Can we pretty please get some standardization on ebike ranges?

December 9, 2019
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One of the many things that has bugged the crap out of me for years is the complete lack of standardization for ebike ranges by manufacturers. I’ve seen some ranges that are sometimes reasonable as well as claimed ranges that are absolutely absurd and some who won’t even put ranges on their ebikes at all. I recognize that most consumers are not going to be able to look at the battery and motor specs for an ebike and be able to estimate in their heads what the range reasonably is going to be. This article is about the desperate need for range standardization on ebikes and a proposal that manufacturers can use to accurately represent their ebike’s range to potential buyers.

The best thing to do is have one charger at home and one at work and carry an extra little ebike battery to limp home if you run out of juice with your main pack

Ebikes are notoriously difficult to estimate range for because some of the power comes from your skinny chicken legs, and some power comes from the battery on the bike. How much of each depends really on how hard you want to pedal and how fast you want to go. Is it unethical to claim 1000 miles of range on an ebike when 95% of the energy that is going to move you forward comes from you and not the battery? I believe that it is wrong to make those claims.

Although I haven’t had much luck with using solar panels to meaningfully increase my ebike ranges, this system by Daymak claims to do just that, if nothing else it’s an interesting thought experiment

In my experience, I tend to get about 1 mile per .75-1.0 Ah of battery power. This is generally at middle PAS power levels going about 20mph with pedaling. I recognize that many people ride at a much slower speed and get much longer ranges, I’m just talking about what I’ve experienced in real-world riding for a 200lb rider with a 50lb ebike (I know I’m fat but my wife still makes love to me so it’s OK).

There is a really cool flash powered range simulator located here for the Golden motor

What major ebike manufacturers are claiming for ranges

Although I think their ranges are a little bit of a stretch, I really like the way that Juiced has separated their ranges into two groupings of medium speed and fast speed. It’s interesting how they claim 15 Wh/mile for both ranges, I’m not sure if that is a miss-print or if that means that the rest of the power has to come from your legs. One thing that is consistent is that as any ebike goes faster it’s going to consume more power to get the same amount of distance because of increased friction (ground and air). By my calculations, you can expect about 25 miles of normal range from the 19.2 Ah battery (19.2/.75Ah per mile) and 17 miles of range out of the 13 Ah pack (13/.75Ah per mile). You might get more range out of these bikes, but I certainly wouldn’t. I would give Juiced kudos for having reasonably accurate mileage numbers on their bikes, however, I still feel like the ‘Medium speed’ ranges are still just too high.

When it comes to the marketing on the Juiced Scorpion Indiegogo page they are claiming 75 miles of range on the main page which I feel is pretty darn misleading. From their Indiegogo page:

Rad bikes is another huge seller that has dominated ebike marketing in the US and sold a whole lot of ebikes. Their 14Ah Rad Runner claims 25-40+ miles of range is pretty generous, but again not outside the realm of reason. By my calculations, it would get about 19 miles of range (14/.75) if I rode it like it was stolen (how else would you ride it?).

I think claiming a 25-mile range is reasonable, but I would never be able to get it, the 45+ miles is just silly

What about some of the unreasonable ones?

One of the most outrageous ebike range claims has been made by the Fuell ebike on Indiegogo here. As near as I can tell they are claiming 125 miles of range from a 1000kWh pack. By my calculations, the range would be closer to 37 miles (assuming a 36v nominal drive system 1000/36v/.75Ah per mile). Because there are no regulations on ebike range numbers the reality is that anyone can claim anything they want and then go ahead and sell 1.5 million dollars worth of ebikes. Will anyone get 125 miles of range with that ebike in the real world? I really doubt it, unless they are going very slow and using almost no ebike power, and if you ride like that what’s the point? Just buy a skinny tired non-electric road pedal bike and you’ll go faster and it will cost a lot less.

The Fuell is a cool ebike with absurd range claims, and it’s not the only one

But wait there is more, lots Moar

The Moar folding fatbike on Indiegogo here also sold 1.25 million dollars of ebikes with completely bogus range claims as shown below on their website:

These claimed ranges seem just absurd to me, 85 miles on a 17Ah battery?

There is countless ebike crowdfunding campaign with completely bogus range claims, the problem is that everyone is doing it. When anyone starts a new campaign for their fancy new ebike, where is the motivation to be honest about range? There is absolutely none and therein lies the problem. No reward for honesty, not punishment for deceit. I think consumers want to be deceived about ebike ranges as absurd as that sounds. In this country, a lot of people create an identity for themselves around the products that they buy and will defend even completely fraudulent claims, especially if they have already ‘bought into’ that product. Nobody wants to admit they got suckered.

I really like the way Juiced has further broken down their ranges on this page although I feel like it might lead to more confusion on the consumer end (click to enlarge)

Why I think Ah per mile works better than Wh per mile

The problem with using Wh per mile is that as the ebikes get more powerful and faster that number gets more and more inaccurate. There is no way that 15Wh on a 52v/1000W ebike is going to get you as far as 15Wh on a 36v/250w ebike. The reality is that when greater power is available to the rider, the rider will use that power. It used to be that ebikes would get use 10-20Wh per mile, but frankly, that just isn’t true anymore. My experience with 0.75 Ah per mile on a 52v ebike means I am burning through 39 Wh per mile or over twice what people used to expect to use on ebikes just a decade ago. I think it’s time that ebike companies starting estimating their ranges using 40-50 Wh per mile instead of 10-20 Wh per mile. Will any of them do this? Probably not. If one company is claiming 1/2 the range of their competitors, which ebike do you think people are going to buy?

