What you should Know about Electric Bikes

Electric bikes aren’t hugely popular in the UK, but they’re eco friendly, simple to use and fun. Here’s a few facts you might not know about them.

electric bikes

The electric bike has been around since the late 1800s, but whilst promising to make green travel easier, has never truly caught on in the UK. Perhaps they’ve developed a stigma or being for “lazy people”, perhaps their heavier frame is off-putting, and the hefty price tag could easily buy you a higher-spec push bike, a second hand car or an annual bus pass for the next 5 years! But while electric bikes might not be fashionable or cheap, they are eco friendly, simple to use and crucially, fun. Here’s a few facts you might not know about the electric bike.

There are technically 2 types of electric bike- Pedelecs and Power-on-demand bicycles:


A pedelec electric bike delivers electrically-powered assistance whilst cycling. Using sensors, it detects your speed and how fast you are peddling, and delivers a boost of power to help you maintain your speed. This lets you reach speeds of around 25mph with relative ease, and comes in especially useful in hilly areas.

As well as the standard pedelec, there is also the S-pedelec. While pedelecs are legally classed as bicycles, the S-pedelec comes under the classification of mopeds or motorcycles. While the pedal assist on a standard pedelec will stop when the bike reaches 25mph, the assist on a S-pedelec is less limited, allowing the rider to reach higher speeds. To ride an S-pedelec you will need a motorcycle licence, as these bikes can potentially reach similar speeds to motor-powered vehicals.


Power-on-demand electric bikes are far more akin to mopeds and other lightweight motorcycle vehicles. These bikes come equipped with a throttle, to power the bike without the need to pedal. This gives the rider the freedom to alternate between pedal and electric power. Some power-on-demand bikes will incorporate electric pedal assist into their models, while others will remain power-on-demand only. These bikes are far-removed from the humble bicycle and are classified as electric motorcycles, electric mopeds. Often, though not always, these bikes will have more powerful motors than the pedelec.

Is an electric bike right for me?

To some, electric bikes may be a novelty or a gimmick, but there is no denying that there is a place in our world for them, particularly when they make low-emission transport more accessible. An electric bike can be useful if you:

  • live in an area with steep hills which would make travel by a conventional bike too strenuous

  • have a condition or injury which is exasperated by conventional cycling

  • you are looking to start a gentle form of exercise whilst rehabilitating from an illness, particularly heart-related illnesses

  • are looking for an alternative way to commute while lowering your carbon emissions

  • you want the versatility of being able to choose between the activity of conventional cycling and the convenience of a powered vehicle

  • you want to save money on the fuel costs of shorter journeys


Cycling is well known for being one of the greenest forms of transport. While a certain amount of factors need to be taken into account with electric bikes, most notably the production and disposal of lithium batteries, they are still considered one of the greenest forms of transport.

The average electric bike is regarded as emitting just one tenth of the carbon dioxide of an electric car, while compared to petrol or diesel vehicles the difference is even greater.

Shorter journeys

The benefits of riding an electric bike can especially be felt when undertaking shorter journeys. In the UK, people are too quick to jump in the car for short journeys, less than 6 miles. It has also been shown that the first mile of every journey is when a car’s emissions are at its worst. In a 6 mile journey, approximately 75% of all harmful emissions are thought to be generated within that first mile, with the engine and catalytic converter running at their least efficient while waiting for the car to warm up.

Long, cross country journeys always get a bad reputation for their emissions generated, but it is in fact these multiple short journeys that have a greater impact on air quality and harmful emissions generated each day. With an easy to use, lightweight and zero emissions vehicle which allows you to cover a mile in just minutes, these short and wasteful journeys can be seriously reduced, making electric bikes a true, low emission alternative which combines the convenience of a motorised vehicle with the eco credentials of cycling.

 Image sourced: Nick Richards

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