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electric vs gas bicycles

Motorized Bicycles – Gas v Electric

Petrol verses Electric powered bicycles, which is best?

As I service both ebikes and gas bicycles every day, I am often asked which is best. The answer isn’t all that simple. In this article I will attempt to give a balanced and fair appraisal of the pros and cons of this question as things stand at the time of writing. This discussion assumes both types of bicycles are legal with respect to power rating and method of controlling power. If the bike is legal, power and performance of both types is very similar.

What are they like on the road?

Gas Engine Bicycles

Advantages:

  • Long range and able to re-fill tank at service stations and continue journey immediately.

  • Performance remains constant throughout journey.

  • Easy to predict range (look at fuel level). Turn around is rapid, add more fuel and off you go.

Disadvantages

  • Vibration and noise can be irritating to rider and others.

  • Exhaust emissions and oil mist can soil clothes and annoy pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Operator needs to have some knowledge of motor behavior in order to start motor, avoid stalling

  • and to control bike in traffic.

    Requires frequent regular maintenance and requires some mechanical skill to maintain.

Electric Bicycles

Advantages:

  • Quiet, smooth and clean operation

  • Easy to operate and control.

  • Low Maintenance and simple to do.

Disadvantages

  • Limited range – dependant on battery capacity and riding technique, (12 – 30 Klms depending on battery size). Need to wait for battery to re-charge or carry a spare power pack (extra weight and cost)

  • Power (bike speed) reduces as the battery discharges and/or gets hot.Takes a long time to re-charge

  • (4 -16hrs) or requires planning to

    organise a replacement Battery

    Pack when the pack in use is low.

    This requires forward planning and constant attention.

    Battery life is limited to 3-5yrs and can be expensive to replace.

Cost of Purchase

Gas Engine Bicycles

  • DIY units fitted to your bike from around $600 to $2500

  • New Bike and motor complete from around $700 – $2500

Electric Bicycles

  • DIY units fitted to your bike from around $700 up to $5000

  • New bike, with motor, battery and charger from around $800 – $3500

Cost of Running and Maintenance

Gas Engine Bicycles

  • Fuel costs are low due to the worst scenario usage. Better than 120MPG
  • Maintenance costs could be around $100 per year, assuming you are having the bike serviced by a professional. If you DIY the servicing, and you do it frequently then it is virtually just you time. Most problems with petrol bikes arise from the lack of regular checks. Nuts and bolts tend to shake loose which can end causing a failure of some kind, if not addressed.

Electric Bicycles

  • Re-charging costs are difficult to calculate, however think of running the charger as if it were a light left on for most of the day or night as a comparison.
  • Maintenance of electrical connectors and correct battery management eliminates most faults. Connectors can develop corrosion and often this leads to power failure, poor battery performance and shortened battery life. A regular (3 month) inspection and cleaning of connectors solves this problem and if done by a professional will

Reliability

Gas Engine Bicycles

  • Design life of the motor is 5yrs, but then so is the design life of the automobile. It is a matter of how it is used and maintained.
  • I have customers with motors that have done thousands of klms and are more than 4years old and they are at least as good as new if not better!

Electric Bicycles

  • Battery Packs at present have a life of about 3 – 5yrs and cost from $140 – $1500, depending on capacity and type. Lithium Ion batteries are expensive. If maintained correctly batteries should give good reliable service for at least 5years, and, as the technology improves, they are going to last longer and longer and cost less to purchase.

Summary

While I personally prefer electric power, at present the technology just isn’t up to a standard that makes it an absolute winner. If you don’t mind the hassle of charging batteries, the limited range (7 – 18 miles), and the expense of replacing batteries every few years, then it is a clean, reliable and simple to use source of power.

 

On the other hand, petrol power is at the effective limit of its technology. The motors used on bikes are relatively low tech and apart from the smell, fumes and vibration, when set up correctly, they perform really well. If you keep the nuts and bolts tight and things like the chain, throttle and clutch cables lubricated, and adjusted correctly, this type of power will perform happily for years.

 

As for relative power (Petrol vs Electric), petrol provides far more power for your dollar.  A typical 80cc petrol engine kit produces around 1800 watts of power compared to most electrical bicycles which produce around 250 watts. 

If you can’t live with the lower power of an entry level ebike you can upgrade.  More powerful electric engines come at a price.  Purchase costs quickly escalate as power increases but the largest factor is the distance.  For a 1000 Watt ebike you really need a 48V, 20AH battery – These batteries are typically over $1,000 and will provide a range of around 7 – 18 miles depending on how you ride it.

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Petrol verses Electric powered bicycles, which is best? A service mechanics who works with both gas bicycles and ebikes on a daily basis provides his perspective on both powered bicycle options.
Steve
Power Bicycle
Power Bicycle
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