Electric Bicycle vs. Motorized Bike: The Real Difference

There’s one question we get a lot: are our products an electric bike or a “motorized bike,” and what exactly is the difference?

At EVELO, our amazing bicycles are first and foremost just that - bikes. They just happen to have a battery and electric motor added on to their bikes frames that gives riders some added flexibility with how long and how far they can ride. So let’s take a look at exactly what that means, and how these products differ from a motorized bike.

Use Your Eye First

A good electric bicycle should look just like any old bike - say the kind you used to ride as a kid. In fact, top of the line ebikes like EVELO’s are nearly indistinguishable from a non-electric bicycle. That is to say, an electric bike starts with all the general components that make up a bicycle: pedals, gears, shifters, a chain drive, and of course a bicycle frame (usually steel, aluminum, or if you’re a big spender: carbon fiber.) Then, you add the “electric” part of the setup, in the form of a battery. Typical batteries offer between 250 and 500 watts, meaning they put out about 20 to 50 volts and 10 to 12 amps. Top brands like EVELO use lithium batteries, meaning they last longer and charge faster than older, heavy lead-acid batteries. Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 1.35.19 PM An electric bike Now that you have a battery, it has to power something: the bike’s motor. In a more old-fashioned and low-cost setup, the motor is on the rear, with what may be known as a “rear hub” setup. Power flows from the battery to the rear motor, which then directly spins the wheel. This gives the rider the sensation of being “pushed.” More advanced electric bicycles employ what is known as a “mid-drive” motor. Here, the motor sits in the middle of the bike, engaging the bike’s drivetrain. This is similar to how a rider would naturally pedal their bike, with the power they generate then being sent along their chain to spin the back wheel. This is crucial as it means that the motor interacts with your bike’s gearing the same way you would, making hill climbs more efficient for both your legs and your battery if the bike is in a low gear. This also emphasizes how an electric bicycle really is a bike at heart, the battery and motor are operating the machine the same way the rider does.

Motorized Bike, Motorized Trouble

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 1.35.28 PM A motorized bike - source Wikipedia So now that we know what an electric bike is, let’s learn a bit more about motorized bicycles, so we can compare them. Despite the similar names, these contraptions are anything but comparable; in fact, the name can be downright deceptive. It might be best to think of motorized bikes almost as a light motorcycle, scooter, or moped. While some are electric, others might still be gasoline / internal combustion powered. And while most have what resemble pedals, you can think of those as almost decorative. After all, these vehicles can weight hundreds of pounds, so there’s no way you could comfortably power this thing with your feet. In fact, there’s almost nothing “comfortable” about one of these to someone expecting to ride a bike. With some machines weighing hundreds of pounds and a hot gasoline engine between your legs, these vehicles are hardly bicycles at all. In fact, certain states regulate them the same way as a motorcycle - requiring you to get a special permit to ride one. The “pedals” may try to fool you into thinking this is a bike, but you can’t trick your local government - think twice if you’re expecting a “motorized bike” to be an actual, pedalable bicycle.

The Differences

Electric Bicycle Motorized “Bicycle”
Weight 40-60 pounds 100 pounds or more
Pedalability Very easy Very difficult
Power source Electric Gasoline or Electric
Legality No license required License varies by state
Comfort High Low
Looking for an electric bicycle? Consider checking out an EVELO!