Ebikes come in all different styles, sizes, and capacities, but how many watts do they typically run on? How powerful can they be? How much wattage do you need and how do you know?
Ebikes, like any electrical appliance or product, come in a variety of different wattages depending on make, model, and intended purpose. How do you know what kind of power you’ll need?
If you want to go mountain biking, or plan on having other adventures where your ebike will need to work a bit harder, then you’ll need more watts. On the other hand, if you know you’re only really going to be using your ebike for short journeys or trips that can be made mainly on flat, smooth roads, then a lower wattage will probably do just fine!
A Little Glossary of EBike Jargon
In order to better understand what kind of wattage your ebike will need to have in order to support your desired riding, there are a few words we need to sink our teeth into:
Watt (W): - A watt is a unit for measuring power within an electrical circuit, and relates to the rate of energy consumption of said circuit.
Kilowatt (kW):- 1000 watts (similar to kilometer or kilogram).
Power (P):- Power is also a unit of measure, and relates to how quickly “work” can be done, with “work” here meaning a measure of energy transfer when an object is moved by an external force.
Horsepower (hp):- A more specific unit of power, measuring the rate at which work is done, usually in the context of motors or engines (hence why you’ve probably heard the term said when talking about cars).
With these definitions in mind, we can move on to answer the questions above in a more informed manner because after all, an ebike represents an investment both of finance and your time, so this is not a decision you should make off the cuff.
How Many Watts are Ebikes Typically?
Although there is a lot of variation across different brands, models, and functions, there are certain averages that can give us a decent idea about what to look for. In the most basic and vague terms, a common wattage for a lot of ebikes is around 500W but you should look for an option that is more specifically suited to you and what you want to use your ebike for.
A lot of ebikes will be rated with a certain wattage, but due to different guidelines for measuring power, similar motors from different manufacturers might have the same rating but actually have different wattages. For example, two standard ebikes from two different companies may both be rated as 500W but in reality, one might be 500W and the other closer to 700W.
To make sure you’re getting the number of watts on the tin, so to speak, it might be worth speaking to the manufacturer directly to confirm. The quality of the bike’s electrical components (namely the battery and motor) will also affect how close to the watt rating the bike actually is.
So How Many Watts are Necessary?
Again, the answer to this will come down to what you want to achieve with your ebike, as well as some other factors such as the weight the bike will be carrying. For added perspective, the average person pedals with a power of around 30W when keeping to an easy, cruising speed, which is about the same energy consumption as walking at a normal pace.
If you’re going to be zipping to the shop along a flat road or using your ebike to get to and from work not too far away, then you won’t need anything too powerful. Something around the 250-350W mark will probably work just fine.
This works out at just under 0.5hp and is generally the lowest power rating range for ebikes. There are a few kinds which go below this but these ebikes aren’t going to offer much and likely aren’t worth getting.
If you live somewhere hilly or need a mountain bike style of ebike, then you’re going to have to ramp up that wattage!
When you get to the 350-500W range, which is where majority of standard ebikes fall, you start to get better acceleration, higher speeds on flat ground, and the ability to steadily climb small hills. Between 700W and 1kW is where the real magic happens however, and at 1-1.3hp you’ll likely be able to reach around 30mph and start tackling steeper inclines with greater ease.
Anything higher than 1kW starts creeping into light motor electric motorbike territory and if you’re looking to buy an ebike, will be pretty gratuitous.
Other Factors That Will Affect Power
Regardless of what wattage you go for, there will be things that will put additional strain on your ebike motor and therefore affect the power provided.
The most obvious of these is added weight. This might be the weight of the rider, or the addition of bags or equipment to your ebike. You might find that riding your 250W ebike on your own on a flat road is fun and smooth but as soon as you pile on a heavy rucksack or a basket laden with groceries, your acceleration slows down and the ride is a bit more sluggish as a whole.
Stopping and starting abruptly or frequently during a ride can also impact power, causing slower acceleration and creating a generally more tense and jerky experience.
Tire pressure and surface conditions work hand in hand when it comes to power, having similar effects. If your ebike tires are a little on the squishy side, the bike will have to work harder to exert the same force compared with appropriately inflated tires on the same terrain. Likewise, riding on rough, rocky, or otherwise uneven ground will also lessen the overall power output of your ebike motor.
Temperature is another enemy of power, and unfortunately it works both ways. Overheating and overcooling will both slow your ebike down, as these more extreme conditions affect the capacity of the battery and the general function of the motor. This means your watts won’t stretch as far as they would in optimal weather conditions.
Wind has a similar effect to temperature and surface conditions too, as it’s yet another form of resistance that your ebike motor will have to contend with. That is of course, assuming you’re riding against the wind; riding with the wind is a whole different story and will help your ebike to propel you forwards (thank you wind!).
What It Boils Down To
In order to properly answer questions such as “how many watts do ebikes have?” and “how many watts do I need?”, you need to consider all the available information and the factors that will affect your riding.
How much do you weigh? Will you be regularly carrying additional loads on your ebike?
Where do you most often ride? Will you need something powerful enough to go up hills?
What is the weather like most of the time? How smooth is the road surface?
Do you want or need to go at a relatively fast pace? Do you need to travel far?
These are some of the questions you need to ask before even considering wattage. Once you do nail down the answers, it’s probable that the perfect ebike option will jump out at you.
You may use your ebike for different kinds of journeys and in different conditions, but hopefully being equipped with the information above will help you to know what to expect from your motor!