Step out onto the streets of pretty much any Chinese city, and you'll instantly have to skillfully dodge a swarm of e-bikes silently whooshing past, often laden with goods and family members. The popularity of these noiseless, although horn-happy, two-wheelers, may have stemmed from the associated financial and environmental benefits, but by joining the masses and buying an e-bike you will also gain the freedom to explore the city at your leisure. And it's as easy as buying a pair of shoes—there are many different styles available for varying purposes, and in most cities you need only visit your local supermarket to find them.
So what exactly is an e-bike? As the name suggests, it's the electric-powered bike that's sort of a cross between a foot-powered bicycle and a gasoline-powered motorcycle. Broadly speaking, there are two types of e-bikes. Bicycle style electric bikes (BSEB) look similar to traditional bicycles and have pedals, while scooter style electric bikes (SSEB) generally don't have pedals and look similar to traditional scooters (e.g. headlights, speedometer etc.). Of course, as e-bikes have risen in popularity in China, companies have responded by releasing a very large range of electric-powered styles that fit somewhere in between these two, such as folding bikes, mountain bikes, tricycles, tandems, choppers, unicycles and even electric mini farthings (such as the YikeBike).
Things to consider before buying
When purchasing an e-bike the main aspects to consider will be the battery, the motor, and most likely the price.
How far you can travel on a single battery charge (without regard to your body size, terrain, tire pressure etc.) is based on voltage (V) and Amp Hours (AH) of the battery. In general, BSEBs have a 36V (sometimes 24V), 10AH battery, with the added advantage of peddling if the battery runs out before you make it to your destination. SSEBs, on the other hand, tend to have a larger 48V, 20AH battery but are peddle-less, which means if your battery dies, you're likely pushing it home. The larger battery equates to greater performance (acceleration, speed, capacity to go up hills), but this will deplete the battery more quickly, so both styles have an approximate 30-60 km range.
If you have to carry the batteries up several flights of stairs to charge them (check for power points in the basement), then you'll need to consider the battery weight. 95% of batteries produced are lead-acid, the lead content of which accounts for 70% of the battery weight (e.g. 48V lead-acid battery weighs about 18 kg). The usual life span of lead-acid batteries is 1-2 years or 10,000 km, after which you can trade in the old battery, saving money. Charging times range from 4-10 hours. Keep in mind that in colder weather the battery will run down more quickly, thus requiring more frequent recharging.
2) Engine size
As with the batteries, engine size is also larger for SSEBs: 300-500W (with some brands even reaching1000W). This equates to top speeds of 30-40 km per hour. Meanwhile, BSEB engines are considerably smaller at 250-350W and can only attain top speeds of 20-30 km per hour. Unfortunately, peddling at the same time won't make you go any faster, nor will it charge the battery.
How much you pay for your e-bike largely depends on where you buy and if/how much you can bargain on the price, as well as what style of bike you choose. In general, expect to pay between 1,500-2,000 RMB for BSEBs and 2,000-3,500 RMB for SSEBs. Bikes with 64V or 80V are usually at the expensive end of the scale.
Where to buy your e-bike
Perhaps the most trustworthy places to purchase an e-bike are the large chain supermarkets such as Auchan, Carrefour, Wal-Mart etc. These megastores will help you to register your bike—a process involving taking the license plates, purchase documents, your passport, and the 10 RMB fee to the area's registration office. The disadvantage of buying from a supermarket is that you won't be able to bargain down the price, although there's no harm in trying and I've heard stories of some people managing to get discount vouchers. Also, it may be a little trickier to go back and get repairs done if something goes wrong.
Alternatively, you could visit one of your city's numerous locally owned electric bike stores, which you're all but guaranteed to find through a quick web search or by walking around a populated neighborhood for a few minutes. These stores tend to have a larger range of styles and although prices are not clearly labeled, there is a greater possibility that the dealer will be willing to bargain. Local shops also tend to have small repair workshops on the side. The registration process should be the same, or alternatively, you can register the number plates yourself at the local police station.
