are often more efficient, especially on hills and rough terrain.

How the Motor Provides Assistance

The motor is activated when the rider starts pedaling or uses a throttle. Sensors detect the rider's input and send signals to the controller, which then regulates the power sent from the battery to the motor. 

This helps boost the rider's pedaling efforts, making it easier to ride uphill, accelerate, or cover long distances.

Power Levels and Modes

An electric bike often has multiple power levels or modes, ranging from minimal assistance to full power, that the rider can choose from. 

Riders can switch between these modes using the display panel, depending on their needs and the terrain they are riding on.

  • Eco Mode: Provides minimal assistance and is ideal for conserving battery life.
  • Standard Mode: Offers moderate assistance and is suitable for everyday riding.
  • Turbo Mode: Delivers maximum power and is useful for steep hills or quick acceleration.

Battery and Power Management

The battery is a crucial component of an electric bike, providing the energy needed to power the motor. 

Types of Batteries

The types of batteries available for an electric bike include:

  • Lithium-Ion Batteries: The most common type used in e-bikes, lithium-ion batteries are lightweight, have a high energy density, and offer good longevity. They can be recharged hundreds of times before their performance starts to degrade.
  • Other Battery Types: While less common, some e-bikes use lead-acid or nickel-metal hydride batteries. These are generally heavier and have lower energy densities compared to lithium-ion batteries.

How Batteries Are Charged and Maintained

Batteries are typically charged using a standard electrical outlet. Most electric bike batteries are removable, making it easy to take them inside for charging. 

Charging times can vary, but it usually takes between 3 to 6 hours to fully charge a battery. Proper maintenance includes regular charging, avoiding deep discharges, and storing the battery in a cool, dry place to prolong its lifespan.

Range and Factors Affecting Battery Life

The range of electric bicycles—the distance they can travel on a single charge—depends on several factors:

  • Battery Capacity: Measured in watt-hours (Wh), higher capacity batteries can store more energy and thus provide a more extended range.
  • Terrain: Riding on hilly or rough terrain consumes more power than riding on flat, smooth surfaces.
  • Rider Weight and Cargo: Heavier loads require more energy, reducing the range of the electric bike
  • Assist Level: Using higher power levels or modes (e.g., turbo mode) will drain the battery faster than lower levels (e.g., eco mode).
  • Weather Conditions: Cold weather can reduce battery efficiency and performance.

Pedal Assist and Throttle Systems

Electric bikes offer two primary methods of motor assistance: pedal assist and throttle. Each system provides a different way of engaging the motor, catering to various riding preferences.

Pedal Assist System (PAS)

The pedal assist system activates the motor when the rider pedals. Sensors on the bike detect the pedaling motion and send signals to the controller, which then provides power to the motor. 

The amount of assistance can usually be adjusted through different levels, allowing riders to choose how much help they want from the motor.

  • Cadence Sensors: These measure if and how fast the rider is pedaling. They are more straightforward and generally more common in entry-level e-bikes.
  • Torque Sensors: These measure the force applied to the pedals, providing a more responsive and smoother riding experience as the motor output matches the rider’s effort more closely.

The throttle systems allow the rider to control the motor directly without pedaling, similar to how a motorcycle or scooter operates. 

By twisting a grip or pressing a thumb lever, the rider can engage the motor and control the speed of the electric bike. Throttle systems provide instant power and are useful for quick acceleration or when the rider wants a break from pedaling.

Here’s how the throttle and pedal assist systems compare:

  • Ease of Use: Throttle systems are straightforward, providing power at the press of a button or twist of a grip. PAS requires pedaling but offers a more natural riding feel.
  • Battery Efficiency: PAS tends to be more efficient, as it combines human power with motor assistance, leading to longer battery life. Throttle use can drain the battery faster due to continuous motor operation.

In some regions, throttle-operated e-bikes may be subject to different regulations than pedal-assist bikes. It’s important to check local laws regarding e-bike classifications and usage.

Controller and Display Panel

The controller and display panel are essential parts of an e-bike, managing the system’s performance and providing critical information to the rider. Here’s how they work:

Controller

The controller acts as the brain of the e-bike, regulating the power flow from the battery to the motor based on the rider’s input and the sensors' feedback. It manages how much power is sent to the motor, helping to optimize battery usage and extend the bike’s range.

