Electric bikes are growing in popularity. There’s a heap of pros and I guess the occasional potential drawback of owning an E-bike. So today I’m talking with Dan Wallace, owner of Electrify Tauranga about E-bikes.
I guess the first question is like, sort of like what is actually an e-bike and what are the variations?
Dan: So we have about 35 different models of e-bikes. There is two main the two main types of e-bikes are basically this…
TYPES OF E-BIKES: MID-DRIVE AND READ HUB
So e-bikes in general the main market for e-bikes are e-bikes that have a mid- drive motor. So that means your motors in the middle. And the way that they work is when your motor’s in the middle, is that there’s sensors inside the motor. The motor itself has a whole lot of torque sensors and the way it works is basically the harder you put your push, your pedal, the more power will give you.
So it’ll give you about 300 to 350% more power than your legs are able to. And the middle and the power’s coming from the crank. So it’s coming from the mid-drive motor itself. Then you have like five levels of assist up on your, kind of, on your display. So depending on your brand will depend on your style of riding, it will also change your price point.
So this is quite a nice bike and it’s powered by a Bosch motor. And Bosch is in my opinion, one of the leading motors in e-bikes. They’ve got over 2000 sensors in them. It all gave you 85 Newton metres of torque. Which basically means that there’s no hill that it can’t climb. They’re very sophisticated and designed to feel just like a normal bike, but your legs are enhanced.
And the, the technology inside the motors is phenomenal. And just like cars, they’re moving towards. Being more intuitive. With a bike like this, we literally plug it into the computer. We download the latest software. We also just like a car. We’ll also, if we need to do diagnostic reports, we can check cells and batteries.
We can check motor temperatures if there’s water in there, all of the above, and it will tell us where a fault will be or where it won’t be. Nine times out of the 10 it will be clearing the fault and downloading software and then it will rectify the issue. And that’s kind of where you look at different price points.
That’s what you start paying for. You’re paying for the insurance. The key with e-bikes is to stop thinking about them as bicycles and starting to think of them as an alternative motor transport.
So the latest generation, so the, there is, this is the latest motor, which is Gen four motor. This motor. The latest version of it now is all Bluetooth connectivity. So you’ll see like a Eurobike where they launch all the new products. A lot of the new stuff has got ABS braking. It has interactive displays.
It has tracking for security. There’s a whole lot of different stuff. So it’s a bit like the cars as rapid development take place.
And Bosch is kind of leading the way in that. So that’s still kind of a private industry. But the e-bike systems and motors are overtaking a lot of the appliances.
So this bike is made by KTM, but it’s powered by Bosch. KTM is Bosch. Haibike is Bosch. Gepida is Bosch. So just depending on the bike brand. And that’s one of the reasons your prices changed so much is the brand of the motor.
Also size of batteries. And then also normal bike components. So this bike’s got a 625 watt hour battery. Bosch does a bigger battery, which is a 750, just like EV cars, people have this kind of range anxiety. But a bike like this will tell you exactly how much you’ve got out of the lift on your battery.
With a 625 battery, it will actually mimic or, or program itself to you as the rider after two kilometres and you’ll get, you know, around about a hundred to 120 kilometres out of a charge. If it’s flat, yeah. If you were going full noise. So if you’re going on turbo and full noise, you’ll get probably about 60 to 65.
Majority of riding is not full noise all the time. When you start paying for Bosch you also have, like, when people say, oh, riding an electric bike is cheating, blah, blah, blah. The reality is Bosch’s first level of assist, which is called Eco, is counter a counteracts the weight of the motor and the weight of the battery.
So riding a e-bike on a Bosch powered e-bike on Eco is actually just riding a normal bike. If you want to do more exercise, you can put it, turn it off, or have it on zero and then you’re riding a heavy bike because e-bikes are heavier. Your batteries where your weight is and a battery is a good four kgs motors have come down in size, but that’s still around two to three kgs.
