Electric bikes are no new innovation, but until recently, they were heavy, inefficient, and required massive batteries that almost defeated the purpose of having one in the first place. However, with recent smart-bike and electric motor technology innovations, we see a mass exodus from traditional gas-powered vehicles to e-bikes and e-scooters alike. People are opting to get fit, feel the wind in their hair (or lack thereof) – and unsurprisingly, they’re saving the contents of their wallets in the process.
An electric bike is far from a passion purchase that you’ll be regretting a few months down the line. Purchasing a good-quality e-bike can be a fantastic investment. In this article, we’ll cover the associated costs with running and maintaining an e-bike, how the value of an electric bike compares to other methods of transport, as well as some of the other benefits e-bike riders are likely to see from daily use. Let’s get started.
What makes an electric bike a good investment?
Electric bikes are not only a far cheaper form of transport but also require much less investment in things like insurance, parking, and storage space. While serving the double purpose of saving you money and getting you fit (all while protecting the environment), they seem like a pretty good investment from the get-go. The best bit is – if you look into the average running costs of a car vs an e-bike – you’ll see that they pretty much pay for themselves with regular use.
Cost breakdown: electric bike vs electric car vs gas car
How much does an electric bike cost?
There was a time when electric bikes were pretty hard to come by without spending a significant portion of your paycheck. With increased demand and more affordable green energy, there are far more affordable electric bike options on the market that are a little kinder to the wallet.
With options to cater to both ends of the market, a purpose-built electric bike can cost you anywhere from $500 to $10,000 in 2021. While it might be tempting to spend the bare minimum, we’d recommend setting aside some cash for the best bike you can afford to avoid any unexpected costs down the line.
While an electric car can cut down the energy costs of your yearly commute by over 60%, an electric bike can reduce it to as little as 2% of what you’d spend filling up your tank with the gas each year.
Based on US averages (where gasoline is already pretty affordable), a 100 mile trip at the national average of 25.7 miles per gallon would cost you around 8 dollars based on average 2020 gas prices. An electric car could make the same journey for $3.30, and an electric bike for just 17 cents.
Cost of Gas / Gallon (2020)
Average gas-powered car miles-per-gallon (US) (2020)
KW/h per gallon of gas
Cost per KW/h (average US)
KW/h per mile (average US)
Miles per KW/h
Cost per mile
Cost per 100 miles
Savings from gas
*Based on 2020 US averages. Electric car figures based on Tesla Model 3 Standard Range
One of the great things about an electric bike is that you get many of the same benefits of a powered vehicle without the associated parking costs. Electric bikes have the same basic profile as a standard bicycle, so that you can park them in any public bike rack for free.
Some electric bikes even come with a built-in locking system that makes bike theft pretty difficult, so depending on the e-bike you go for, you may even save money on a bike lock too.
In 2020 the average American spent around $2,388 on car insurance alone. Depending on your local laws, you may not need any insurance at all for an electric bike, and even if you do, it’s unlikely to match the hefty premiums you’d see for a car.
While insurance may or may not be mandatory in your area, we still recommend setting aside a little budget to insure your e-bike against any unexpected damage, breakdown, or theft. It’s a small price to pay for your peace of mind.
For a full breakdown of the costs involved in owning an electric bike, check out our article: How much do electric bikes cost.
What types of electric bikes are there?
With the emergence of the e-bike market over recent years, countless different designs and use-cases have been developed for the technology. You can find electric bikes covering everything from everyday commutes to adventure and mountain-biking to compact folding city-commuters. We have a whole article on the different types of electric bikes available, but below are the three main types.
Pedal-assist electric bikes
As the name suggests, a pedal-assist electric bike (sometimes known as a ‘pedelec‘ bike) is an e-bike that uses an electric battery to ‘assist’ the rider by increasing the kinetic output (and therefore speed) of a bike as you pedal. Pedelecs are the most common type of e-bike on the market and are suitable for most short-to-medium distance commuters.