This $14,000 Optibike claims 181 miles of range with a 1500Wh/29Ah battery which is just totally absurd, but you can also see how rapidly the range drops as the speeds increase

Recommendations for range standardization

Consumers are uneducated and they count on manufacturers to put accurate information for the ranges of their ebikes. In the ebike world, it’s ‘buyer beware’ so my advice is to educate yourself. I think all ebike manufacturers should claim three different ranges based on speed:

  • PAINFULLY SLOW (<15mph) – Ah of pack x 3 = miles of range
  • MEDIUM (~20mph) – Ah of pack x 2 = miles of range
  • FAST (~25mph) – Ah of pack = miles of range

I believe these standards are still generous but could possibly be true in the real world for a 175lb rider on level ground who is pedaling along. This accurately takes into account more powerful batteries and motors that calculating ranges based on Wh alone will not take into account because it completely ignores the voltage of the electrical system. I recognize that my personal standard of .75-1Ah/mile is probably on the low side because I am heavy and I live in a hilly area that eats up a ton of power.

This range inaccuracy problem does not seem to be an issue with Zero Motorcycles, who have what seem to be very accurate claims of their estimated ranges. Unfortudently smaller Chinese companies selling Electric Motorcycles like Segway seem to be absolutely over their top when they claim 75miles of range for what is essentially a Sur Ron Light Bee. I’ve owned a Light Bee for 2 years and I can tell you that no one is going to get this range with that bike. It’s a shame that 237 uneducated consumers have plunked down a deposit for a Segway Dirt Bike, with absolutely patently absurd range claims. These people will also have to wait 4 months or more to get a bike that they could buy today for $400 less right here and get it a week later. Moral of the story? Do your homework before you spend thousands of dollars on new technology that most folks don’t really understand.

I gotta say I feel really sad for those 237 backers of the Segway dirt bike

The best way to make sure you can get home from your commute with plenty of range to spare is to keep a charger at work as well and charge your ebike then you never have to risk running out of juice. You can also take a charger with you in case you need to Guerilla charge on the way.

Ride on and on and on.

This last sentence from their Indiegogo page is just straight-up BS unless you weigh 100lbs and don’t go over 15mph (on a bike that goes 45mph)

Karl Gesslein is a degenerate hooligan of the highest caliber living in upstate NY. His passion for e-bikes and all things sustainable causes him to be obsessed with climate change and finding solutions that will keep humanity from becoming extinct from our own hubris. His personal blogs include electricbike-blog.com, awaken-spirit.org & chestnutparadise.com.


6 Comments

  1. We’re transitioning to solid state batteries soon so it isn’t a good time for standardization.

    • my bike is 45mph and 18miles range using a 25ah 60v battery. I’m hoping for batteries in the future that triple that energy density in the form of either solid state or graphene.

      • Ever thought about the High output batteries, they use energy a lot more efficient by not heating the pack.

  2. I see the current mileage claims the same as what used to happen in the Auto Industry when EPA claims had no real meaning under normal driving conditions. To add to the confusion are different grades or quality of cells being sold in the battery packs & if you are expecting your $500. online battery to provide the same level of performance as a $1000. name brand pack you will be very disappointed. The ratings shown above appear to calculate the range for an exhausted battery which you should never do. There is a very simple way to measure your range that works regardless of whether you are fat, a hooligan, riding in San Francisco hills or Florida flat land. Set your trip odometer at the start of your ride on a fully charged battery & ride for an hour. Check your mileage. Then ride home. After all, any claims for range need to be divided by 2 if you also want assist on your return trip. If you have lots of charge left in your battery, increase your next ride to 1 1/2 hours & then ride home. Once your guage starts getting close to empty at home you’ll have a pretty good idea of what your comfortable range will be.

  3. Karl, A lot of very good, spot-on observations here, especially in regards to consumer psychology and buyers not wanting to admit they’ve been duped. A couple years ago I witnessed this mass delusion/denial first-hand on the Sondors’ Ebike Owner’s forum on Facebook. For a few months I stupidly tried to argue rationally there that Sondor’s mileage claims were complete nonsense. Of course I accomplished nothing but raised hackles and knee-jerk defensiveness among the owners, most of whom seemed incredibly naive and brand new to the whole e-bike scene. On a positive note, many of the more serious Sondors’ owners likely became Luna customers when they went to upgrade their feeble fat tire rides. I had to laugh when I read that early on in his promotional campaign, Sondors set up test rides on a beach boardwalk somewhere in So Cal but refused to let anyone take the bikes onto the sand! Anything wrong with this picture?

    I agree a simple Ah/mile calculation works best for realistic range estimates, and personally I find I average about 1-1.2 miles per amp hour on a very fast 2000W blacktop bike riding on 2″ inverted tread tires–and this is with my fat 240 lb ass atop an 80 lb bike. I’m guessing my range is better than yours only because I never go off-road and go out of my way to find quiet, smooth, back country blacktop with moderate hills and no extreme climbing, and I tend to ride with fairly high tire pressures.

    In the end it simply comes down once again to buyers doing their homework ahead of opening their wallets. Which is why I think it’s important for veterans like you and me to continue posting these types of articles and feedback. Kudos to you and Eric for continuing to lead the way in no bullshit e-bike journalism!

  4. You calculation is a bit to the limit. I have a BBSHD with a 12Ah battery. When pushing hard riding between 40 and 50 Km/hr (25 and 32 Miles/hr) on semi flat road I do 40km (25M). When people buy from me a bike with 250 watt motor (300 is limit here, but no speed limit) I tell them when they use it medium it will do 5 WH/KM (measured that with my 90kg+). When push the bike hard is will take 10WH/KM. With a 36V10.4Ah – I tell that the bike does about 40 – 50KM. The 17A version tell them they can do 60-70KM. Which I both tested as reasonable achievable without running the pack flat.

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