How Do Electric Bikes Work?

Thinking of getting yourself an electric bike and looking to find out information about every detail before taking the plunge?

E-bikes are an investment, after all…

Electric bikes have taken the world by storm, they were first created to replace mo-peds with more of an eco-friendly option, but since then, they have broadened across all kinds of bikes, including electric mountain bikes and fat-tire e-bikes!

What I love about electric bikes is that they’re open to all kinds of riders; they still offer some significant health benefits while being super fun to ride—no more sweaty commutes or avoiding treacherous hills.

So the first thing you may be wondering is, how exactly do e-bikes work?

In this guide, I’m here to share with you everything you need to know about electric bicycles so you can choose whether or not to take the plunge– I definitely would if I were you!

So enough of me babbling on, let’s get to the good bit or exactly how the electric bike works; you won’t want to miss this, my friends.

electric bike

How Electric Bikes Work:

Electric bikes are bicycles with battery-powered electrical ‘assist’ initiated with pedal power and, in some cases, a throttle. When you pedal on an electric bike, a small motor engages, which gives you a boost.

This boost will assist you up to 28mph, but this stays between 20-25mph for most electric bikes. Using the pedal-assist e-bike, you can whizz up hills and cruise over rugged terrains without using too much pedal power.

Electric bikes handle and feel just like a regular bike, but an electric bicycle will augment human power instead of completely replacing it. It just makes riding much more manageable and allows you to travel further and broader without getting too tired.

There are three classes of electric bikes in the USA. You should first work out what class of electric bicycles you’d like to go for before looking for certain types.

Class 1 Electric Bike: 

This is an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that assists only while the rider is pedaling. It can reach maximum speed limits of 20mph and has a power output of 750W.

Most new riders start with a class 1 electric bike as they are the most affordable; they’re also universally accepted by law. You’re legally allowed to ride on city streets and many bike lanes.

As electric bikes are becoming more and more popular, it is becoming more common that you’re allowed to ride on traditional mountain bike trails. While this may not be all it is a start, be sure to check before you go.

Class 2 Electric Bicycle: 

This is an e-bike equipped with a motor that can be used exclusively to propel the bicycle; it doesn’t assist when the bicycle reaches a speed of 20mph.

Class 2 e-bikes are typically allowed in the same places as class 1 as they cannot really exceed 20mph of motor assistance. They’re not as commonly made by manufacturers like REI and TREK, so I recommend getting either class 1 or 3.

Class 3 Electric Bike: 

This e-bike is equipped with a motor that assists only while the rider is pedaling. It stops assisting when the bicycle reaches 28mph, and it is equipped with a speedometer.

Class 3 e-bikes are more commonly found in commuter e-bikes as they’re much more powerful and faster than the other two classes. These are popular for commuters as you can keep up with traffic easier.

Class 3 electric bikes can also climb hills better and make it much easier to carry heavier loads; the only downside is that you can’t ride on most bike paths or mountain bike trails.

If you’re a commuter looking to make your daily commutes much more of a breeze, then class 3 electric bikes will be the ideal one for you, but class 1 or 2 is your best bet for recreational riders.

If you are worried about the regulations or laws for your state, you can check out my complete guide of all the laws and regulations around electric bicycles for each country.

electric bikes

Main Components Of An Electric Bike:

In order to know how an electric bike works, you first need to break it down into the three main components of the pedal-assist bike. These components work together so these electric conventional bikes can work.

Electric Motor:

The E-bike motor is what gives juice and power to your electric bike for it to move forward; there are three types of electric bike motors, front hub, rear hub motor, or a mid-drive motor.

A mid-drive motor tends to be housed around the bottom bracket of the e-bike, where you’ll find the crank and pedals; it looks like a thick cylinder you would find on a conventional bike.

These types of motors tend to be the most expensive but deliver the most power and better balance as their central location can offer better balance; they help keep the central gravity low which is a good thing.

Front or rear hubs still offer a good level of power, but they can add weight to the front or rear of the bike, which is why you tend to find them on cheaper models.

There are also different types of electric motors that offer different levels of electric motor power.

Full-Power: This kind of electric bike work with a maximum power output with minimal pedaling over relatively short distances. They have large batteries and powerful hub motors, and they also tend to be quite heavy.

These are ideal for cyclists that love using regular bikes but hate pedaling; this electric assist bike tends to only last around 10-20 miles battery capacity due to the electric power used in this bike.

You’ll find this kind of electric power in not only e-bikes but also electric scooters.

Power-Assist: Power assist bikes are also known as pedal-assist bikes. They use the same concept to hybrid cars where the e-bike drive system provides support when pedaling.

It gives you that little extra boost when riding up hills, but you need to keep on pedaling in order to use this electric power. Such as it will give you a little boost if you’re riding uphill.

Pedal-assist bikes tend to last much longer and have a longer battery charge as you’re combing power with pedaling rather than just using all the electricity.

On average pedal-assist bikes have a battery range of around 50-100 miles.


The quality of battery you get and battery range per charge improves as you go up in the price range. Before looking at battery ranges per charge, you might want to have a think of how long you like to ride down the trails. If it’s an hour or two, then a 20-40 mile range will be ideal.

