When to Charge an Electric Bike: An Easy Guide for Beginners

Faster commutes, easy hill climbing, less pressure on the legs, and increased speed are just some of the reasons people love riding an electric bike. Offering greater range and performance than traditional bikes, e-bikes are a worthy investment for people who travel from one place to another on a daily basis or want to embrace a more active lifestyle and amp up their fitness game.

Whether you take your bike out for a leisurely ride in the park or on your morning commute in the usual traffic, you’d want to fully enjoy your ride. For this, all the systems of your bike must be working well.  

One of the most important and expensive components is the battery. You must know when to charge an electric bike and how to take proper care of its battery. This can make all the difference when it comes to making the most of your electric bike.  

Charging a New E-Bike Battery

After you buy a new e-bike, you’ll naturally be excited to ride it for the first time. However, you must wait and charge its battery for a minimum of 8 hours before your first ride. You can also charge it for up to 12 hours.

A long first charge will condition the battery, making the current flow through all its cells. This prepares the battery to perform on optimal levels throughout its life.

Please note that the charging status light may go from red to green, indicating that the battery is fully charged before 8 hours. It is recommended that you continue to charge it regardless.       

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When to Charge an Electric Bike

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll have to recharge the battery as soon as it goes flat. To make sure your e-bike is always available to take you on a fun ride, you should charge it after every ride.

When to Charge an Electric Bike battery
When to Charge an Electric Bike battery

How Much Electricity is Required to Charge an E-Bike’s Battery?

While this mainly depends on the capacity of the battery, it usually takes 400 to 500 watt-hours to charge an e-bike’s battery.

How Long Does It Take to Charge the Battery?

A fully drained lithium battery will take 4 to 6 hours to recharge. One with a partial charge will obviously take less time.

That being said, you may see that the battery will be 90 percent charged in 2 to 2.5 hours. The last hour or so will be utilized for topping off the cells. You don’t necessarily have to wait for this; if you want to take your bike out for a ride and don’t have time, you can stop the charging process. However, it is best to let the battery charge fully.

A full charge will be indicated by a steady green light. Once the battery is completely charged, you should unplug the charger from the battery.

With some electric bikes, you can charge the battery while it is still mounted on the bike. When charging off the bike, make sure you protect the charger, battery, and cables from water, moisture, and other elements that may lead to electrocution, injury, or even death.

How Long Will the Battery of Your E-Bike Last?

when to charge an electric bike
An e-bike parked among tall trees on a rough terrain

The life of your electric bike’s battery is calculated in charge cycles. This means that your bike will have a specific number of full charges it can undergo before its battery performance and effectiveness starts diminishing. Eventually, it won’t function at all.

Typically, the battery of an electric bike can complete several hundred charge cycles before it is of no use anymore. The exact number will depend on the specific type of battery used. The way you take care of the battery also matters.

Generally, if you use your bike on a regular basis, the battery may perform well for 3 to 5 years before it starts losing its efficiency.

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Battery Lifespan Based on the Type of Battery Used

Typically, the following types of batteries are used in electric bikes.

1. Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries are the most common type of battery used in e-bikes. These powerful batteries offer 1000 charge cycles. This number may increase if you are using the latest model.   

2. Nickel Batteries

If your e-bike has a nickel battery, you can expect approximately 500 charge cycles.

3. Lead Batteries

First-generation electric bikes that come with lead batteries may give up to 300 charge cycles.

Disclaimer: These numbers are based on the estimates provided by the battery manufacturers. You may see variations depending on the quality of your battery’s build. That being said, a good-quality lead battery is likely to outperform a poor-quality lithium battery.

Important: When buying an electric bike, make sure that the battery seller offers a guarantee of at least two years.

E-Bike Battery Care: What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

Always remember, the battery is the heart of your electric bike. Taking good care of the battery is a crucial aspect of e-bike maintenance. To maximize the lifespan of your bike’s battery, follow the tips below.

1. Charge the Battery Regularly

E-bike batteries, especially the lithium ones, last longer with regular use. This means your bike’s battery needs to be charged from time to time. And in order to charge it regularly, you must take it out for a ride every other day, if not daily.

