What is an Electric Bike? The Basics

Posted by FarBike on 6th Jun 2017

What is an Electric Bike? The Basics

An electric bicycle is a normal bicycle equipped with an electric motor and battery that assists the rider with moving forward. The electric motor pushes the rider forward making pedaling easier or removing the requirement to pedal all together.

An electric bike uses the electric motor to make riding easier and less physically demanding. Electric bicycles are often used by commuters, joy riders or those with physical limitations since the electric power makes for an enjoyable and sweat free ride that is far less demanding on the rider.

The electric motor is controlled in two ways. First by a twist throttle on the handle bars that allows the rider to apply power by twisting the hand grip, just like a motorcycle. Second is the pedal assist system or PAS. PAS has a sensor in the pedals the applies power from the motor based on how fast the rider is pedaling. This will about double the power that the rider is applying to the pedals, making the bike go twice as fast it would with normal effort.

Electric bikes are also known as a Power Assisted Bicycle, meaning it uses a motor to help the rider move.

Basic Components of an Electric Bike


  • Most commonly a hub motor and is built into the center of either the front or rear wheel.
  • Power is measured in watts, the higher the wattage the more power is put out. However higher wattage drains the battery faster.
  • Hub motors have a quick release power cable to allow for the wheel to be removed easily for tire changes or maintenance.


  • Rechargeable from a standard wall outlet with a charger included with the bike
  • 2 common types of ebike battery: Lithium Ion which lasts long is light but more expensive, or a SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) battery which is the same as a car battery and is less expensive than a Lithium Ion battery but is heavier and does not last as long.
  • Batteries can be unlocked from the bike with a key so it can be brought inside to charge, or can be charged while attached to the bike.


  • Every ebike has a small computer usually underneath the battery.
  • All electrical components and controls connect to the computer which regulates the current from the battery to the motor based on the riders throttle input.

Hand Throttle:

  • To apply electrical power and increase speed, the rider simply twist the hand grip like a motorcycle
  • The grip is a variable throttle so the more the grip is rotated, the more power is applied and the faster the bike goes.

Pedal Assist Sensor:

  • Pedal assist is a small magnetic sensor that measures how fast the rider is pedaling.
  • The faster the rider pedals, the more power is applied to the motor.
  • This about doubles the power the rider puts into the bike so the bike goes about twice as fast compared to pedaling normally. This also increases the range of the battery and gives the rider some exercise.

This is the basic setup of most electric bicycles. There is some variation between different makes and models of ebikes, but the great majority of electric bikes in the United States use some variation of these components.