Electric cargo bike Tips
Electric cargo bike Tips
An electric cargo bike or cargo e-bike combines the best of the two-wheeled world. This is a larger gear-traction bike with a motor. So you can load it up with kids or groceries and still be able to hit the hills on your way home.
Cargo bikes are very popular in bike-friendly countries like Denmark. Their popularity in the United States is growing rapidly.
Electric cargo bike Buyer’s Guide
MSRP: Electric bikes are an expensive addition to your bike garage, and electric cargo bikes are often even more so. We’ll explain pricing in more detail below, but expect to spend $2,500 to $5,500 on a cargo e-bike that will last a long time.
Battery life: See below for a more in-depth look at what the battery specs mean, but a higher Wh (watt-hour) rating means more capacity and longer runtime. They should be rated for over 900 charge cycles.
Weight: Don’t expect to find many cargo e-bikes under 70 pounds. Most are in the 60 to 80 lb range because the motor is heavy and the frame needs to be heavier to accommodate the higher speeds and demands on them. But luckily, with electronic assistance, weight is no longer an issue, and they don’t ride “heavy”.
Components: While you don’t need the fanciest components, the mid-range is often the best option. Avoid nameless components as much as possible, especially the drivetrain and braking system. Some parts like tires, saddle or handlebar are easy to replace, but a complete drivetrain can easily cost $1,500 to upgrade. Spend now and save later.
Gearing: If you live in a hilly area, make sure its gearing is low enough so that you can maintain a good 80-90 cadence on steep hills, because even with the motor, if you grind your teeth on a slope will be difficult. Very low cadence too hard gear.
What are you carrying? If you’re more focused on transporting your kids to and from school, a bike with kid-friendly seating options rather than a large cargo area might be ideal.
Extras: Look for items like e-bike and battery locks, built-in lights, pre-installed racks, and full fenders. These shouldn’t dictate your bike choice, but all the good accessories that can easily add hundreds of dollars to your bike shop bill afterwards, so if a bike comes with any accessories, that’s also a factor in cost.
Frequently Asked Questions About Electric cargo bikes
What is an electric bike?
An e-bike (aka e-bike, e-bike, cargo e-bike, e-cargo bike, etc.) looks like a regular bicycle at first glance, but it has an electric motor that powers you. You still have some work to do, but the motor can get you to higher speeds, help you go uphill, and in the case of a cargo bike, help you carry a lot of gear.
Do I need a cargo bike?
Think about how you will actually use the bike. If you’re just commuting to get off work or school, you might also want to consider getting a commuter e-bike with room for a rear rack and skirt.
If you want to run all your errands on it, take your kids to school, or take your friends or others for a ride, you’ll want a cargo bike. Here’s why: they’re designed to carry weight, and the gearing is better for hauling heavy loads. When you didn’t carry all of them? They also work just as well as regular bikes, just a bit bigger.
What styles of cargo e-bikes are available?
Cargo e-bikes are usually front-loaded or rear-loaded. Rear-loaded cargo e-bikes may have attachments to put the basket in the front for more storage space, but usually most of the cargo will be in the back, usually distributed across the rear wheel and the track resting on the rear wheel .
Front-loading cargo e-bikes are generally larger and longer than rear-loading bikes. Surprisingly many people still only use two wheels (like the Riese & Müller model shown above), which some people like but can be a little tricky to ride – they are super long which makes slow handling a bit Unstable, especially when loaded down.
And, unlike trikes, you have to make sure you balance and support the load when you stop. Most of us prefer a front three-wheeler or rear loader to a rotisserie, but if you have more capacity in a streamlined shape, these two-wheeled front cargo bikes are worth a demo.
What is the MSRP range for electric cargo bikes?
Expect to spend $3,500 to $5,500 on a decent cargo e-bike with a name-brand battery and motor and name-brand components. This usually gives you quality components and branded parts.
Some models, like our budget option above, use low-end components and mechanical disc brakes instead of hydraulic disc brakes. They also usually use cheaper batteries from in-wheel motors to keep prices down. While these options may be fine for most riders, if you plan to use a cargo e-bike instead of a car, keep in mind that an e-bike is similar to a car – you get what you pay for.
What are the categories of electric bikes?
Electric bikes are classified into Class 1 (up to 20 mph) and Class 3 (up to 28 mph), governed by the top speed they can reach with electric assist.
Don’t worry, if you’re going downhill and your bike is going over 20 or 28 mph, the brakes won’t automatically engage to slow you down!
All of these cargo bikes are Class 1, in part because hitting the 28 MPH requirement under hundreds of pounds of load is challenging for a small motor. But that’s also because in Europe, only Class 1 e-bikes are allowed, and many cargo bikes are primarily sold in Europe, so it makes sense for manufacturers to stick with Class 1 globally. There is a Class 2 category for bikes that have a throttle and don’t require you to pedal, but you don’t usually find these on cargo e-bikes.
What are the pros and cons of in-wheel motors vs. integrated frame motors?
We prefer integrated frame motors (aka “middle motors”) because they use torque sensors to adjust power output based on how hard you pedal. This gives them easy access to power when you start, providing a smoother ride, more help when you need it, and less help when you don’t. Intermediate motor systems are usually more advanced and come with better batteries and software, but they are more expensive.