But if you love a fun-packed day down the trail, then a battery range of around 50-100 miles may be more your style as you won’t have to worry about the battery running out midway through your ride.

A good quality bike battery is crucial when looking for a quality fat tire electric bike. Cheap, poor-quality batteries will only offer a short lifespan, poor weather protection, and shorter charge life.

For example, the Ecotric bike I reviewed on my list is brilliant on a budget, but it only offers 15-20 miles per battery life, which for some people just isn’t enough!

LG, Samsung, and Panasonic are brilliant brands to look out for when looking for fat tire electric bike batteries. Another feature to look for is the voltage; fat tire e-bikes will either have a 36V or 48V battery, which can impact the overall cost of the bike.

If you can afford it, I would recommend aiming for a 48V battery; it is far more powerful and of better quality.


The sensor on an electric bike is a super important component. There are two different sensors found in e-bikes: a speed sensor or a torque sensor.

The speed sensor engages the motor once you start pedaling, which gives you the pedal assistance you need, while the torque sensor will respond with a small amount of assistance to match your speed.

The torque sensor is far smarter as it is much more responsive as it helps maintain speed and maneuvers, especially when climbing steep hills.

electric bikes

When Were Electric Bikes Invented?

The first electric bike was documented in the 1880s-1890s in both France and the United States. In France, the earliest three-wheel contraption was created.

The motor power controlled the hand-held lever system without using any pedals.

Ogden Bolton Jr created a battery-powered bicycle in the United States with a hub motor mounted inside the rear wheel and the battery sitting inside the main triangle of the frame– which is similar to modern e-bikes.

As time passed, more and more e-bike designs were created, leading to the same kind of design in the modern-day.

In 1897 Hosea W Libbey in Boston invited electric bicycles propelled by a ‘double electric motor.’ The motor was designed within the hub motor of the crankset axle.

In 1898 Matthew J Steffens then patented the first rear-wheeled electric bike, which could be used as a belt along the outside to create power.

Why Choose An Electric Bike Over A Regular Bike?

One of the significant benefits of e-bikes is that they make pedaling much easier on your legs. Since electric bikes come with a battery-powered ‘assist’ electric power motor that engages when you pedal, it makes pedaling easier.

Electric bikes can make your ride faster because pedaling feels more effortless, allowing you to maintain your energy levels for a longer duration.

E-bikes also make it easier to maintain a constant rate and get back up to speed after coasting.

Some people seem to think that since the bike is electric, you’re not exercising as you would with a regular bike, but this totally isn’t the case.

Some researchers found that e-biking can massively improve cardiovascular fitness and blog sugar levels even after just one month. You’re still getting a significant amount of exercise, but it’s much easier as it’s less intense than riding regular bikes.

They’re not just simply colossal fun, but they can also help improve cardiovascular health, along with respiratory health, mental health, and muscular health.

It is a gentle form of exercise that builds muscles and improves cardiovascular fitness without damaging the joints or muscles.

You can use electric bikes for commuting, leisure road biking, even mountain biking! There are so many reasons why you should buy an e-bike over a regular one, especially if you want to gently build your fitness over time.

The e-bike technology is pretty impressive; it features everything you would expect from a traditional bike with that little extra pedal power and hill-climbing assistance.

benefits of using an electric bike

How Do You Use An Electric Bike?

If you’re a pretty new rider and worried about how to use an e-bike, then don’t worry. You’re not alone. Luckily e-bikes are actually very easy to operate, and here’s how!

Pedal Assist:

Pedal-assisted e-bikes are beyond the easiest electric bikes to operate. They combine human and electric power. You can turn this on using the handlebars, or this will automatically initiate when you start pedaling.

As you pedal, the motor will gently provide electric power; you can still switch gears as the terrain changes to take advantage of more torque or a faster speed.

It gives the natural feel of a non-electric bike but makes cycling feel effortless; it even flattens out uneven terrain and provides a super smooth and comfortable ride so you can take it all in.

There are different assistance levels on the pedal-assist mode, depending on how much assistance you need. Generally speaking, there are 3 levels: Low (30% assistance), Medium (60%), and High (100%).


Some electric bikes provide 100% assistance only, or they come with a setting where you can have 100% assistance. You can simply sit back and relax for this kind of assistance, and the motor will do all the work.

Some electric bikes will come with a throttle, which you can turn all the way until you feel the motor. You can then turn down the throttle when you want to pedal again and then turn it up again if you want more assistance.

Do You Need A License To Use An Electric Bike?

You might be wondering whether you need a license to operate an e-bike, and while in some countries might, you don’t need one in the United States.

Helmets are required to be used when riding this bike, but the rules and laws around electric bikes are the same as a traditional bicycle.

But if you’re worried about the laws and regulations around getting an e-bike, I have spoken about all the laws and regulations around electric bikes for all countries in a separate article.

fat tire electric mountain bike


So there you have everything you need to know about how electric bikes work and more. If you’re thinking of getting an e-bike, I would recommend doing the splurge.

If you’re a mountain biker, I have created a list of the best ebikes for mountain biking— They’re a bundle of fun!

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