E-bike batteries can be very expensive, so much so that they actually make up the vehicles largest cost. E-bike owners have to ensure that their batteries are in top shape and have the longest possible lifespan.
How long will your e-bike battery last? Most batteries that fall in this category can last from 3 to 5 years until start losing some of their efficiency. But with proper care, it’s possible to completely maximize your battery life’s full potential.
So how exactly do you keep your battery healthy? In our article, you will learn more about your e-bike battery life and the best ways you can prolong its life, from proper maintenance and usage to buying the best charger for your unit.
Types of batteries
You need to learn what kind of battery your unit has first before anything else. Here are the standard battery types used for e-bikes and their specifications.
Lead-acid batteries are the cheapest ones you’ll find in the market. Unfortunately, it comes with a few drawbacks. They are particularly sensitive to bad treatment, they weight considerably more than lithium and nickel batteries, and they have a shorter lifespan compared them as well. This isn’t a good choice if you’re going to use your e-bike regularly.
Lithium-ions are the most commonly seen batteries for the e-bike (over 90% of the whole market.) In general, they generate more power considering their weight and have longer lives. For these very reasons, they are also on the more expensive side as well.
Lithium Cobalt (LCO)
Lithium-ion batteries have a few subcategories, each with their own unique features. Lithium cobalt batteries, for instance, are relatively new in the market, boasting a considerably higher energy density compared to its brothers. Because of this, they can provide optimal power for far less weight.
Lithium Manganese (LiMg204)
Another new battery type of lithium-ion, its manufacturers claim that their product generates more power and has a longer life compared to other lithium types. This battery is also used in hybrid cars such as the Nissan Leaf.
Lithium-ion Polymer (Li-pol)
The lithium-ion polymer battery doesn’t offer anything different from the original lithium-ion in terms of price, weight, or range. However, it offers a few unique key features. Unlike its predecessor, these batteries have no liquid components, so it has no need for heavy and bulky protective cases. It also means that it is also less prone to being damaged through misuse and is generally more stable.
Nickel batteries are becoming more and more of a rarity because of the negative environmental impact that they pose. They are very difficult to recycle and is considered a toxic pollutant. While they do have more capacity compared to lead-acid batteries, you’re better off choosing a lithium-ion model.
Nickel-metal Hydride (NiMh)
These batteries are a touch more efficient than its predecessor, but they also cost more. They also tend to last longer and are easier to recycle, but lithium-ion batteries are still considered better.
Electric Bike Charging Times: Fast or Slow?
Many e-bike owners make the mistake of only having a fast battery charger, and while these do save you plenty of time, they come with heavy drawbacks.
Apart from their more expensive price tag, fast e-bike chargers also come with it, a potential hazard. Because of the large surge of electricity that passes through it in a short amount of time, these chargers often require a heat sink to keep cool.
You would be hard-pressed to find chargers of this type above 5-amps for this very reason. Charging a battery too fast will shorten its lifespan, and they become potential fire hazards as well.
If you’re a new e-bike owner, we recommend that you use a slow charger that is healthier and safer for your battery.
What Is BMS Charging And Why Is It Important?
Battery Management System or BMS is a form of protection for your battery pack. It limits the speed in which your pack can charge. For instance, if you plug in a battery with 10-Ah in a charger that’s 5-amps, this battery will not charge because of the BMS. Most BMS’s for lithium batteries have a limit of 7 amps, any higher and the battery will not charge.
Another function of the BMS is that it balances the charging of your batteries cells where they get equal amounts of energy. This maximizes your batteries life and makes charging safer. Balance charging is relatively slow, though. Advanced BMS systems need ample time to balance every cell in your battery.
Bigger Batteries Are Generally Better
The larger your battery is, the more is healthy and safe to charge it at much higher amps. For instance, charging a 10 Amp-hr battery with 5 amps is considered fast, but not for charging a 20 amp-hr battery.
If you charge your battery quickly too often, it will severely affect the life expectancy of your battery’s life. We recommend a slow charger that takes up to more than four hours of charging time. Or if you want something just a little bit quicker, you can opt to buy a charger that can switch between slow and fast charges to maintain a healthy temperature.
If your e-bike has a battery pack with high-amp cells and has the capacity for high discharges, they can generally afford faster charging without affecting their life-expectancy considerably. Some drawback of these types of battery pack is that they have a lower energy density and are more expensive compared to other packs with lower-amp cells.
What Kind Of Charger Should I Buy?