But your battery is where a lot of your weight is and people want bigger batteries and want bigger batteries. Becoming more heavier as well. If you’re not struggling, the bike won’t give you a huge amount of power, but you can hear it kicking in ’cause I’m pushing harder..
And automatically you’re shooting up to 30 plus Ks an hour. What is the speed? Yeah, so that depends as well. So if you’ve got a Bosch powered bike, so this is a Bosch powered mid drive, a Bosch, Shimano Motors, (plus others), they’re all restricted in New Zealand to 32 kilometres an hour, unless you get a speed motor.
Speed motor will go around 40 to 45 kms an hour. If you go to alternative brands that are not Bosch, like some of the other ones you’ve got in the showroom, they will tap out at 40 to 45 kms an hour. But generally a mid-drive, like a higher end, mid drive is 32.. In Austria or Europe, we will actually only go 25 Ks an hour.
So the restrictions change. So Australia’s 25, most of Europe or the EU is 25 the US changes, we are 32. Canada’s 32, US is 32. So yeah, so just changes per country. Sweet help. So that’s a mid-drive by, so motors in there. You be, you’ve been on, oh, you were on that other, yep.
REAR HUB E-BIKES
So this is a cheaper bike, and the reason it’s cheap is the reason these bikes are cheaper is because this is a rear hub bike. So you can see this is your motor, your motor’s in the back of the bike. The way that it works is cadence driven. So I can actually, you’ll be able to hear the motor kick in with this quite easily.
So with a rear hub bike yeah, with a rear hub bike. So we’ve got on say, level one at the moment it goes all the way up to level six, but the way they work is it’s cadence driven. So there is a sensor on your pedal, and when it goes past it detects so. You’ll hear the motor kick in in a second.
So the way that a rear hub bike works is it’s literally a sensor past the sensor. It’s cadence driven ’cause this is a cadence and when it goes past, It kicks in. Now, rear hub bikes are cheaper because they’re more simplistic. The mid drive bike is toque sensor, so like modern cars, it’s a lot more sophisticated.
It also means that it doesn’t matter what gear you are in. It doesn’t matter if you want to do lots of work or not. Lots of work. As long as that pedal’s turning around the motor will just give you the power. It’s not sophisticated enough to know that you’re struggling.
Vice versa. So they’re all pedal assist. ’cause the pedal has to go around to do it, but the only when it turns it kicks in.
Now most people will buy mid drops ’cause they want a more natural feeling. Their motors are more powerful. They’re more sophisticated. But if you are looking for a commuter, so an alternative to taking your car every day…
Rear hubs they still have a place. There’s nothing faster, but off the mark, they’re super-duper fast. This will tap out at 40ish kms an hour. You don’t have to be in utilizing the gears as much. So it means you can get to A to B super-fast. They also have a little throttle generally, which will override everything.
That’s really great. And you’ll see it when people are at roundabouts or traffic lights instead of pushing through the gears, they’ll just use it to catch up with their cadence, all of the above. And they’re cheap. So you know, you can get a rear hub bike, you know, like between two and three grand.
You know, it will get you kind of 50, 60 kilometres off a charge. Most people’s commutes are generally about 10, eight to 10 kilometres each way. So you’ll charge this kind of once a week kind of thing. And they’re not super expensive. They don’t break the bank. So you know, you don’t have to spend 10 grand on a, on an e-bike, so you can pay, pay a couple of grand and you sort it.
And also a lot of people that have like kind of, motorbike backgrounds or jet ski backgrounds really like a rear hub. ’cause they like that feeling of power where a mid-drive bike, they’re so sophisticated. They’re designed just to make you feel like you get strong.
ELECTRIC BIKE RELIABILITY
What about just reliability between the two? The to be honest, it’s about the same. Same so rear hub motors. Pretty unbreakable if you open one up, that’s just a whole lot of magnets and a whole lot of copper. You never really have issues with motors that much with either mid jives or rears.
But sometimes with a rear hub, you’ll have an issue with a controller, which is this part here, and the control’s kind of like the brains. And then mid drives you might have the issues going to be, you might wear out a drive train faster because your power’s coming through the crate. The rear hub, it’s not as much stress on the train.