Essentially, you should prevent the complete draining of your bike’s battery. For best results, it is recommended to charge it when 30 to 60 percent of battery capacity is remaining. An occasional full discharge is okay, perhaps after every 30 to 40 charges.

2. Don’t Charge in Extreme Temperatures

Your electric bike would hate to be out in extreme temperatures as much as you would. It is always best to ride in moderate temperatures.

Avoiding extreme temperatures is essential for prolonging the lifespan of your bike’s battery. This applies to situations when you are riding the bike as well as charging it.

When charging, the battery should be in a moderate environment that is warmer than freezing and cooler than 110 degrees Fahrenheit. While this is what you should prefer in extreme situations, it is best to stay between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during charging.     

3. Don’t Overcharge the Battery

One of the biggest mistakes electric bike owners make when charging their bikes is that they leave the battery on the charger for long periods of time (sometimes several days).

When you leave your bike’s battery to overcharge, the battery may discharge leaving it at a 95 percent capacity. The charger then continues to do its work to achieve 100 percent capacity. This cycle of slight discharges and topping off will continue until you switch the charger off.

As a result, a series of poor charging cycles will be created. It will have a negative impact on the overall health and performance of the battery.    

A good rule of thumb is to set an alarm on your mobile phone to remind you to check if the bike’s battery is full.

4. Monitor the Battery’s Performance

You must stay on top of the health of your e-bike’s battery. After a few months of regular use, if you notice that it drains more quickly, it may be a sign of a manufacturing defect. You’ll have to reach out to the manufacturer and get it replaced.

5. Charge the Battery before Storing it

In case you are planning a trip and want to store your e-bike’s battery for a few days, weeks, or months, don’t leave it empty. The best thing to do is to give it a full charge. However, you may also store it with 40 to 70 percent of battery capacity.

Range and Performance of an E-Bike Battery

The maximum range offered by an e-bike’s battery depends on a variety of factors, including the battery’s age, the rider’s weight, riding style, terrain, temperature, pedaling amount, and speed.

If you are riding on normal road conditions at 20 mph with inflated tires, you can expect a range of 15 to 30 miles. Depending on the conditions, you may witness a range below or above this level.

Most electric bike models displayed on the websites include a link to a range calculator. You can get a near-perfect answer for your specific model there.

Factors That Affect the Range of the Battery

Your battery’s range can be affected by the following conditions.

  • Temperature (riding in extreme hot or cold temperatures can affect the capacity of the battery)
  • Number of charge cycles (the capacity diminishes with the increasing age of the battery)
  • Road conditions (riding on rough and hilly surfaces warrant extra power)
  • Rider’s weight
  • Load (carrying extra weight on the bike increases energy consumption)
  • Wind (riding against the wind requires more power)
  • Repeated acceleration when starting the bike
  • Gear usage (taking proper and full advantage of the gears increases range)
  • Poor maintenance (under-inflated tires, dirty or dry chains, and misadjusted brakes can decrease battery range)

Tips for Maximizing Your Battery’s Range

You can maximize your battery’s range by:

  • Using the gears as much as possible when riding on rough terrain
  • Charging the battery at room temperature
  • Maintaining proper tire pressures
  • Lubing the chain regularly
  • Tuning the bike every six months
  • Charging a partially full battery on a regular basis

How to Take Care of an E-Bike Battery

How to Take Care of an E-Bike Battery
The battery of an electric bike

Tips for Charging

  • Always use the charger and adapter that come with the battery. It prevents overcharging and ensure battery protection against damage
  • Let the battery cool down before and after charging it
  • If the battery has a switch, switch it off before charging it
  • Don’t forget to disconnect the charger from the battery after charging
  • Charge the battery before it drains out completely
  • You may charge the battery on or off your bike
  • Try to charge the battery to 100 percent
  • If you want to store the battery, make sure you charge it partially every few months
  • Don’t cover the charger or battery during charging

