So you love your electric bicycle, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could go just a bit farther on a charge? Ebike batteries are constantly being improved as new technology is developed, but it seems that no matter how far you can go, a little more ebike range is always better.
The good news is that there are a number of simple things you can do to improve your ebike range and eek out every last electron from your battery. While you can always upgrade parts on your electric bicycle to increase your range, simple riding behavioral changes can also have a huge impact on your ebike’s range and give you the best bang for your buck!
1. Go easy on the throttle
I know, it’s fun to twist the throttle all the way back and fly off into the sunset, or just tear away from the traffic light. But each time you accelerate you are using comparatively way more energy than just standard cruising. If you have a CycleAnalyst or other watt meter, you’ll see that cruising on flat ground might pull 5 or 10 amps, while accelerating can easily max you out at your controller’s limit, often 20 or 30 amps.
Instead of going full throttle when you want to accelerate, try to ease into the throttle and accelerate a bit slower. By taking a few seconds longer to get up to speed, you keep the amount of power used by your battery much lower. This not only leaves more energy in the battery for a longer ride, it also helps keep the battery cooler, which lets it use that same energy more efficiently. And better efficiency = better ebike range.
Check out my article about how you can increase your ebike range just by keeping your battery cool.
2. Try to pedal while you accelerate
Because acceleration is the heaviest single use of battery power on your electric bicycle, if you pedal for even a few seconds as you accelerate you can cut your energy usage during that phase by as much as half. That translates to some pretty big energy savings, especially if you are riding in a lot of stop and go traffic.
A lot of people get addicted to the throttle and don’t like to pedal, but think of it as a few seconds of free exercise that also extends your ebike range (and keeps you from having to pedal later when your battery runs down).
3. Coasting drastically increases your ebike range
When you know you’ll be coming to a stop ahead, such as before a traffic light or stop sign, let off the throttle in advance and coast to the stop. Riding full throttle until the moment you start braking is wasting precious battery energy. You have to come to a stop anyways, why not save your energy by cutting the throttle an extra 50 yards ahead of your stop?
It might add a few more seconds to your total trip time, but if you can’t live without those three or four seconds, perhaps your ebike range isn’t your biggest worry in life.
4. Slow down a bit (and enjoy life)
If you aren’t in a hurry and you aren’t trying to keep up with traffic for safety reasons, try slowing down just a tad. Even a couple miles per hour will make a significant decrease in the amount of energy you are using to maintain that speed.
Energy use vs speed isn’t linear, so dropping your speed by just 5% is actually saving a good deal more than 5% of your energy. In other words, slowing down a couple miles per hour can have a big affect on your ebike range.
5. Keep your tires pumped up
Tires that are kept at their maximum air pressure rating have less rolling resistance, meaning your battery wastes less energy getting you moving. I’m still trying to find a study of bicycle tire pressure vs energy usage, but similar studies conducted using car tires have consistently indicated an increase in range of about 3%.
If this data holds true for bicycles as well, that means if you have a current ebike range of 30 kilometers, keeping your tires maxed out could add an entire kilometer to your range. Who wouldn’t take an extra kilometer for free?
6. Use regenerative braking if your ebike has it
Renegerative braking on an electric bicycle is only possible with direct drive (gearless) hub motors, but if you have it, make sure you use it. And make sure you use it smart by braking ahead of time as you come up to red lights or stops signs so that the majority of braking can be done with the motor. To do this, only squeeze the brake lever enough to activate the regenerative braking and not enough to apply your brake pads to the rim or disc. Keep in mind this is only for when you have time to brake leisurely. If you need to stop quickly, of course make liberal use of your brakes!
On my bike I can get as much as 5% energy savings with regenerative braking. This means whatever my ebike range would have been, I can go 5% farther thanks to my regenerative braking gains.
7. Keep your battery fully charged whenever possible
Lithium batteries, like any battery, will obviously get the most range when they are completely topped off at 100% charge. You aren’t going to go as far on half a tank, so to speak.
Some people get by with just charging their battery once a week if they are only making short trips throughout the week. The problem with this method is that the battery sits in a partially discharged state for much of its life. This means that if you suddenly want (or need) to make a long trip, you could be in trouble.
My rule of thumb is “if you used your bike that day, charge it that night”.
When I come home from a ride, my battery generally goes right on the charger. This also helps me not forget to charge the night before and end up waking to a mostly discharged battery in the morning. That feeling isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s close.
8. Keep a second, smaller charger on your ebike
I like to use a powerful charger with a big cooling fan at home (even though my wife hates the noisy fan…) but I sometimes take a smaller charger with me if I know I’ll be out somewhere with a place to charge after a long trip. This just helps me keep my battery topped off. Even putting 10-20% back into your battery during the day will help keep the health of your battery up, not to mention adding 10-20% to your ebike’s range.
All of these tips should help you increase the range of your electric bike without breaking the bank. If you have the money and really want to increase your ebike’s range, there is no substitute for a second battery!