The main components of an e-bike

Electric and pedal-assist bicycles are on the rise. What differentiates them from muscle-powered bikes and what will the next technological developments be?

Home Road Bicycles Electric The main components of an e-bike

Over the past years, there has been a rise in the popularity of cycling for exercising and as a means of transport. It is even a status symbol for everyone who wants to embrace a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. The leap in the e-bike market was even more pronounced in proportion, with a 9.8 per cent global increase in 2019 and 2020 alone. The global e-bike market is forecast to be worth around 40 billion dollars in 2022 and will exceed 92 billion by 2029. E-bikes and mountain e-bikes are increasingly popular, more technological and more beautiful but what are their main components?

The motor

Electric bikes have many parts in common with muscle-powered bikes (like the frame, which is very similar, the wheels, the handlebar and the gear shift). The components that most differentiate e-bikes from their conventional counterparts are the motor, the battery and the sensor.

The electric motor is the heart of the e-bike. According to European directives, the battery must have an output of less than 250 W and operate on direct current, with voltages between 12 and 48 V. The electric motor assists the cyclists in pedalling, reducing the workload and allowing them to go further. It can be located mainly in three places on the bicycle, namely on the front wheel (as is usually the case on basic models), on the rear wheel, where it interacts with the gears and the rear derailleur providing better traction and grip or mounted centrally on the frame on higher-end bikes to adds power to the rider's action on the pedals, providing stability, power and balance.

The battery

Another characterising element of an e-bike is the battery, the device that powers the motor. Most batteries are of the lithium-ion type. They are high-performing, lightweight and more sustainable than other solutions (lead-acid batteries, popular in China). The battery can have three voltages: 24, 36 and 48 V. On most e-bikes on the market, the range varies from 40 to 100 kilometres per charge, depending on the battery but also clearly on the demanded speed and power. The batteries can be mounted on the rack, on the frame (instead of the bottle cage) and also under the saddle. The big technological challenge is to make batteries lighter yet more powerful so that they do not weigh down the bike and increase its range.


The other components

In addition to the motor and battery, e-bikes fit a sensor designed to activate the motor to give pedalling assistance. The device can be a speed sensor and activate the motor when the cyclist starts pedalling, or a torque sensor and respond by adapting to the cyclist's speed to supply a proportionate level of assistance. Most e-bikes mount mechanical disc brakes. Another component fitted on the most modern and advanced electric bikes is the display for monitoring the performance of the motor and battery, and changing the control parameters, such as the power to be delivered and the level of pedalling assistance. Some e-bikes also have a cruise control function to set a cruising speed on long stretches.

Innovations in the sector

In addition to the mentioned non-stop search for a better battery range/weight ratio, the biggest area of technological innovation in the e-bike world certainly concerns connectivity. Already today, many e-bikes are connected to smartphones or cycle computers, opening up endless possibilities in terms of route planning, fitness, environmental conditions, and entertainment. In this manner, cyclists will be able to monitor and analyse their technical and physical performance (pedalling and heart rate, altitude profile), as well as the weather, road conditions, traffic, and best routes. All this information can be shared with other cyclists. In the future, more and more electric cargo bikes will be developed to make deliveries and transport in cities more eco-friendly. Wireless charging is another area under development, with charging stations embedded in the road surface, a technology already partially developed but not at all close to practical application.