Also, it ensures that the motor operates smoothly and efficiently, adjusting the assistance level according to the selected mode and the effort detected from pedaling. Controllers often include safety features such as overheat protection and automatic cut-off to prevent damage to the motor and battery.

Information Provided by the Display Panel

The display panel is typically mounted on the handlebars and provides the rider with real-time data and control options. Common features of display panels include:

  • Speed: Displays the current speed of the bike.
  • Battery Level: Shows the remaining battery charge, helping riders plan their trips.
  • Distance: Tracks the distance traveled, which can be helpful for logging rides.
  • Power Mode: Indicates the current assistance level or mode selected (e.g., eco, standard, turbo).

Some advanced display panels offer features like GPS navigation, connectivity with smartphones, and trip data logging.

The display panel also allows riders to customize their riding experience by adjusting various settings. These may include:

  • Assistance Levels: Riders can switch between different power modes to control the level of motor assistance.
  • Lighting Controls: Some e-bikes have integrated lights that can be controlled through the display panel.
  • Diagnostics: Advanced panels can show diagnostic information to help troubleshoot issues with the bike’s system.

Advantages of Using Electric Bikes

Here are some key advantages of using an electric bike:

Environmental Benefits

E-bikes are an eco-friendly alternative to cars and motorcycles. They produce zero emissions, helping to reduce air pollution and carbon footprint. 

By choosing an electric bike for short trips and commutes, riders can contribute to a cleaner environment.

Cost Savings

An electric bike is cost-effective compared to traditional vehicles. It has lower maintenance costs, as it doesn’t require oil changes, fuel, or many of the repairs associated with cars. 

The cost of electricity to charge the battery is minimal compared to fuel costs, making e-bikes an economical choice for daily transportation.

Health and Fitness Benefits

Riding an e-bike provides a good form of exercise. While the electric bike motor offers assistance, riders still need to pedal, which helps improve cardiovascular health and muscle strength. 

E-bikes make it easier for people of varying fitness levels to enjoy cycling and incorporate more physical activity into their daily routines.

Practical Uses

E-bikes are versatile and can be used for various purposes, such as commuting, running errands, or recreational riding. They are essential in urban areas where traffic congestion is a problem. 

An electric bike can often navigate through traffic more easily and find parking spots more readily than cars.

Types of E-Bikes

There are several types of electric bikes designed to meet different needs and preferences.

Cargo E-Bikes

These electric bikes are designed to carry heavy loads and are perfect for transporting goods or even children. 


They come with sturdy frames and additional storage space, making them ideal for delivery services and family use. An example is the Biktrix Skycap 2, with its 750W hub-drive and torque sensor.

Folding E-Bikes

Folding electric bikes like the Biktrix Kutty FS are compact and easy to store, making them great for commuters who need to combine cycling with public transport. They can be folded up to fit in small spaces, such as under a desk or in a car trunk.

Step-Thru E-Bikes

Step-thru electric bikes like the Juggernaut Classic Duo feature a low frame design that makes it easy to mount and dismount. This design is trendy among older riders and those with limited mobility.

Off-Road E-Bikes

Off-road electric bikes are built for rugged terrain and trails. They come with sturdy frames, larger tires, and powerful motors to handle rough conditions and steep climbs, like the Biktrix Juggernaut Hub Duo

Step-Over E-Bikes

These are traditional bicycle frames where the top tube requires the rider to step over to mount. They are sturdy and offer good performance for both commuting and recreational riding.

An example of a step-over e-bike is the Biktrix Juggernaut Ultra Duo 4.

FAQs

Are E-bikes Legal?

Yes, e-bikes are legal in many places, but regulations vary by country and region. It's important to check local laws regarding e-bike classifications, speed limits, and where they can be ridden.

Do You Need a License to Ride an E-bike?

In most areas, you don't need a license to ride an e-bike. However, specific high-powered e-bikes might require registration or a license. Always check local regulations.

How Fast Can E-bikes Go?

E-bikes typically have speed limits set by law, often capped at 20-28 mph (32-45 km/h). The exact speed limit can vary depending on the region and the type of e-bike.

Check Out Our Electric E-Bike Collection Now

Electric bikes offer diverse options to suit different needs, providing flexibility and convenience for various types of riders. Unlike traditional bikes, they come with modern tech upgrades to add much more to your rides. They’re also eco-friendly, making them a top choice for riders big on sustainability.

Now that you know how they work, why not do yourself a favor and check out Biktrix’s electric bike collections to find something that suits your preferences?

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