If you're a new e-bike owner like me, the sheer volume of things to know about the battery can be overwhelming. You've seen the claims of how far your bike can travel on a single charge. But what factors can cut that short? And how can you keep the battery in top shape for years to come?
Electric bike batteries, and the way they're charged, vary from brand to brand. However, the same best practices can extend the range and life cycle for any e-bike battery.
When you plug your battery in before your next ride, you should avoid charging it to 100%. Lithium ion batteries degrade over time. The longer they stay charged to a higher voltage, that degradation occurs. Also, avoid leaving your battery fully charged if you don't plan on riding your e-bike for an extended period.
However, once every few weeks, you should fully charge the battery to balance the cells. This will improve the batteries overall capacity for a longer period of time. Think of it as exercising its muscles so it doesn't get weak. Because not all e-bikes have the same battery or charger, you should consult your bike's manual for proper charging instructions.
Just as you should only fully charge your battery every few weeks, you should also not fully discharge it all the time. It is recommended that you recharge your batteries when it has between 30% and 60% of its charge remaining.
Bicycles, electric or not, require regular maintenance to make sure all the moving parts are in tip-top shape. If you perform some basic tasks to keep your e-bike performing well, your battery won't have to work as hard to take you farther.
Before each ride, check to make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended pressure level indicated on the side. Under-inflated tires will require your motor to work harder and drain the battery quicker. A good bike pump with a pressure gauge should be in every rider's maintenance kit along with some bike oil.
Once every few weeks, you should clean and lubricate your bike's chain. Apply some degreaser to a rag and wipe away any dirt and built up grime. Once it's dry, then apply drops of bike oil to the entire chain. Wipe away any excess oil to avoid over-lubricating.
You should take your bike to a repair shop for a tune-up at least once a year. In fact, it's not a bad idea to get to know the staff at your local bike shop. They can be helpful and they'll appreciate your business.
Now that you've done all you can to prepare for your trip, how far you can travel depends on how much you use the motor. Many e-bikes have varying levels of pedal assistance and a throttle. If you tend to use the throttle often, or keep the assistance on the higher end, your battery will drain much quicker.
Hills are another major drain on the battery. The more you ride uphill the harder the motor has to work to help you make it to the top. When planning lengthier trips, take the elevation into account to determine if there's enough of a charge to get you back.
Many electric-powered vehicles, including e-bikes, have what's called "regenerative braking." That means when you slow down or come to a stop, the motor uses the kinetic energy to recharge the battery. This can come in handy when you ride downhill and want to see a little return for all your effort.
It's easy to forget this, but the battery indicator isn't a representation of the remaining time or distance a battery has left. It's actually an indication of the battery's state of charge.
When a battery is fully charged, it's at its most efficient. After more and more use, the voltage begins to drop, along with the battery's performance. That might translate to your ride in the form of slower acceleration or overall speed, depending on the bike.
As the bars on the battery indicator begin to drop, they'll do so faster and faster. Therefore, do not wait until your indicator shows the battery is half empty before deciding to turn around.
Riding electric bikes is a lot of fun and can take you further than you might expect. As long as you properly charge your battery and are fully aware of how your riding affects the charge, you can avoid being stuck walking a long distance home pushing an e-bike with a dead battery.