So the battery, the motor and the controller, that’s what makes it an e-bike. But everything else is just a normal bike. So you’re generally gonna have Shimano or Scram gearing. You’re generally gonna have hydraulic disc brakes. Because it’s better stopping and safer stopping
So the more money you spend, the more sophisticated the gear set is brake set, pistons, et cetera, et cetera, and shops. So that’s all, that’s why your price differences will go. Yeah, well it was just general maintenance.
E BIKE MAINTENANCE
So if you’re gonna go riding on the beach, for example, spray it down afterwards. You know, once a month. Put oil on your chain just to keep it lubricated. It gives it longevity get it serviced once a year. And then you might, you know, get your, depending on your riding, like how much your brake pads and stuff like that will do.
You know, you’ll change your brake pads at kind of 3000 kilometres, stuff like that. You’ll change your chain around three to 5,000. So ongoing maintenance usually will cost you about 120. Dollars a year. And then, and then it will cost you generally around 10 to 20 cents per hundred kilometres.
And then with like, the banks now offer interest free loans on anything E, so that’s E-bikes, E-car, solar panelling or you use like Gem or Cue cards do really good deals as well. So you will generally pay for itself. So if you bought something like that for like two grand, You know, you’re not paying as much gas per week.
It pays for itself.
Interesting enough, this is a, these are customer’s bikes that are very old. Yes. I recognize the old Smartmotion. So Smartmotion’s been around since like the dawn of time. This a husband and wife, so this is kind of like a generation one. It’s a good example of like where the tech’s gone.
You can see the battery sits here (over rear wheel). And the motor that’s here now, smart motion are all mid drive bikes and, and batteries are all in frames now. And that’s just all the, the weight where the weight is located. So these things, when you’re lifting them, they can be really odd, but in saying that these customers have had these bikes for about 10 years.
They’re still going strong. So he’s just had a service. This guy has done [40,000 kilometres. Oh yeah, so 40,000 kilometres, and he hasn’t had any issues with the motor or anything like that. That the only thing, like we’ve just changed the gear set for him, you know? And that’s normal for 40,000 kilometres, like if you were riding a normal bike.
After 40,000 kilometres, you would have to get some sort of, you know, maintenance, starting your clusters or chain or brake pads. So if you look after them, they will really last, you know, so as long as you want them to. Pretty cool
What’s the most common question you get people coming in for the first time looking at an e-bike?
A common question is what’s the Warranty support. And also people want to know how many kilometres you get off your battery.
So a small battery, which is a lot cheaper, smaller bikes, you get kind of 40 kilometres, the more expensive bigger range batteries you’re looking at, the more 80 plus kilometre. We’re always very on the on the side of caution because if you look on the websites, they all say up to 150 kilometres, up to 120, the low lying bits and ideal conditions on low levels.
So we try to give people a real life understanding. Like the cars. Yeah, like they say that they’re up to 100 kilometres. And if you are on level road and doing a lot of work, yes possibly. But we will tell people I more 50 kilometres and that’s that gives you a pretty good and also like riding here whereas relatively flat it’s different to like riding in Wellington.
So it also depends on your gradient. Headwinds will add friction and then you’re driving a bit too fast.
WHAT SHOULD A POTENTIAL BUYER BE LOOKING FOR?
The key thing, this is the first thing that we would ask the person is like, okay, what kind of riding do you want to do? Yeah, are you a confident rider?
Second is budget. Because if you turned around and said, Hey, I want to go, I want to try to use my car less when it’s sunny, I want to I want a bike that’s going to be fast.
I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg and a more confident rider. I’d say a rear-drive bike is probably all you need. If you came in and said, Hey, I want to start doing road trails, I want a bike that feels really natural and I want it to be able to do kind of like the Dunstan Trail, which is like 60 k’s a day – Mid-drive.
You can get an e-bike for two grand all the way up to kind of 14 grand.
