An electric bike is a manually powered bike with an electric motor incorporated in its drive system to aid pedaling. Electric bikes range from the simple e-bikes used by schoolchildren in their own bicycles to the more advanced and high-end electric bicycles designed for professional use. Many styles of electric e-bikes are currently available worldwide, including those that incorporate both pedal-pacing functionality and a pedal-assisted throttle. E-bikes can be categorized broadly into three main categories, based on the level of pedal-assisted motorization provided:
Plug-in hybrids are electric bicycles that convert to charge their batteries on the driver’s behalf using power supplied by an internal combustion engine. The majority of plug-in hybrids available on the market today utilize a small gasoline engine to power the onboard battery, resulting in a limited amount of top speed (which will increase as the vehicle gets closer to its maximum speed). Some plug-in hybrids have been designed to operate solely on their batteries, while others will charge both the internal combustion engine and the battery simultaneously. These vehicles tend to have longer initial ranges than motorcycles because they are not dependent on any external power source to accelerate or decelerate.
Recreational electric bikes fall between the first two categories; in order to qualify as an electric bike, a rider must use a motor powered directly by the rider or some type of electrical device, such as a USB or cigarette lighter. These vehicles are often called “bikes with sticks”, and may be used for a variety of reasons, including getting around town, mountain biking, or going for a spin on a nature trail. Bikes like these can be quite powerful, with higher maximum speed ratings than most cars. Because they are powered by either the rider or some other source, however, recreational electric bikes should never be used for anything other than recreational purposes. These cars are simply too powerful and too dangerous for city riding, and most people would be unable to safely drive one. This is why most electric bike manufacturers lean toward designating their vehicles strictly as recreational vehicles.