Before you consider the right charger for you, (as explained above) we recommend that you buy the biggest battery your bike can accommodate that features high-quality cells. Here are some of the recommended options you can opt to choose depending on your needs and preferences:
Buy Both a Fast and Slow Charger
This way, you can choose a charger to suit your circumstances. If you’re hard-pressed for time, you can use a fast charger to speed up the charging process. Any other time, you can use a slow charger to keep your battery pack healthy. While buying two can be more expensive, they can be a good investment if you have a need for it.
Buy a Slow Charger Only
This is by far the safest bet and usually the cheapest as well. If you can afford the longer charging times, a slow charger can prolong your batteries life.
Buy a Fast Charger Only
Granted, this will cause your battery pack to lose a few cycles of its life, but it will still give you plenty of use and survive an ample amount of years. By then, you would want to replace your battery pack for a lighter and more efficient model.
If you opt for this option, buying a bigger battery pack will solve all the drawbacks that using a fast charger pose because they can take more energy and withstand the much higher temperatures that come with fast charging.
Use the Finger Test
A good tip of telling if your battery is charging too fast is feeling it with your finger while it’s charging. If it feels fairly warm, this most like means that you’re battery cant handle a fast charger (without sacrificing some of its lifespan.)
Buy a Charger with Advanced Variable Amperage
Instead of buying two separate chargers, you could buy a charger that offers both features in a single unit. These types of charges have a slow and fast setting so you can change the type of charging you want depending on your needs. This also reduces a bit of the wiring clutter when having multiple chargers.
How To Charge Your E-bike Efficiently
As an e-bike owner, you want your vehicle to perform well in a variety of different situations, whether you’re riding in a park during a leisurely afternoon weekend, or riding fast to avoid the heavy traffic for your morning commutes.
In order to keep your e-bike in top shape, every one of its systems needs to work well. One of the biggest key components of your e-bike is its battery. You want your battery pack healthy and in prime condition, and to do so, you can use some of these handy tips that will prolong your battery’s life and keep its efficiency at 100%:
New e-bike batteries have to be charged for half a day
After you buy a new electric bike, you should take the time when charging it for the first time. Charge for up to 12 hours in order to ensure that the currents are flowing through every cell and to condition your battery pack properly.
Charge your e-bike battery regularly
E-bikes using lithium battery packs, or most e-bikes for that matter, generally last much longer if you regularly use them, and by extension, regularly charging them.
Whenever you discharge the battery of your e-bike, you don’t for it to go all the way completely. Instead, try to charge your battery within the range of 30% and 60% of its remaining capacity to maximize its life expectancy.
A few experts recommend a full discharge every once in a while (when you reach from 30 to 40 charges, for instance.) Otherwise, try to follow the 30% and 60% guideline.Make it a habit of riding your e-bike regularly so you can also charge its battery pack every so often.
Avoid charging in extreme temperatures.
Much like their riders, electric bikes prefer moderate temperatures over anything else. If you want to extend your battery pack’s lifespan, avoid using and charging them in extreme temperatures.
When your battery pack is in a charging cycle, the environment should not reach 110F or freezing temperatures. Try to stay between the temperature range of 60 to 70 for the optimal charging temperature.
Don’t Overcharge an Electric Bike Battery
Never leave the battery pack of your e-bike on its charger for very long periods (i.e. a few days or even more.)
If you do so, the battery will discharge and leave itself most likely at 95% of its capacity. The charger then proceeds to do its job and top off your battery. This whole cycle of topping off and minor discharging will create series after series of bad charging cycles.
You can use a timer (on your phone, for example) to remind yourself when to take your battery of its charger at the right moment.
Don’t Store an Empty Battery
There are moments when you might have to put your e-bike battery in the storage. For example, when you’re going on a trip, or maybe the temperature outside is too low for riding. Either way, never store your battery in an empty state and try to keep it between 40% to 70% of its full capacity.
How To Take Care Of Your Battery
Never charge your battery to its full capacity
One of the best ways to prolong the lifespan of your battery is to stop charging it up to 100%. Lithium-ion battery packs will often come shipped with 50% to 60% of their charge capacity. These are safe percent ranges to store your battery.
The only time you need to charge your battery up to 100% is the moment you first receive it.
Charging it to its full capacity will ensure that each one of its cells is fully balanced.Every succeeding charge should not reach 100%. Most e-bikes use lithium-ion battery packs, and these batteries prefer being less than their full capacity. You should only charge them up to 80% then it off from the charge.
It’s also recommended that you don’t discharge them down to less than 20%. To summarize, keep your battery charge in between 20% to 80% charge capacity.
You might be wondering why should only use 60% of the total capacity of your battery. To put it simply, this serves to prolong your battery’s life and reduce the costs of having to buy new batteries more often.You might be worried that 60% is not enough to complete longer trips without stopping to recharge. This can easily be remedied by buying a higher capacity battery.