Overall, what you decide to buy will be dependent on many different factors, such as how far you want to travel, if you are carrying a pillion (the seat for a passenger behind the driver) and if are you worried about the battery dying. Here are a few parting pieces of practical advice when buying an e-bike:
-Research the style/brand of bike you want first.
-Try before you buy. Take as many bikes out for a test ride as possible.
-Check what accessories are included, such as a bicycle lock, rain cover etc.
-If the bike doesn't look legal, check it on the list of approved bikes at your nearest police station.
-Always keep an eye out for roadside charging units. These cost around 1 RMB per hour and can give you roughly 30 minutes of power per charge.
-Most importantly, once you are out on the road: be aware, use the horn (to alert pedestrians and other vehicles), and ride safely.
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Keywords: e-bike buyer’s guide China shopping for electric bike China ebike tips China
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22 Comments Add your comment
Why the hell would anyone want to buy one? Obviously there are the environmental benefits and non-existent fuel costs but if you ride one round the main roads of Shenzhen I'll be impressed if one is still alive after a week. Some of the drivin here is more akin to a NASCAR race and the biggest vehicle always wins, so on an e-bike you're shafted for sure!
Nov 15, 2012 08:29 Report Abuse
Well electricity is not free, and it comes from a power plant. The energy to power the bike has been produced elswhere, not directly by the bike. It has been displaced that is all. And there are not only evironmental issues from non renewable energy but also so called " green energy" the laws of physics have not changed you can not produce energy withoout an effect . You dond get something for nothing.
Nov 17, 2012 18:27 Report Abuse
The is not free lunch, But.
The economic cost and environmental effects of generating energy centrally are much lower than generating energy in small IC engines.
That is even before we consider that electricity is more efficient means of transferring energy.
As China shifts to cleaner electricity generation these benefits will further improve.
Nov 17, 2012 22:59 Report Abuse
Do you have data to back up your statement ?
Vast amounts of electricity are lost during transport. I think you will find the IC engine is far more efficient when one considers the vast amounts of energy that are lost in the production of electricity and the transportation of electricity.
Nov 18, 2012 19:38 Report Abuse
agj, he doesn't need to provide data to back up his statement because it's common knowledge to electrical engineers and physics majors.
Vast amounts of energy is *NOT* lost during transport.
This is because China, like the overwhelming majority of countries.. Runs high voltage Alternating Current lines for the transport of power. Just take a class in electrical engineering or a high level physics class and you'll learn why using very high voltage AC for transport can be done with almost no power loss. The only tiny tiny amount of power that is lost is done when the power is stepped down to local areas / residences and that power loss is so small it's almost impossible to measure.
This still puts electrical sources from major power plants as *FAR* more efficient than gasoline engines in motorcycles or cars regardless of what the major power plants get their energy from. Electrical power plants use the *HEAT* as well from the power source while in a gas car or motorcycle, this heat is just wasted and released into the atmosphere.
Unless you've modified your car or motorcycle to take the heat from the engine to boil water, and then use that steam pressure to turn a turbine that then powers a generator to turn that heat back into electricity.. You're going to find there is no way in hell your car or motorcycle is anywhere near as efficient as industrial power plant.
The only thing that electrical vehicles have against them is that the power lost while charging / discharging batteries is rather significant (~5%). Power is lost in the release of heat during charge / discharge. However, it is nowhere NEAR the amount of power lost to heat in a gas engine in a motorcycle or car.. So once again, ebikes wins..
Then you've got the lead-acid batteries.. Which are 99.99% recyclable as well, so nothing lost there.. Yup, ebikes are a clear winner.
I've read about some of the Chinese people protest against ebikes. That's all craziness. If Chinese had any senses they would *ALL* buy ebikes and electric vehicles.. China is very far ahead of the USA when it comes to ebikes and electric motors.. If I want to buy an ebike in the USA it would cost me about $5500USD from Zero Motorcycles.
