If you need some extra energy for your ride to work, an e-bike is the answer. Compared to a normal bike, however, there are additional considerations.
An e-bike has a motor, but it’s not a motorbike. It’s an electrically assisted pedal cycle (EAPC) and as long as it meets certain criteria; an e-bike can be ridden anywhere it’s legal to ride a bicycle. There’s no vehicle excise duty (‘road tax’) to pay, no vehicle registration, and you don’t need a driving license. Insurance for you and the bike is optional, as is as helmet. And you need to be 14 years or older to ride one - that’s it.
So what are the criteria that e-bikes need to meet? The e-bike’s maximum motor-assisted speed can’t be higher than 25km/h (15.5mph). This means that the motor must cut out when you go any faster, leaving you to ride by muscle power alone. Plus, the motor’s maximum sustained power can only be 250 Watts.
Most e-bikes that meet these EAPC rules are known as 'pedelecs'; providing assistance only when you pedal. You also have throttle-type e-bikes that can be propelled without pedalling, but these are best avoided. Even if they meet the EAPC speed and power requirements, new throttle models must have ‘type approval’ and display a plate showing the type approval number. Also, not pedalling means you get none of the exercise benefits of cycling.
Rules for e-bikes differ from country to country. The USA allows faster and higher-powered e-bikes, while some countries in mainland Europe have a class of e-bikes called ‘speed pedelecs’, with a maximum assisted speed of 45km/h and bigger motors. In England, Scotland, and Wales, these high-speed e-bikes are effectively mopeds. You would need a moped license to ride one, and it would have to be registered, taxed, and insured like a moped – and only ridden where a moped could be ridden. Strangely, this is the case for all e-bikes in Northern Ireland, where electric bike legislation lags behind the rest of the UK
The good news is that when you’re getting an e-bike through a Cyclescheme retailer, it will meet EAPC regulations.
Who are e-bikes for?
They’re for anyone who, for whatever reason, needs to make cycling easier. Maybe your cycling journey to work is hillier or further than you can comfortably manage day in, day out. Maybe you need to carry a heavier load, such as groceries in panniers or a child in a child seat. Or maybe you just want to commute without working up a sweat. For any journey that you wouldn’t make or wouldn’t enjoy on a regular bike; an e-bike could be the answer.
Anyone who says of e-bikes that ‘you could get a secondhand car for that’ is missing the point. The running costs of an e-bike are tiny; it costs pennies to recharge the battery. If you’re switching from any form of transport other than walking or (unassisted) cycling, you’ll soon recoup an e-bike’s costs. And don’t forget that a pedelec provides moderate aerobic exercise.
How much are they?
The addition of a motor, battery, sensors, and controls means that an e-bike always costs more than a comparable standard bike. You can expect to spend an extra £500 - £1,000. So a £300 hybrid bike without electrics will cost £800-£1,300 with them. As the usual limit for Cyclescheme packages is £1,000, this creates a quandary.
Do you look at e-bikes under £1,000 or over? Sub-£1,000 e-bikes do exist, but some will be of dubious quality with electrics and bike components that won’t stand the test of time. These tend to be sold through newspaper adverts, online selling sites like eBay, and direct sellers. Cyclescheme retailers stock a better class of budget e-bike – for example, the Pulse ZL2 (£899.99).
Most e-bikes you’ll see in-store do cost more than £1,000; even the budget ones tend to cost a little over rather than a little under. For around the £1,000 mark, you’ll get a reasonable hybrid with a hub motor. But if you want a bike with the motor at the cranks – a more efficient setup because it works in conjunction with the bike’s gearing rather than independently - you can expect to pay from £1,500 or more. The Cube Town Hybrid One 400, for example, is £1,779.
Getting an e-bike on Cyclescheme
For the most part, getting an e-bike on Cyclescheme is no different to a standard bicycle. You find your Cyclescheme Retailer, choose the e-bike that is best suited to you and your commute, and request a Certificate.
Here’s the important part – the value of your Cyclescheme Certificate cannot exceed your scheme limit. This is set by your employer - use the Cyclescheme calculator (in conjunction with your employer name/code) to check your employers limit.
Choosing your e-bike
When you know how much you can spend, you can draw up a shortlist. Bear in mind that ‘e-bike’ isn’t a genre in its own right. Any kind of bike can have electric assistance. Electric-assist hybrids are most common, but there are electric-assist road bikes, mountain bikes, tricycles, and folding bikes; Raleigh’s Stow-e-way (£1,100) is an example of the latter. So the first question to ask is: what kind of bike do you want?
Most Cyclescheme retailers stock e-bikes alongside regular bikes. Whether you’re buying in-store or online, be sure to take a test ride. An e-bike is a big investment so it’s important to get one you’re happy with; even if that means upfront payments for test rides. A more expensive e-bike you use regularly will save you more money than a cheaper one that’s seldom ridden.
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