If you’re going to use your bike regularly for longer distances, you can calculate what kind of battery you need to fit your usage. For instance, if you have a 12Ah battery when at 48V, you have 624Wh for your whole battery (48V*13Ah=624Wh). If you’re going to use 60% of that, then its only 374Wh.
Let’s say that you’re going on 1km/20Wh. This means that your battery can cover 19km before it needs to be charged.
It’s also best to consider if you’re going on a roundtrip without charging or can you charge your battery at each end.
Don’t Keep Your Battery in Hot Temperatures
We’ve told you previously that your battery shouldn’t be charged in extreme temperatures. This holds true when you’re storing it as well. Especially for a fully charged battery pack, keeping at in hot temperatures can significantly lower its life expectancy. If you’ve already read the first step, you know not to charge you battery to its maximum capacity.
Find a cool and dry spot where you can store your battery safely after you’re done charging it. Never leave it under direct sunlight or in the warmer portions of your house. Try to find a place that is open with good ventilation. Closed spaces, while might be initially cool, could heat up eventually in hot weather.
Take some extra precautions if you reside in a hot and humid area because this kind of environment isn’t good for your battery pack’s health.
Know that riding your e-bike in very hot or cold temperatures will also negatively affect your battery’s performance. There are, of course, times when this is unavoidable, but it’s good to keep in mind.
Avoid Going at Prolonged High Speeds
If you want to keep your battery at its maximum efficiency, we advise that you shouldn’t strain your e-bike too much, because its motor will use up higher amounts of energy within a shorter period of time. Avoid running your e-bike at full speed for longer periods because this will discharge your battery too fast.
At this rate, you’ll have to charge your battery pack above the optimal charging frequency. Constantly charging and discharging your battery isn’t good for its health, especially if it’s fully charged or completely discharged. It’s good to regularly use your e-bike and charge it’s battery regularly, but it’s ill-advised to constantly run it at full speeds because, over time, your battery will hold much less charge than it originally did.
Compared to riders who ride their e-bike at a steady pace, the battery lifespan of a rider who goes at maximum speed will be considerably shorter.
Safely Storing Your Battery for Longer Periods
If you’re wondering if it’s safe to store a battery for months without use, generally speaking, usually fine. Read the user manual of your battery to check if it can be stored for longer periods because recommendations can vary depending on battery types.
Remember, as we’ve stated before, keep your battery charged within the safe range when you’re storing it for the long run. If they’re not within that range while in storage, this will cause stress on the batteries cells and cause the whole unit to age much quicker. The energy stored within your batteries will also escape gradually or self-discharge. It’s best to charge it every so often to keep it within the good range.
Also, remember the optimum temperature range of storing batteries (between 59F to 68F), because the more it strays from that range, the higher the change of your battery degrading. Keep it away from humid or damp areas, because it can be very dangerous if moisture seeps into your battery pack.
Maximizing Riding Range
One of the most important aspects you want for an e-bike battery pack is its riding range. Range refers to the distance that your battery can let you travel on one charge, and this is affected by many factors:
Air resistance will increase at a rate of the cube of speed. In common terms, this essentially means that accelerating will cause resistance to rise exponentially. Unless your hard-pressed for time and you need to go quickly, we recommend that you travel around 15mph for the optimal speed.
Accelerating and Steep Terrain
Using an e-bike in hilly areas such as San Francisco will use up much more energy when climbing to higher areas, while in flatter areas like the Netherlands, they tend to consume less energy. Accelerating your vehicle also puts relatively the same strain as riding to steeper terrains. This uses up much more energy, and it will deplete your battery’s reserves faster.
Maximum Battery Capacity
Usually, the bigger the battery pack you have, the higher its maximum capacity. It goes without saying that higher capacities will enable you to travel longer distances.
A high-quality motor will convert energy into the maximum amount of forwarding power it can produce. When buying an e-bike, be sure to take into account what kind of motor it uses.
Much like other vehicles, having an e-bike with low tire pressure will affect your driving range. If you have low tire pressure, your battery will have to work harder in order to compensate for the less than optimal condition of your tires. This will drain your battery faster and give you less travel distance.
It’s only logical that whenever you’re not engaging your battery, the more distance you can travel using it. Only giving yourself a boost whenever necessary will ensure that you can travel the maximum distance your battery can reach. You can do this when you’re traveling on less tough terrain like downhills or flats.
Replacing the battery pack for your e-bike is a very expensive undertaking. By following our guide, you can keep your battery in top shape for many years to come and prolong its life span. In the long run, proper maintenance and care will save you a lot of money for little to no effort.