Electric bikes are one of the most exciting, innovative, and disruptive changes to the general cycling industry within the last few decades, but there are still a ton of things that even dedicated, serious cyclists who still ride traditional bicycles don’t know about them. One of the most common questions that we receive about eBikes is whether you can charge the battery with your pedaling. In short, the answer is that while there are a couple of eBikes out there that do pump energy back into the battery while you ride, most eBikes don’t feature the technology just yet. If you would like to know more, here is a general overview of the key facts when it comes to rechargeable pedaling on eBikes:
What is Rechargeable Pedaling?
Rechargeable pedaling is more or less exactly what the name describes: it is a technology that allows you to recharge your eBike battery while you pedal. When you pedal on a bicycle, traditional or not, you are generating kinetic energy to help propel your bike. This kinetic energy has to go somewhere, and there are multiple systems that will help you transfer your energy back into your eBike battery. Regenerative braking is one of the most common means of generating energy while cycling, though due to its complexity we have written a separate article discussing it at this link.
Another common means of recharging from pedaling is through a reverse motor system. With these rechargeable biking systems, the motor doesn’t help propel you but instead acts as a means to convert the kinetic energy created by your pedaling and convert it into electricity that is then reabsorbed by the battery. The battery can then use its electricity to power the motor normally, with the two systems cycling with each other to maximize your range. These types of eBikes will typically extend your range by 10%, and in some cases help you travel an extra 20% farther before your battery is completely depleted.
Both of these systems do offer some performance benefits and extend your range, but neither have taken off yet within the greater eBike industry. The main reason: inefficiency.
Why is Rechargeable Pedaling Inefficient?
On its surface, it seems like you’re just converting kinetic energy into electricity to power the motor. However, the process doesn’t actually start with the motor capturing your pedaling power, but with you yourself propelling the pedals. If you look at the extended process, your chemical energy (in the form of physical activity or calories) has to turn the pedals to generate kinetic energy, which in turn has to be converted by the motor from kinetic energy into electrical energy. With each step of the process, the conversion causes a massive amount of energy to be loss, making the whole process inefficient. The amount of calories you’ll burn is great for losing weight, but from an energy perspective it’s extremely inefficient to transform chemical energy to kinetic energy to electrical energy.
You also have to recognize just how inexpensive and easy to produce electrical energy is when you have a good power source. The average amount of money that you have to spend to fully recharge a brand new battery ranges from .02$ to .05$, an incredibly small amount. Unless you’re trying to burn weight, the calories you’re burning trying to recharge your battery often amounts to $10 dollars worth of food or more. It is over a thousand times more efficient to recharge your battery with a charger than with your pedaling, and that isn’t even factoring the complex machine design work, added weight, and other costs associated with adding an eBike capable of recharging itself while pedaling. As it is now, rechargeable pedaling is so inefficient that, outside of a few eBikes with regenerative braking, it’s extremely rare to find a stock model with rechargeable pedaling out of the box.
Conclusion: Look Forward to eBikes with Rechargeable Pedaling Soon!
However, while eBikes today don’t have extensive rechargeable pedaling systems, we expect to see more eBikes have them in the future. Regenerative braking has been incorporated into more and more eBikes by the year, and as eBike technology improves we anticipate a rechargeable pedaling system to follow a similar trajectory. When it comes to flat out recharging your eBike, plugging it into the wall with the included charger is likely to remain the fastest and least expensive method to charge up your battery. Regenerative pedaling has the potential to help you burn calories and extend your range by 10% to 20% though, which is why some eBike manufacturers are already incorporating the technology into their systems. If you would like to stay up to date on rechargeable pedaling systems, be sure to visit Best Electric Bikes again in the future to stay up to date on this topic and other innovations within the eBike industry!