During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a surge in electric bike sales around the world. More people are renting and buying electric bikes to commute as an alternative to cramped public transport. Others are simply doing it to save on fuel and protect the environment. Electric bike sales are projected to grow from 3.7 million to 17 million per year by 2030.
With so many electric bikes being sold, people should know the most common issues and dangers of the vehicles. While they’re far more economical and healthy than actual motorcycles and cars, they have their own issues. So here are some of the biggest issues and dangers associated with electric bikes.
Major Problems with Electric Bikes
High powered electric bikes can achieve much greater speed than normal bikes. Even with advanced braking and safety features built-in, these bikes can be prone to failure and thus danger.
They’re much faster than regular pedal bicycles which are prone to dangers themselves. However, they’re slower than motorbikes as well. Hence, this middle ground is bound to be surrounded by its own can of worms.
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Here are just some of the dangers that come with electric bikes.
These dangers occur not just because electric bikes operate in a middle zone, but because they’re tricky to operate. They have certain controls that don’t often register to the novice or the uninitiated.
1. Too Much Throttle after Dead Stop
This is the most frequent cause of electric bike accidents. While it doesn’t usually result in serious accidents or injuries, accidents can occur at low speed. Here are some precautions you can take to avoid any serious injuries.
- Make sure that your controller and throttle are dialed down properly so that the throttle isn’t twitchy.
- Don’t apply the throttle until you move.
- Consider adding a switch that can select different levels of power. Watch out for this feature when you’re buying your next e-bike.
- Lean forward on the handlebars when you throttle. This will keep the bike from popping a wheelie.
2. Twisting Throttle on a Parked Bike
This is a very frequent mistake. Electric bikes can be switched on without the knowledge of the rider. This can occur because of carelessness or malice.
Since electric bikes don’t make noise when they start, they don’t give off an audible signal. Hence, riders can twist the throttle and the bike can take off. It’s the equivalent of turning off a car in gear and not checking f it’s neutral before turning the ignition.
Ask the bike to move away from the holder, the throttle is twisted further. This intensifies the effect and the rider is pulled away. This can cause an accident. This mishap luckily doesn’t cause serious injuries often.
Minor bruises and cuts do fall into the realm of possibility though. Precautions to take against this danger include:
- Turn your electric bike off
- Consider a thumb throttle instead of a twist throttle
- Consider a half grip throttle
- Buy a bike that ensures power doesn’t come one until it reaches 5 mph.
- Buy a pedelec bike that senses how hard you press on the pedals before activating the throttle
- Pay attention to any lights that signal whether the bike is on or not.
3. Front Hub Motor Fork Failure
This is a particularly nasty one. It’s among the most dangerous electric bike problems since it can result in a head first impact. If a front fork jams, it ends up in a head first fall over the handle bars. The front wheel hub electric bikes can face this problem very frequently if the riders aren’t careful.
Riders should install torque arms to counter this danger. Other precautions include not using front wheel drive with suspension forks. Riders should have the front wheel drive hub motor installed professionally. They should also refrain from using the high power motor in the front wheel.
4. Exploding Lithium Batteries
Lithium batteries power all electric bikes. There have been several reports of electric bikes catching fire due to their batteries overheating. Some have occurred during charging and some have occurred during cycling.
Most of them have occurred, however, on bikes that are home built. Hobbyists strap tougher lithium battery packs consisting of R/C lipo cells. These cells are obviously more volatile than tested batteries.
Unfortunately, this is a problem with nearly any appliance that runs on electric batteries. From the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 to any other smartphone, tablet, or smart device, they all use lithium batteries.
Unfortunately, lithium is one of the most reactive metals on earth. Yet, it makes a great battery storage material. Until they replace them with something like Graphene or another nanomaterial, we’re stuck with them.
Hence, to stop them from overheating and catching fire, here are some tips:
- Use a battery management system (BMS).
- Don’t build your own battery pack without researching it thoroughly. Instead, try saving up enough money to buy a battery pack from a supplier. It’s better than risking injury or worse.
