Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Electric Bike Maintenance Cost (Explained)

Electric bikes offer many advantages, including environmental friendliness, high speed, and fewer parking challenges at a low upfront cost. However, apart from the comparatively low initial purchase price as compared to a car, most people would love to know whether the running costs of e-bikes are affordable.

Electric bike maintenance costs include battery charging, battery replacement, motor repair and replacement, controller maintenance, and mechanical costs. The maintenance costs vary greatly depending on location, mileage, the type of e-bike, and how you ride your bicycle. 

In general, average annual costs for basic maintenance from a professional bike shop are as follows:

  • Tune-up: $75-$200
  • Flat tire repair: $10-$20
  • New tire tube: $5-$9
  • Drivetrain adjustment: $20-$60
  • Brake pads and maintenance: $40-$80 per set

Additionally, there are several unforeseen costs of replacing or repairing major components such as the battery, motor, sensors, or controller.

Thus, in the rest of the article, I’ll explain in detail the different maintenance costs of e-bikes. And I’ll also give you some valuable tips for lowering these costs.

Maintaining e-bike chain

Breakdown of E-Bike Maintenance Costs

There’s no one set cost of maintaining electric bikes since everyone uses them differently… and each electric bicycle is different. However, there are particular upkeep and maintenance practices that every e-bike owner has to consider when calculating a regular maintenance budget. 

So, let’s take a close look at the regular maintenance and upkeep costs necessary for every electric bike owner: 

Battery Charging Costs

Battery charging costs vary greatly depending on the electricity cost per kWh (kilowatt hours) in your location and your e-bike’s power needs. 

If you know the individual values for your electric bike and power cost, you can use the formula:

  • (kWh) x (the decimal value of the  battery charging efficiency) x (the cost of your electricity per hour)

So, let’s look at an example using the average values for these figures. On average, an e-bike’s charging efficiency is at 95%, the average cost of electricity per kWh is 10.42 cents, and your e-bike battery rating is 1kWh. 

Also, assuming you would like to ride for one hour, the average charging cost will be 1kWh*0.95*10.42cents = $0.10. So, that means that it will cost you about 10 cents for every hour you charge the battery. The charging price will vary from the $0.10 average but usually not by much.  

Generally, the 1kWh power consumption can power electric bikes for about 62 miles (~100km). Therefore, we can also represent the cost as 10 cents per 62 miles or 100km. 

Discover the most important battery charging tips!

E-Bike Battery and Motor
The battery and motor are some of the most important mechanical components of electric bikes.

Battery Replacement Costs

Like all other batteries, your electric bike batteries will degrade over time and experience more significant voltage drops and less range on one charge.

The best electric bike companies use lithium-ion batteries during manufacture. Therefore, the number of charge cycles they can undergo before they need replacement is the same as that of lithium batteries. 

E-bike battery life is typically a minimum of 500 charge cycles. Still, most of the time, you can stretch the charging cycles to 1000 on a lithium battery before battery wear is so severe that it urgently needs replacement. How long it lasts is also dependent upon how often you charge your e-bike battery.

A new battery for electric bikes ranges from $500 to $900 for a 500 Wh battery pack, though smaller batteries will be cheaper. You will need to replace your battery every 2 to 4 years, depending on how much you use it and how many charge cycles it undergoes during the time. Make sure you swap it out with an interchangeable battery.

When it’s close to its end of life (EOL), you may want to get a new second battery and start taking it with you as a backup. That way, you won’t get stuck far from home without any charge

Find out how to rebuild your e-bike battery, insead of replacing it!

Motor Repair and Replacement Costs

Electric bike motors typically last a long time, being very durable and resilient. You probably won’t ever have to replace yours. However, things happen, and there might be an issue down the road. 

Therefore, if you suspect a motor issue, it’s advisable to troubleshoot the problem carefully before replacing it. Most of the time, the problem isn’t the motor but instead the gears, and you could replace them and leave the motor untouched.

The most common hub motor problem that e-bike owners have to solve is a loud, unpleasant, grinding noise. The usual causes include old and worn-out gears and brakes that need replacement. 

On rare occasions, bearing issues and loose bolts could be the causes of the noise. You could replace the old parts, tighten the bolts, or lubricate the bearings to solve the problem. 

Another common hub motor problem in electric bikes is their failure to spin, usually because of a connection problem in the controller. To solve this problem, you have to repair the connection issue. 

Some problems, however, will warrant a motor replacement. Replacing an electric bike motor will cost you $150 to $200. You can conduct a few minor repairs at home, but I recommend finding a professional to service it for you, even though service fees might drive up the cost.

Electric Bike Controller Maintenance Costs

The e-bike controller manages all the most significant features of the electric bicycle and controls the sensors, motor, and power connection. It ensures that the bike’s performance is seamless, regulating the voltage and current that will reach the motor depending on the user’s instructions and the sensor inputs. 

Sometimes, the controller may fail to work optimally and need repair or replacement. Some common dysfunctions in electric bike controllers include signal loss due to a poor connection, damage to the controller’s power supply system such as a short circuit, and intermittent functioning caused mainly by poor contact points.  