Throttle-controlled electric bikes
Throttle-controlled electric bikes work more like a typical motorbike or moped, with acceleration dictated by a standard throttle on the handlebars. Unlike their pedal-assisted cousins, throttle-controlled electric bikes do not require the bike’s pedals to be moving for the electric motor to kick in. Many don’t have any pedals at all.
e-Bike conversion kits
While not a type of e-bike specifically, e-bike conversion kits are a cost-efficient way to convert your existing bicycle into an electric bike. They usually come in the form of a compact battery and motor kit that attaches to a standard bicycle frame and must be hooked up to power the wheels like a typical pedal-assisted e-bike would.
While conversion kits might seem like the easiest option, be aware that standard bicycles are not built with this technology in mind, so they will not perform as well. A custom-built electric bike would (and won’t offer all of the same benefits either).
Health benefits of an electric bike
While they might not be as intense of a workout as a standard bicycle, having an electric bike brings more accessibility to cycling and could lead to a healthier overall lifestyle. Knowing that you have a backup power source to assist when you get tired means you’re more likely to take your bike out in the first place. In any case, power-assisted cycling is better for your heart and health than commuting by car every day (and better for the environment too!)
Typical range of an electric bike
Most electric bikes will be able to take you anywhere from 50-200 miles on a single charge, so unless you’re travelling several hundred miles a day, there’s likely to be a bike that will suit your needs. Just make sure to check that the bike you purchase has a range that’s sufficient for the journeys you intend to do.
The great thing is that even if you do run out of charge, you can be your own battery. A standard pedal-assisted electric bike functions just like a normal bike would if the battery does ever run flat, so you won’t be stuck on the side of the road like you would with a gas or electric car—no more hefty highway maintenance bills.
Generally speaking, a good-quality e-bike will have no problem running you to and from work on a typical commute. Still, if you’re planning on going on long journeys without the ability to charge up between stops, a spare battery can be a great investment.
It goes without saying that having an e-bike that’s able to go faster than your typical push-bike means you’ll be introducing a slightly higher level of danger. With that being said, we recommend investing in a high-quality helmet to keep your noggin in ship-shape condition in the event of an accident. We’d suggest taking a look at helmets with built-in lights to increase your visibility if you ever intend on travelling at night-time.
If you’ve got a flawless sense of direction, this one might not be for you. However, a phone mount that can be attached to your e-bike’s handlebars is a great accessory if you ever need to navigate unfamiliar roads and wish to use your smartphone as a SatNav.
In most cases, electric bikes are designed in a way that takes up no more space than your typical bicycle. This means you don’t need much in the form of storage space to keep one at your home or workplace.
There are also plenty of options on the market today in the way of foldable or collapsible electric bikes, so you can often get by with just a few square feet of storage – great news if you’re cooped up in a compact, inner-city apartment.
Is it worth buying an electric bike?
When it comes down to it, there are very few downsides to investing in an electric bike. While it may not have the same top speed or storage capacity as your typical SUV (here’s a comparison on how travel times compare), nothing is stopping you from keeping your car for the journeys where you need it most – you’d still be saving a ton on commuting costs each year.
Not only are electric bikes substantially cheaper to run and maintain than your standard car, but they’re the perfect excuse to get in shape on your daily commute. They require very little storage space and can be parked up for free in most public bike racks, and most importantly – they’re good for the environment!
If you’re asking yourself, ‘Should I buy an electric bike,’ and you have a little bit of available seed money to spend up-front, we’re confident that you’ll see it pay for itself in no time with regular use. With increased market demand over the last few years, you can get a lot of bang for your buck.
Advantages of buying an electric bike
- Cheaper to run than a gas or electric car, motorbike, or scooter
- Limited storage space required
- Better for your health than commuting by bus, car, or train
- Good for the environment
- Get a workout on your commute
- Easy to find parking (and no parking fees)