Nov 29, 2012 11:25 Report Abuse
I spent a couple of days investigating the purchase of an E-bike or small scooter but having experienced and witnessed the driving here (and I use the term 'driving' loosely) it's just too dangerous an option. I have enough problems on a conventional bicycle. By the way, none of the motor bike shops I visited sold helmets - somewhat of an indictment on the safety aspect of bike riding!
Nov 15, 2012 16:02 Report Abuse
i have used ebikes that i purchase from teachers leaving to go back home, i usually sell them later for same price to someone else coming in but i would only ride one around a university campus
as a foreigner here you will always be a fault and perceived as daddy warbucks, he with the biggest vehicle and wallet pays here, nobody cares who is at fault, if a drunk falls off the edge of a curb and you hit him on an ebike ,you pay,
have enough problems here without dealing with people who drive like they walk.
Nov 15, 2012 18:46 Report Abuse
I am not sure that the 60v and above machines are legal as ebikes. They may have been reclassified, but I thought they were always illegal.
You must have a fapio to prove ownership for registration.
If you buy a second hand bike you must get the fapio from the original sale to the first owner, otherwise you cannot prove ownership.
If you buy a bike keep the fapio, otherwise you will have difficulty selling it on.
Nov 15, 2012 18:57 Report Abuse
I would add test the breaks and lights. The use the old style drum breaks which are very slow to stop. Many ebike riders don't use their lights at night because they are afraid the battery will run down quicker. Always use the lights and add a battery operated light used for bikes as well so you can be seen. They could be much safer with disc breaks, better lights, helmets, and driving laws.
Nov 17, 2012 18:35 Report Abuse
E-bikes are very good and welcomed by users, and in the future a user can change battery to a high capacity one freely like the mobile-phone batteries. So set your heart at rest to use it, by the way please choose a Chinese brand for it's cheaper and better served in China.
Nov 27, 2012 23:39 Report Abuse
I wouldn't recommend buying a Chinese brand battery...
However, replacing a Lead-acid battery with an LiFePo battery is a very good idea. The only problem with it is the battery is going to cost more than the ebike. The LiFePo battery can store about 3x-4x as much power as the lead-acid batteries and is also much lighter. However, it will cost more than the entire ebike, sometimes even several times the cost of the ebike. It will be good for about 3000 recharges while the typical lead-acid battery that comes with most ebikes is only good for about 200 full recharges..
Always remember to recycle your rechargeable batteries! Don't throw them away as they are very toxic and can poison people for hundreds of years! This is also true for mobile phone and laptop batteries, take them to a mobile phone company for disposal or take them to Hong Kong and put them in the battery recycle bins.
Nov 29, 2012 11:05 Report Abuse
I would add this: 1. Brakes are crucial - make sure both rear and front have disc brakes. Drum brakes wear quickly and aren't so easy to replace. 2: Size matters - make sure you fit the bike and the bike fits your needs and location. Big flashy bikes look good and go fast but in poor cities are quickly targeted. Bigger bikes can be hard to park in very congested urban areas and will be scratched and dented by clumsy locals not to mention being harder to control if you are inexperienced. 3. Money matters: don't spend more than 4,000 on a bike. Like most things made here, they fall apart easily and the most essential parts will need replacing within 9-12 months. If you are a complete newbie you can pick up second hand/ refurbished/ stolen and repainted ebikes in various areas of your city - often besides ebike markets or from expats. I don't suggest a second hand bike because the parts might be pretty much shot within a few months but they are a good way to learn to ride and can be a good short term investment if you are new to China and unsure how long you might stay. 4.Battery. Bigger batteries mean more power but they take longer to charge and being lead dont hold as much charge in winter. Lithium batteries are more portable and longer lasting but are more expensive and there has been a spate of fires from over charging (at least in HZ where i live). 5. Riding. If you are clueless then just follow everyone else. If you are unsure of the route to work or back home then follow a bus or alternatively use your map app. Whatever you do, keep your eyes on the road at all times and drive defensively. That means anticipate accidents and trouble spots and never expect a local to ride logically - just expect the unexpected and you will be fine. Cheers.
Jun 14, 2017 16:52 Report Abuse
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