What is an e-bike?
An e-bike is a bicycle with an electric motor, powered by a rechargeable battery, that provides assistance as you pedal. E-bikes make it easy to climb hills, which is really helpful around the Rivertowns! Most e-bikes have a maximum speed of 20 mph.
Why buy an e-bike?
If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, improve your health, or save some money, an e-bike may be just the ticket. Here are a few of the benefits of e-bikes:
- Climate: The widespread adoption of e-bikes as transportation would help the U.S. drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More than half of daily trips in our country are less than three miles, and trips of this length are easily made by bicycle. One study found that if just 15 percent of urban transportation miles were made by e-bike, rather than by car, nation-wide carbon emissions could be reduced by 12 percent.
- Congestion: E-bikes make more efficient use of road space than cars, which cuts down on both traffic congestion and parking headaches, and improves the roadway experience of all users, including those in cars.
- Cost: If you switch from a car to an e-bike, you will save a lot of money (more on that below).
- Health: Studies have shown that riders elevate their breathing and heart rates enough to count e-biking as a meaningful workout, even as the electric assist helps flatten the hills and reduces sweating. And since e-bikes are less physically demanding on joints and muscles, they open up biking to those who might not otherwise be active.
- Fun: Last but not least, getting around by e-bike is a lot of fun! Imagine what it feels like to crest the summits of Hastings’ mighty hills without breaking a sweat!
Aren’t e-bikes expensive?
A good entry level e-bike from a trusted brand might start around $2,000 - $3,000. Cargo bikes (bikes that can carry a big load of groceries and kids) can be even more. So yes, the upfront costs can be considerable. When thinking about the cost of an e-bike, it’s probably most appropriate to compare it to a car. If a household is able to replace one family car with an e-bike for local trips – the cost savings in gas, maintenance, and insurance can be significant.
Many bicycle shops offer financing and payment plans for e-bike purchases. Legislation has been introduced in both New York State and Congress that would provide subsidies for e-bike purchases, similar to those for electric cars and trucks.
Are e-bikes safe?
E-bikes use lithium-ion batteries, the same kind used in our laptops, cellphones, and electric cars. When properly manufactured and used, lithium-ion batteries are safe. More than 800,000 e-bikes were sold in the US in 2021, outnumbering sales of electric cars and trucks; safety problems are rare considering how many of these bikes are on the road.
You may have heard recently about fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. While these are often labeled as e-bike fires in the news, many of the fires have been tied to electric mopeds and motorized scooters. In addition, many fires have been caused by cheap, uncertified, or refurbished batteries or those with after-market modifications. This is why it’s important to make sure you buy an e-bike from a reputable brand and follow proper procedures for storing, charging, and recycling your battery.
How can I know if the e-bike I’m buying is safe?
Look for third-party certification from organizations like the Underwriters Laboratories that ensure the product meets testing requirements for safety. Look for the UL symbol on the battery, charger, or motor.
Also, consider buying from a local bike shop, rather than online. Bike shops have a wealth of knowledge, and many stores take great care to only stock e-bikes from major brands whose safety they trust.
If you purchase an e-bike online, research the company selling it. Are they a well-established company? Is the bike UL listed? Is the price too good to be true? A significant cost of any e-bike is the motor and battery, so consider whether safety was sacrificed to keep the price low. Also, consider whether you’ll be able to service an e-bike you purchased online at your local bike shop. Some bike shops will only service brands whose safety they trust.
OK, I bought my e-bike! How do I maintain it?
Once you buy an e-bike, it’s important to properly store and charge the battery. Only use the charger provided by the manufacturer, keep the battery away from heat, and don’t use extension cords or power bars. Do not use a battery that has been damaged. The nonprofit news organization THE CITY has published a comprehensive safety guide, which can be accessed here.
How do I recycle an old e-bike battery?
Do not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash or in your curbside recycling bin. You can put them out on electronic recycling days, or bring to Westchester County’s Household Material Recovery Facility in Valhalla for disposal. The facility is open by appointment. Visit this page for more info, or call (914) 813-5425.