- Don’t overcharge your batteries or allow them to become over-discharged. Instead, make sure you charge them for just the right amount of time. If they charge up to 95%, unplug them. No need to go all the way to 100%.
- Take care of where you charge your batteries. Check the voltage and amperage rating on them so you can plug them into the correctly rated socket.
- Don’t allow batteries to be punctured. That can allow the lithium internals to be exposed to oxidation or combustion.
- If possible, you should use a protective metal box to hold batteries during your ride.
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5. Bearings Locking Up
This is a very common problem with substandard or cheap electric bikes. Those that have powerful mid drives can often have this problem too if they go without maintenance for too long.
If any of these freewheel bearings lock up, they can cause the pedals to go at full speed. This can lead you to not just breaking speeding limits, but also a few bones. You can knock other bikers down and cause all kinds of accidents if you’re not careful.
6. Silently Passing a Pedal Bicyclist or Pedestrian
Several electric bikes by nature are completely silent. If you buy or own a hub motor powered e-bike, then it’s definitely deadly silent. This can be a problem for pedestrians or other bikers.
They rely on their sight and sound to identify when something is nearby. Hence, watch your speed when you’re nearing a pedestrian crossing or another biker. They may not hear your coming at all.
To ensure that you alert others to your presence, use your horn liberally when going at full speed. Also, don’t pass pedestrians and other pedal bicyclists at full speed. They could make an unanticipated maneuver and you could cause an accident.
7. Not Obeying the Traffic Laws
Certain bicyclists are in the habit of not obeying the traffic signals; they believe the laws don’t apply to bicycles. With electric bikes, bicyclists think they can still do that. However, you have to remember that electric bikes can go much faster and thus, face a much higher penalty for breaking the law.
Since you don’t need to pedal as hard to get your speed up as on a normal bicycle, you should be cautious. This is why there are much stronger brakes on electric bikes.
Also know that if your battery dies while you’re still riding, then the results could be catastrophic. Your bike may not work as advertised then and you may not have enough stopping distance to ensure your safety.
Remember that an electric bike is a motor vehicle. You can’t do stuff like go in the opposite direction on a one-way track as you do with a bicycle. You also need to ensure the safety of others.
8. Throttle Getting Stuck
Electric bikes also refer to the wide-open throttle as WOT. However, when it gets stuck in this position unexpectedly, it can cause a serious accident. This is one of the most serious electric bike problems.
On a high-powered electric bike, going at over 40 mph, this is incredibly dangerous.
For this reason, you should consider emergency cut-off or high-quality hydraulic disk brakes. Make sure that you either outfit your bike with this kind of brakes or make sure the brakes can stop the bike at full throttle.
9. Unnecessary Modifications
Bicycles are often built for a top speed of 30 mph, even going downhill. Going beyond that speed, even for electric bikes is a bit of a stretch. At that speed, you’re taking your chances. Certain people have posted videos of themselves going at over 60 mph with a modified electric bike.
That is an unnecessary risk that shouldn’t be taken. Bicycles at that speed can fall apart. That can injure the rider and even injure passersby.
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Other than dangers, there are certain common issues that occur with electric bikes which impair their function.
1. Power Failure
There will be times when you won’t see a display on your screen when you turn it on. This can happen if the batter isn’t plugged in properly or if it’s become damaged. The battery can also be totally drained or the controller could be damaged.
If that happens, you should test the battery with a cell checker. If the voltage reading goes below 40V, then don’t charge the battery. The battery has been overloaded, and you need professional help.
Plugging it in will only make things worse. You should also make sure that there aren’t any loose ends on the connection to avoid shortage once you’ve begun charging.
2. Sensor Failure
One of the most common electric bike problems, sensor failure is one that can be easily fixed. If you diagnose the problem early on, all you have to do is replace the sensor. The most common sensor is one that tells you that your bike has been charged or is out of charge.
