Electric Bicycles | Can I Charge My eBike By Pedalling?


Can I Charge My Electric Bike By Pedaling?

This is a loaded question but yes, there are specific models of electric bicycles that allow you to recharge the battery while pedaling. Not all electric bicycles offer this functionality and is only available with specific models of electric bicycles, however I might add that a lot of these self charging pedaling systems are inefficient at converting mechanical pedaling motion into electrical energy 

Technically speaking this process is called “regenerative braking” (recharging of the battery when braking), regenerative braking is inefficient at converting mechanical pedaling motion into electrical energy and then storing it chemically in the battery pack because of the amount of energy conversions that is involved in the process

You have to take the mechanical energy (you physically peddling), converting that into electric energy and then converting that electrical energy into chemical energy which is stored in the battery pack. After that entire process your only likely to see a 10% to 20% of energy capture 

So to summarize regenerative braking can charge your electric bicycle battery when pedaling, however the process of converting that mechanical energy (you physically peddling) into chemical energy in the battery pack is very inefficient. You pedaling for a sustained period of time represents 100% of mechanical energy but in the end you only get around 5% to 20% of battery recharge from that 100% of mechanical energy, the rest is lost as heat in the conversion process

How Long Would It Take To Fully Recharge The Electric Battery Using Regenerative Braking?

Inreality it would take a huge amount of pedaling and effort on your part to fully charge your electric bicycle battery to 100% full charge, you would be looking at a full day of constant peddling to fully charge the battery on an electric bicycle, this is because of the conversion process inefficiencies as mentioned before 

To give you a ballpark figure, on a typical electric bicycle you would need to pedal 10km to get back a 1km charge on the battery, which is a lot of pedaling and effort for very little return. So in principle you have to double (even 3X, or 75% up) the amount you are aiming to charge, to charge a 800Watts battery you would have to cycle 1600Watts to 2000Watts in energy output or to get back 800km

In relation to distances you would have to cycle 1600km to 2000km to get a 800km charge because of the energy conversion process inefficiencies. So it’s less than 50% return and is in the lower 20% returns for whatever distance you are pedal charging the electric motor on your electric bicycle 

Should I Charge My Electric Bicycle Using Pedaling Power Or At Home By The Socket?

It is far more efficient to charge your e-bike than to pedal it on your own, as mentioned before the process of converting that mechanical energy (you physically peddling) into chemical energy in the battery pack is very inefficient and is at a very early stage in its technology on electric bicycles 

Perhaps in the future the process of converting different types of energies will be streamlined and developed to the point where the tables are flipped, where peddling is the best way to recharge your electric bicycle that at a mains power outlet. However at this moment in time, it is far more efficient to charge your e-bike than to pedal it on your own 

However you can typically get back 5% to 12% of charge back when periodically pedaling at intervals on an urban commute to and from work for example. This will greatly depend on the amount of regenerative braking you do during your cycling commute but there is some energy to be gained using pedaling power, however it is unrealistic to think you will get a large boost in the recharging of the battery   

Does The Battery Charge When Applying The Brake Or When Going Down Hill?

Specific models of electric bicycles include a feature to recharge the battery when applying the brakes or when going down hill, however this is a very advanced feature in today’s electric bicycles. Having an advanced feature like this is likely to add several hundreds of pounds/dollars to the end of the price tag, unfortunately but if you have the budget then why not?

The energy return in the battery from applying the brake will greatly vary depending on the amount of regenerative braking you do during your cycling commute, you can typically going to get back 5% to 10% of charge back when periodically braking at intervals during an urban commute or when cycling and braking offroad 

How Does Regenerative Braking Work?

Regenerative braking works by the brake sensor triggering the electric motor to go into “reverse mode”, which means the electric battery will use the bicycle’s forward motion to charge the battery instead of outputting energy to move the electric bicycle forward as normal

When you press the brake, this triggers the brake sensor to tell the electric motor “hey, I want you to stop dissipating this energy as heat through the brakes, go into reverse mode and capture/use the energy of the bicycle’s forward motion to charge the battery

So to summarize regenerative braking is an energy capture mechanism which converts kinetic energy into a form which can be either used immediately or stored in the electric battery for future use

Do All eBikes Have Regenerative Braking?

No, unfortunately not all models and specifications of e-bikes have regenerative braking built into them, usually because this is classed as an advanced feature and would require the buyer to pay a little extra for regenerative braking on their e-bike

Is Regenerative Braking Worth Getting On My E-bike?   

Choosing a e-bike that has regenerative braking built into it is likely to cost you an extra several hundreds of pounds/dollars onto the overall price tag unfortunately. However this may not be worth it because of what you get back in return

As mentioned before, because the process of converting mechanical energy (you physically peddling) and turning that into battery chemical energy stored is so inefficient the argument could be that regenerative braking at this stage on e-bikes is not actually worth purchasing

It is far more efficient to charge your e-bike than to pedal it on your own and you are only likely to get back around 10% to 20% of battery charge, if you have a much shorter commute it could be much lower as well 

Does It Make It Harder To Cycle When Charging The Battery Using Regenerative Braking?

If the battery has no life in it, then cycling a e-bike with no assistance can be a lot harder, make sure to have a good enough charge in the battery when doing regenerative braking

If your battery runs out and your trying to charge the battery by pedaling and braking you will be going up against the weight of yourself and the ebike, and the resistance of the motor which will make the cycle a real hard slog

I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have anything to add, then leave a comment down below. All of the information has been thoroughly researched and I have plenty of real world experience on this issue to add as well. Thanks for reading 

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