Simple, convenient, cheap and affordable, bikes are one of the world's favorite forms of transportation. But they are not for everyone. They can be difficult to pedal up and downhill or with heavy loads, and the elderly or disabled may find them impossible to handle. In recent years, a new generation of electric bikes has started to revolutionize our idea of green transportation. These new bikes have all the convenience of automobiles with all the simple economy of ordinary bicycles. In this article, let's take a closer look at Who invented electric bikes? What they are and How they Work.
Who invented electric bikes?
Artwork: One of the first electric bicycles. Two artworks from US Patent 552,271: Electrical Bicycle by Ogden Bolton, courtesy of US Patent and Trademark Office. Please note that we've colored the original artwork and edited it slightly to improve clarity.
The oldest patent for an electric bike I've been able to find at the US Patent and Trademark Office is this one, by Ogden Bolton, Jr. of Canton Ohio, which was filed in September 1895 and granted three months later. You can see from these original diagrams that it bears an amazingly close resemblance to modern electric bikes. In the general picture on the left, you can see there's a hub motor on the rear wheel (blue), a battery suspended from the frame (red), and a simple handlebar control to make the thing stop and go. In the more detailed cutaway of the hub motor on the right, you can see there's a six-pole magnet in the center (orange) bolted to the frame and an armature (made from coiled wire, yellow) that rotates around it when the current is switched on. It's quite a hefty motor even by modern standards; Ogdon mentions "a heavy current at low voltage—for instance, to carry one hundred amperes at ten volts." So that's 1000 watts, which is about twice the power of a typical modern bike hub motor.
What are electric bicycles?
When someone hears an electric bike, the first image they imagine might be an electric scooter or motorcycle, but they actually look quite different. Just imagine a regular bike, then add various electrical components like a motor, battery, and controller, all seamlessly integrated into the design. These items are the basics of every electric bike on the market!
How electric bikes work?
Electric bicycles pedal and drive like a normal bicycle. In general, an electric bike will also use the same parts. The electrical component is intended to increase human power, not completely replace it. It makes obstacles like hills and headwinds more manageable and allows you to travel further without getting as tired.
Key parts of an electric bike
There are three main components to an electric bike: the motor, the batteries, the frame.
Batteries are the most important parts of the bike, because (if you don't pedal) they contain all the energy that will propel you. Typical electric bike batteries put out about 350 to 500W of power (that's about 35 to 50 volts and 10 amps), which is about a quarter of what you need to drive an electric toaster. In theory, you could use any type of battery in a bike.
In practice, though, you want to use something that stores a lot of power without being too heavy, or you'll use half your power just moving the battery around! That tends to rule out heavy lead-acid batteries like the ones that power cars, though some electric bikes use them. Lightweight lithium-ion batteries, similar to those used in laptops, cell phones, and MP3 players, are now the most popular choice, although they are more expensive than older rechargeable battery technologies , such as nickel-cadmium ("nicad"). Typical batteries will give your bike a range of 10 to 40 miles between charges (depending on terrain) and a top speed of 10 to 20 mph (which is about the maximum allowed by law in most countries for these vehicles) . You can extend the range by pedaling or freewheeling a few times.
Electric bikes use a motor to help the movement of the pedals, which makes riding a bike less tiring. Some designs allow the bike to move forward under its own power from the motor, while others require your assistance to pedal.
Do not confuse electric bicycles with motorcycles. The electric motor and battery don't last as long as a gasoline engine. However, electric bikes are better for the planet because they do not generate polluting gases when you ride them. They are also a healthier option for you because you will have to use your power to move the bike, which will improve your cardiovascular fitness.
The most common type of motor for electric bikes is called a hub motor. It is usually integrated into the rear or front wheel. When it's hooked, it pulls or pushes the wheel. Although this system works well, it has a key drawback. Since it's not connected to the bike's gears, it loses efficiency on hills and varied terrain. Imagine driving a vehicle in gear all day. It will take you places, but it won't give you the optimum amount of torque or speed that you get with a full range of gears.
Electric bicycle motors come in a wide variety of power ratings, from 200W to 1000W or more. The legal limit in the US is 750 W, although different states may set their own limits. Electric bicycles have three classes in the states that define what an electric bicycle is. Check with your state laws because some places regulate the operation of certain classes of electric bicycles for specific age groups.
Class 1 – These bikes assist the rider while pedaling at speeds up to 20 mph.
Class 2 – These bikes can use a motor only to propel the bike up to speeds of 20 mph.
Class 3: The fastest bikes only provide motorized assistance when the rider pedals, up to 28 mph.
Electric bikes have three main components that set them apart from standard bikes: the battery, the motor with its controller, and the sensor.
Think of this limit as horsepower. A higher rating means the bike will be able to carry more weight more easily, but at the expense of using more battery capacity while doing so. Consequently, a 750W motor will drain the battery much faster than a 250W motor, but it will be more powerful.
The frame of an electric bike also has to be slightly different. The main part of the frame (the part that supports your weight) is usually made from a lightweight aluminum alloy - the lighter the frame, the lighter the weight of the bike overall, and the farther you can travel before you need to recharge the batteries. The spokes on the wheel also have to be stronger than the thin spokes on a traditional bike. This is because the electric motor in the hub spins the wheel with a lot of turning force (known as torque) and, if the spokes were light and common, they could bend or twist.
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