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E-Bike Buying 101: Why Batteries are the #1 Problem With E-Bike Bargain Shopping

Updated: Dec 22, 2022



Remember those 2-wheel hoverboards that all the kids were riding around a few years ago? One cost $450, and another cheaper version was around $250 at retail stores.



After a couple of years sales really took off, and all the kids had them. But sadly, reports of cheap batteries causing garage fires spread all over the news. After that rumor made the rounds, parents across the country took a hard stand with their kids when they asked for a hoverboard. They were right. The truth is that cheap batteries leak, overheat, and catch on fire. Especially when paired with a poorly made electric motor.


So as a smart shopper, you may decide that finding the lowest-priced e-bike is a good idea. That concept works well with some purchases, but in today’s e-bike space, the use of low-quality batteries is a huge problem. It’s become the elephant in the room that nobody in our industry likes to admit. The batteries make up one-third the cost of manufacturing an e-bike, so certain direct-to-customer manufacturers cut corners at your safety’s expense.


Before you commit, read on to discover why better batteries play such an important role in shopping for the right e-bike. We’ll also give you some tips on how to tell the difference in quality between e-bike makers.


Why is it All About the Batteries?

As we mentioned, an e-bike battery pack is the first thing some companies scrimp on to increase profits. Sadly, our country does not enforce e-bike manufacturing safety guidelines. With the recent popularity of e-bikes, there are countless poor-quality products out there that are aggressively marketed online. This is mainly initiated in countries outside the US. I’ve noticed that, like in the case of defective hoverboards, as soon as a company’s reputation is soiled, the owners simply close down that business and start another one with a new name.


Don’t get me wrong, China has a history of being a premier bicycle-making country. But not all Chinese manufacturers are alike. At the same time, the onset of selling directly to customers online has created a huge opportunity for some companies to sell sub-par e-bikes with batteries that melt, leak, and perform poorly in both range and charge.


What Makes a Battery Good?


Good batteries come from good battery cell companies and, yes, they cost e-bike companies more to use. Being an e-bike insider, I can tell you that high-quality batteries always have excellent metal casings and have been tested and proven to not leak. Another quality they have is longevity. Cheaper battery cells don’t last as long. Believe me, you don’t want to have to replace your battery pack after a year of use. And that’s if you could find one from that low-quality e-bike manufacturer. Good luck getting someone on the phone to arrange a battery swap.



Another thing to look for is the battery range – or miles per listed amp hour. A 20-amp hour battery is best. Remember, your overall range (or distance per charge) is also based on rider weight, tire choice, and even wind, so starting with a high amp battery is important.


Which Batteries are Best?




First, because battery-powered production is still new, some e-bike companies fall victim to the lithium trap. That’s when marketing pitches from lithium-ion battery suppliers try to sell cheaper batteries while promising the same high quality as more expensive battery brands. In truth, these batteries cannot perform at the promised ratings for long periods of time; instead, they have a higher failure rate.


So, in the current e-bike marketplace, Samsung, Panasonic, and LG are the three battery brands that dominate the market and should be sought after. Of the three, LG batteries are the least expensive but have equal claimed capacity. The only drawback is that although its capacity and high ratings are equal, LG batteries provide 10% less range than Samsung and Panasonic.


Beyond Batteries: How to Spot a Great E-Bike Company


Like many other purchases, you want to buy products from a well-established company that has a good reputation for quality. This is especially true of transportation products. One way you can assess a company is to simply check their user comments. Look for how many years its owners have had their e-bikes and how many miles they have put on them. Also, read about the rider’s experience with customer service or problems they’ve encountered.


Remember the hoverboard fiasco? It’s a cautionary tale that easily applies to the innovative industry of e-bikes which is growing by leaps and bounds right now. In all the excitement of becoming an e-bike owner, don’t let yourself become the victim of this cheap battery scam. Instead, find a reputable product you can trust. Yes, price matters, but e-bike quality is directly related to how many years the bike will work. So, striking a balance between quality, safety, and comfort is the formula for finding the best e-bike for you.


Happy e-bike shopping!


 

JP Blake is co-founder and CEO of E-Lux Electric Bikes, founded in 2014 in Fountain Valley, California. As an electric bike industry pioneer and overseas manufacturing expert, JP has logged several years from China to Thailand, co-creating luxury e-bikes for the US market. JP has contributed his insider perspective to local government projects including bike lane expansion on the coast of Huntington Beach and aiding the OC Transportation Authority in the development of bicycle and e-bike trails.


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