EV Bikes

Are charging stations or battery replacement the e-bike solution?

As e-bikes gain acceptance here in the United States, riders and communities are faced with the limitations of typical e-bike batteries. Range anxiety is not a phenomenon limited to electric vehicles. The question of how to increase the range of e-bikes is a consideration for all e-bike users, with businesses, particularly restaurants, that rely on e-bikes for their deliveries having the most pressing need.

Once a rider has exhausted the battery of their e-bike, there is little choice but to park their e-bike and charge it. This process can take three to eight hours depending on the size of the battery and how quickly the charger can power the battery – with a large battery and a 2 amp charger it can take an entire night to recharge the battery.

Obviously, this isn’t practical for companies that make more than 100 deliveries per day or for drivers with long commutes. As a result, cities have begun to explore two different strategies for building infrastructure to meet the needs of e-bike riders.

One option is to follow the example of charging stations like Tesla’s Superchargers and locate them where e-bike riders are likely to be. The other option is to offer battery changing stations in similarly busy areas. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and we’ll go into more detail about what they are.

Charging stations

Charging stations vs. battery replacementCharging stations vs. battery replacement

The easiest way for cities to support e-bike charging is to offer charging stations. While there are a number of versions of these, many of which are already in use in Europe and Asia, they typically have the following features: There is a secure rack to which the rider can attach their e-bike, and This carrier has a power outlet for the rider to connect their charger.

By simply providing a grounded 110V outlet for drivers to plug their charger into, cities can overcome the problem of many different charger designs on the market. They provide power and a safe place to park the e-bike while charging, the rest is up to the driver.

The advantage of this approach is that it is brand neutral and the most cost-effective option, increasing the likelihood that a city could install multiple stations in the community.

The downside to this approach is that riders must carry their chargers with them while driving, which means they will need a basket, pannier, or backpack. Worse still, if the charging station is not in a secure location, someone could steal the charger and imagine the nightmare someone would experience if they returned to their bike after a full day of work only to find no charger, a dead battery and find a long drive home. Hello Lyft.

Battery changing stations

At battery changing stations, a driver can simply drive to the station, insert the dead battery and remove a new one. At least that’s roughly how it works. Most systems require a driver to have either an account or a credit card.

The obvious advantage of this system compared to charging stations is that the driver does not have to wait and there is no risk of theft. For someone who delivers with an e-bike, the advantages are obvious.

The disadvantages of this approach are twofold: compatibility and cost. In terms of cost, providing charging stations to a city is significantly more expensive, which would likely limit the number of charging stations that can be installed. Restricting their installation will likely slow their adoption.

An equally big hurdle is the compatibility problem. Most batteries have a brand-specific, proprietary design that limits interchangeability. Changing batteries with common OEM systems such as Bosch, Shimano or Yamaha only covers a fraction of the batteries used.

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