When replacing the controller, you will be required to consider the electric bike battery and the motor voltage (it must be the same). E-bike controllers vary in prices ranging from $50 to $100, but service fees might raise that price by around $50 to $100. 

Electric Bike Controller with LCD Display
A digital controller display will cost more to repair or replace

Mechanical Maintenance Costs

Tune-Up

It is always best for new electric bike owners to take their e-bikes to a professional mechanic for tuning before using them to ensure that everything is working correctly. You should also take your bike for routine maintenance after your first 500 miles (804 km).

However, tuning up is not a practice that is limited to new electric bicycles since it is advisable to take your electric bike for a tune-up once a year if you take regular weekend rides and twice a year if you ride it daily. 

A tune-up involves checking and making adjustments on the drivetrain, brakes, the bearing system, and available bolts.

Most tune-ups also involve cleaning the cables and checking the electrical connections to ensure that they work correctly. The prices range from $75 to $200, with most companies offering different introductory and complete offers.

Regular servicing will help prevent accidents and severe damage since a professional can note any problems early and correct them. 

Chains and Gears Replacement

Electric bikes’ chains and gears experience more wear because the electric motor and pedal assist can add extra wear and tear. The high speed of e-bikes and the great distances that most people ride using electric bikes also highly contribute to the wear.

You will need to regularly lubricate the chain with dry or wet lube, depending on your riding conditions. Because I live in a dry climate with little rain, I use the Muc-Off dry lube from Amazon.

You may also need to replace the chain every 800 to 1000 miles (1,287 to 1,609 km). An bike chain can cost between $15 and $60. You also need to replace your cassettes after every 2796.17 miles (4,499 km).

If your electric bike chain needs replacement, the SHIMANO HG71 E-Bike Rated Chain is strongly recommended (from Amazon.com). A high quality and durable chain like this is used on my Rad e-bike.

This is the chain on an e-bike that should be lubricated regularly
Typical electric bike chain

Spoke Replacement

You will need to replace your e-bike’s spokes after about every 1500 miles (2,414 km), especially if you are hard on your electric bike. 

Spokes are crucial for the functioning of e-bikes because they support their additional battery and motor weight. Individual electric bike spokes cost between $1 and $2, and the service fee ranges from $50 to $60.

Fixing Flat Tires and Brake Systems

A flat tire is a problem that most electric bike owners have solved. Fixing one can cost between $10 and $20 unless you need an inner tube. Still, the cost of a tube is usually between $5 and $9.

Electric bikes need more brake and tire replacements than traditional bicycles because they wear out faster. Brake pads last for around 1000 miles (1,609 km) before you need to replace them. 

So, repairing both of your bicycle’s brake systems will cost you between $80 and $150.

flat tire on e-bike

Follow our step by step guide to taking good care of your e-bike!

Valuable Tips To Lower Your Electric Bike’s Maintenance Costs

So, now that you know the cost of keeping up with electric bikes, you might be wondering how you can keep maintenance costs minimal. You can do several things to keep your bike running in peak condition for longer. 

Let’s look at some ways you can maintain your e-bike more efficiently: 

  • Charge your battery correctly. Since electric bike batteries are costly, you could reduce the maintenance costs by following the recommended best practices of use, such as not leaving the bike idle for long periods with the battery at 100%. I highly recommend charging until the battery is at 80% before using it and storing it at a charge less than 80%.
  • Clean and lube your chain at home. Learning how to properly clean your e-bike and lube the chain will go a long way in reducing maintenance costs. Cleaning and lubing will make the chain and sprocket more durable and enhance the bicycle’s performance and reliability. It is advisable to clean and lube after every 200 miles.
  • Replace cassettes yourself. You could also learn how to replace cassettes on YouTube. The tools cost $2, and the cassette costs around $25. On average, you may only need to work for 20 minutes to finish the cassette repairs, but it saves you a lot of money. Find out whether you need a new cassette or freewheel on your electric bike.
  • Get a hardened chain. I also recommend going for hardened chains when replacing your chain. Even though they cost more, they last longer and make the sprockets last longer because a damaged chain contributes immensely to the speed of the sprocket getting damaged. 
  • Use high-quality, durable tires. Getting puncture-proof bicycle tires will go a long way in helping you save a lot of money that you would have spent on replacing punctured tires. I recommend the Kenda brand tires (Amazon) as they’re generally highly rated for electric road bikes, hybrids, or city commuter electric bikes. It’s puncture-resistant, foldable, and manufactured using a high-quality nylon and rubber compound. 
  • Splurge on brakes. Don’t hesitate to spend a bit more on good brake pads and parts because e-bikes are very heavy and fast, and buying lower-end ones would mean very frequent replacements. Hydraulic disc brakes are a great option.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we can break down the electric bicycle maintenance cost into different categories such as battery charging, controller maintenance, mechanical maintenance, motor repair and replacement, and battery replacement costs

However, the electrical maintenance cost is not the same for everyone and greatly depends on the mileage, location, usage method, and e-bike type of specific riders.

Since both the electric and mechanical maintenance cost of electric bicycles can be very high, it’s advisable to follow a few tips to decrease it, such as making minor repairs at home and keeping up with good maintenance practices.

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