And the 14 grand stuff, those bikes are usually about 12 grand without the motors. So the very high in carbon, very high quality gear.
ELECTRIC BIKE RULES
The laws that are mainly around rear-hub bikes where you get to have 300 watt hours or below in the rear. And that’s, that’s the, Waka Kotahi guidelines.
Everything we sell at Electrify is legal and guidelines followed. It would be idiotic not to do that. But then you can get bikes and scooters and a lot higher power. And they the way they get over in New Zealand as they say to be used on private property and that yeah, it’s a bit of a gimmick and I think they’re doing some changes as well because like people are buying cheap, mainly street really overpowered and the battery cells aren’t great quality and you could have fires.
And they’ve used that. And then that started something. But I think you start seeing more of that kind of thing in the media as these products become more readily available. It’s just what’s going to happen. But also like everything’s, you know, lithium batteries in your and your cars, but also your batteries in your toes. Fine. So, you know, you just have to be very treat them of respect, really, and kind of we give you a whole thing on battery care and how to look after it and go through stuff of it.
LITHIUM ION BATTERIES
So key points of battery is are your lithium ion batteries… They’re not memory batteries. They don’t like to be overcharged. We kind of tell people a good way to think about it is like a diesel vehicle. It doesn’t like to be, you know, it doesn’t like to have nothing in the tank.
The worst thing you can do to a lithium ion battery is to leave it with no charge and not use it for a period of time. It will start eating the cells and it’s just a whole lot of different cells inside of it.
So best advice for lithium ion batteries is just top it up. You don’t have to be super pedantic about it. Just when you get to like one or two bars, just charge it at home. Don’t overcharge them.
We still recommend people leave them, unplug them before they go to bed and stuff like that. 100%, what do you say? Yeah, once charged 100%, you just use that you work based between 20 and 80% is the sweet spot.
So if you’ve there’s a there is a good argument to say by a big battery because the longevity is longer because you’ll be less charged full charged cycles, which is true. So a smaller battery will start degrading faster than a bigger capacity battery. And then like there is a few businesses popping up where like batteries that it was a battery is expensive.
E-BIKES OF THE FUTURE
What’s happening is you are starting to see a lot more Bluetooth, ABS braking, security where you mix all the functions and smart tech that you’ll see Google maps all the functions in smart tech that you’ll see on a in a car is time to see on the a and then motors are getting smaller and lighter and some of batteries you know you’ve got the and there’s another set of e-bikes that are becoming more popular.
One of the things that’s holding us back a lot is not having a dedicated, safe cycleways.
It can be frustrating for people I know because it’s roadworks and it seems to take a long time and you got the power. You don’t need to be any more powerful than any bike really is. Now it’s more about smart tech and longer range batteries. There is the kind of developments they just have all that take on the price.
So you treat it like a normal bike or an expensive bike, so you lock it up. And some of our bikes seeking for like four digit pin numbers so someone can’t turn it on, but they can still steal it. We have a range of bike locks.
HOW TO BOOK AN E-BIKE TEST RIDE
We say to people, you know, try $2,000 bike, try a $6,000 bike or try and try something in between. Either way, to us, the way we view it is we want you to have a bike for life. We also understand that it’s a lot of money, so even a two grand bike is a lot of money.
So you want to make sure that you’ve made the right choice. You can modify bikes like any bikes with handlebars and stems and things like that, but ultimately you want to know that you feel comfortable in that bike and you like the feeling of that motor. So we have, you know, like we sell bikes of five different types of motors, so every might have feels a bit different.
Some people prefer more powerful feeling motors. Some people like really subtle feeling motors just depends on the rider, their capability. So we encourage people to decide and nine times out of ten people, whoa. The only times they don’t is if they’ve got a friend who’s got a similar bike and they just say, I want to buy that.
But generally it’s a good idea and it’s a good idea to just ride a variety of different tires, you know? Yeah. Okay. Thank you. Know, I know. Yeah, that’s great. Thank you.