The display and lighting can also be functional, however, the pedal and throttle may stop working properly. If this occurs, you can try unplugging the sensors to see if the motor gains power again. If it does, you need to adjust or replace the defective sensors, shifters, or levers.
3. Faulty Batteries
A car or bike battery is much different from an electric battery in that it’s mostly lead-acid based. While electric bike batteries are lithium-based, they also have a comparable lifespan. Within approximately 2 years, lithium ion batteries tend to give out. The cycle of charge and discharge wears them out.
The first sign of a faulty battery could be the diminishing range that you have. If the bike could go 100 miles before, and now can only go 75; that’s a clear sign. If you don’t address this right away, you could be stuck in the middle of traffic without a charge someday.
If it’s been a few years since you’ve bought the bike, then it’s common sense to get the battery either checked or replaced. Make sure that your charge is also fully functional if you want to avoid shortages during charging.
How to Maintain Your Electric Bike
Every few months, you should give your bike an inspection to ensure it’s running right. Whether it’s causing your problems or not is beside the point. This can actually elongate the lifespan of your electric bike and save you money on repairs.
Before you do this, you should ensure that your body is dry and that you’re not barefoot. Wear plastic or rubber gloves if you have them and cover your body as best you can.
Look for cracks in the batteries of your electric bike. If there is noticeable swelling, then the battery may not be revivable. Also, look for corroded connections. If any of these signs appear, you will need to replace the battery or it may catch fire, or combust upon charging.
Inspect the controller by removing screws, and sliding the casing end over wires. Look for any signs of water damage or overheat damage. This will be in the form of salt deposits on the circuit board.
Inspect the connectors in the controller for any corrosion or bad and broken wires. They should look clean. If there are any breaks in the wiring or any deposits, you should replace these wires right now.
Sniff the board inside for any clues; look for brown or black spots. If any of these signs appear, then know that the board has suffered electrical damage.
Check for any worn out gears and deflated tires by riding the bike at a low speed around your neighborhood. Don’t venture out onto the road or onto a crowded street for this test.
Deflated tires and worn out gears aren’t apparent in e-bikes as much since the motor compensates. This will make the battery run out faster through, since it’s filling in for mechanical faults.
Check out the sensors. If the magnet in the speed sensor is working correctly, you’ll get the right reading. If it’s showing a lower or higher reading than before, know that you’ve got a faulty sensor. The same goes for battery sensors (read more in Faulty Batteries above).
Check the mainstay motor connection to see if the bike is working properly. All rear hub motor mount e-bikes have this connection. It’s also easy to fix if there is a problem. To inspect this problem, make sure that it’s installed on both the motor sprocket or cog and the rear wheel equivalent.
If the motor and chain/belt spin when the throttle is applied, but the rear wheel doesn’t, there’s a problem. This is called a defective rear freewheel clutch mechanism. A chain or belt has most likely fallen off which wasn’t tensioned properly.
A cog or sprocket may have also fallen off. Chains and sprockets wear out eventually. So if you’ve had this bike for a long time, they need to be replaced anyway.
It’s a good idea to take in your electric bike for maintenance every six months as a rule. This will help identify any problems which are developing and save you a bundle on costs in the future.
Make sure to plug in your battery up until it’s almost fully charged before unplugging. Also, don’t wait until it’s completely out of battery before plugging it in again. This consistent charge and discharge cycle can prolong battery lifespans. However, unplugging too soon or plugging in too soon can cause complications.
Electric bikes can be great vehicles for those that want the best of speed and environmental conservation. However, maintaining them and keeping yourself and others safe from harm should be a priority.
Hence, take the precautions outlined here to heart. Make sure that you’ve done the due diligence on your bike before buying it, and maintaining it once you’ve bought it.
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These are the major problems in electric bikes.
I am Michael, an avid rider and bike expert. I am here to provide, biking tips and expert advice on in-depth bike reviews covering features, capabilities, price range, and much more. Specially on electric bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, etc. I will provide honest product reviews, along with expert advice on purchasing, training, and maintenance. Check out my complete profile.