Tips for Storage

  • Always store the battery in a cool and dry place (the ideal temperature is 0 to 20 degrees)
  • Protect the battery from high temperatures and avoid putting it near a heat source

Tips for Cleaning  

  • Before washing your e-bike, don’t forget to remove the battery
  • Never immerse the battery in water; you can wipe it with a clean, damp cloth
  • Never use a steam pressure washer for cleaning your e-bike or its battery

Charger Care

  • Never leave the charger permanently connected
  • Don’t switch on at the main socket until you have plugged the charger into the battery
  • Switch off at the socket before disconnecting the charger from the battery

What You Need to Know about Battery Indicator

The battery indicator on your electric bike doesn’t represent the time or distance remaining for the battery. While this is the most common assumption of beginners, this is not true. The indicator actually shows the battery’s charging state.

When you fully charge the battery, its efficiency level is the highest. When you start riding the bike, the voltage begins to drop and so does the battery’s performance. As a result, you may experience compromised acceleration and slower speed.

After some time, you’ll notice that the bars on the battery indicator begin to drop faster and faster. It is recommended that you head back home before it shows the battery is half empty unless you are okay walking home while pushing your bike with a dead battery.

Does the Size of the Battery Matter?

Generally, bigger batteries are considered safer and healthier for charging at higher amps. For example, using 5 amps for charging a 20 Amp-hr battery is perfectly fine but not for a 10 Amp-hr battery.

Please note that charging your e-bike’s battery quickly too often can severely impact its performance and significantly reduce its lifespan. It is recommended to use a slow charger that takes four or more hours to charge the battery.

Alternatively, if you think you would need a fast charging option too, you can get a charger that switches between slow and fast charges. This will ensure that an optimal temperature is maintained for the e-bike battery.

If your bike comes with a battery pack that has high-amp cells and allows high discharges, it can easily afford fast charging without reducing the battery’s life expectancy.

On the downside, this type of battery pack offers a lower energy density. They are also more expensive than battery packs with lower amp cells.      

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Failure to Charge an E-Bike Battery

It is common sense that when your electric bike’s battery fails to charge, your bike will stop running. Other electrical elements, such as lights may also stop working. This may happen due to a dead battery. When a battery is dead, it doesn’t receive any charge.   

The e-bike battery may fail to charge for a variety of reasons. The best bet is to reach out to a professional who knows the ins and outs of electric bikes. Have them look at your bike’s battery to identify the problem.

After performing a differential diagnosis, they may reach a conclusion and state the issue. In case they tell you that the battery is dead, you will have no option but to replace it.   

What is a Swollen Battery?

Incomplete chemical reactions in an e-bike battery may result in the production of a gas that fills the battery, causing it to swell. Another reason for a swollen battery is the failure of its internal layers to separate chemicals and components.

If you suspect a swollen battery, you must immediately replace it. Riding an electric bike with a swollen battery can do serious harm.

What if the Battery Heats Up?

It is not uncommon for e-bike batteries to heat up. One common cause is an external short circuit.

If you store the battery near metallic items, they may serve as a bridge between the positive and negative battery poles. An internal shock may also cause the battery to swell.

Apart from this, a battery may become hot after a sudden fall. It may generate a high current, which eventually leads to high temperatures.

If you notice that the battery has heated up, you should replace it as soon as possible.

Battery Disposal

When your electric bike’s battery loses its efficiency, it is your duty to get rid of it responsibly. Many local authorities out there offer facilities for recycling and disposing of.

Alternatively, you can reach out to the manufacturer to see if they take the batteries back. Many manufacturers are obliged to do so for free. They make arrangements for the return and recycling of waste batteries.

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Summing It Up

The battery is one of the core components of an electric bike that determine its performance and efficiency. Taking good care of the battery is a must if you want to enjoy riding on your bike in the long run.

First off, you must know when to charge an electric bike and how to do it correctly. This beginner’s guide entails helpful tips and guidelines for taking care of an e-bike battery during charging, storage, and cleaning.

Be wary of battery problems and get it replaced as soon as you detect physical damage or swelling. Moreover, charge and store the battery in ideal temperatures to enhance its range and performance.