The hub motor – the motor hidden in the hub of the rear wheel – uses cadence to control the amount of electronic assist you get. This means that as soon as you start pedalling, they start assisting with full force. The middle motor senses your effort and adjusts accordingly, while the hub motor relies on you to adjust the amount of assist using the +/- buttons on the handlebar.
The hub motors feel like they’re pushing you out of the gate, which is fun (sometimes), but also a little disconcerting if you’re trying to navigate a busy parking lot slowly. They also usually use less sophisticated electronics and batteries, which is why they are usually much cheaper. This doesn’t make them bad, it’s just not as good as a mid-motion system.
What do the battery and motor specs mean?
We know that looking at e-bike battery specs is enough to dazzle engineers. But here are some basics to help you understand the numbers.
Ampere: Ampere is a measure of current, also known as flow. This is the energy transferred through the system.
VOLTS/VOLTAGE: Volts are what move amps through the system. The higher the voltage, the more energy can be moved, or the faster it can be moved. Higher voltage systems can send more energy through the circuit to the motor. 36V batteries are common, but some high-performance bikes use 48V batteries. In general, a higher voltage system will provide more torque for quicker starts, but it will drain your battery faster.
WATTS: Watts, the unit most cyclists know best, is Volts x Amps. If you have a 10Amp 36Volt battery, it is capable of producing 360 watts. This is the true measure of the power that matters to an e-bike.
Ampere Hours (Ah): Ampere Hours (Ah) indicate how much capacity your battery has. A 14Ah 36V battery will provide 14 amps at about 36 volts for one hour. or 7 amps for 2 hours, etc.
Watt Hours (Wh): This is one of the most common battery specifications, probably because cyclists understand watts easily, as we use them to measure our own power output. A watt-hour refers to the number of watts that can be delivered in an hour. Using the 14Ah 48V example above, you’d have a 672Wh battery. If you pair it with a 700W motor and run it uninterrupted at the highest level of auxiliary output, you’ll get less than an hour of use. If you run it on a lower setting, e.g. using only about half the motor capacity (336W), you’ll get about 2 hours of usage, and so on.
takeout? Some models offer different battery sizes on the same model, or even dual battery setups. Buy the largest battery you can afford, and you’ll spend less time charging it and less range anxiety.
How much range do I need?
It depends somewhat on the bike and how you’re going to use it. While a bike might only have 400Wh compared to the 700+Wh of many other bikes, if you only ride 5 miles to and from get off work, that’s more than enough to get you back and forth at max output the entire time, even if you’re using it. So you might want to make a list of how you want to use your bike (when and how far, and where to charge the battery) when making your decision.
In terms of battery life, most batteries will claim they can hold up to 900 charges before needing to be replaced – for most people, that means the bike itself will probably be replaced before the battery.
Why do some cargo bikes use different sized wheels front and rear?
Some cargo bikes use wheels of different sizes to accommodate racks and cargo space. Rear loaders often have smaller rear wheels to keep weight low for improved handling. The larger front wheel also rolls more easily and smoothly over bumps and potholes, and it steers more like a regular bike.
Front loaders use a smaller front wheel for the same reason, but some of us found it made the bike significantly less stable, especially for taller riders. Most trike-style bikes will use two smaller wheels on either side of the cargo box and one larger wheel on the other end.
Are there any maintenance considerations I should keep in mind for electric bikes?
really. Remember, an e-bike is actually two things: an electric motor and a bicycle. Most people tend to assume that since it’s motorized, it’s more like a car or moped. But in reality, basic daily and weekly maintenance is important. Make sure you often:
Wipe it down: Avoid hose-spraying the motor, but you should wash the entire bike regularly, especially if it’s been sprayed with salt during the winter commute.
Check tire pressure: Before each ride, use your thumb to check if the tire still feels firm, and fill up the tire with a floor pump at least every few rides. If you’re carrying heavy loads, you’ll need to pump the tires higher… We kept the Yuba’s rear tire pressure at 50psi to avoid blowouts. (Here’s a list of our favorite floor pumps)
Charge the battery: Depending on your battery life and ride time, you may need to charge every ride, every other ride, or once a week. Set up an easy-to-use charging station so you don’t lose power mid-work.
Cleaning the Chains: Since e-bike chains don’t have quick links, this means they are more difficult to get on and off the bike for cleaning or replacement. Clean your chain frequently and avoid expensive replacements on a regular basis.
Lubricate the chain: Many cargo bikes have long chains, which means they have more room to wipe grease off the pant legs. So keeping the chain clean and lightly lubricated is ideal, and we prefer premium wax lubes that last longer. Wet lube can get super messy, super fast and probably not necessary unless you ride in the rain a lot. (Check out our list of our favorite chain lubes here.)
Overhaul: Once a year, take your bike to your local bike shop for an overhaul. You may need to replace your brake pads and cables every year, maybe more if you ride a lot. Remember that because you can run faster and carry more weight, your bike will experience more wear and tear.
If you are looking for a new way of commuting or want a healthier lifestyle, we are here to help you. Visit our website to learn more about electric bikes and electric scooter or please leave information to us.