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For many cyclists, electric bikes have been the perfect invention: they require less pedal power yet still improve your fitness, are an environmentally friendly alternative to cars or motor vehicles, and generally look pretty slick, too. Which is always important.
What would make them more impressive? Well, perhaps if they could charge themselves. You might have seen some companies try to invent them, or even market new products as having this state-of-the-art function.
How do Electric Bikes Normally Charge?
In much the same way as you would with electronic devices like your phone or tablet. An electric bike comes with a charger, so you just plug one end into a socket and the other into its charging port.
How long do electric bikes take to recharge? Well, a totally dead battery usually takes between four and six hours to become fully juiced up again. Plus, often the last hour or so of a charge will add the final few finishing touches to a full charge, so you may find your battery is already about 90 per cent charged within 2.5 hours or quicker.
Its battery can be charged both on or off the bike, while all of the battery types are easily removable, so you can charge it indoors if you like.
An electric bike’s lithium ion battery does not have to be dead before it can be recharged, either. It has no ‘memory’, so most of them can be charged whenever you like.
Do Electric Bikes Charge When You Pedal?
But do electric bikes self-charge? As a general rule, no, though some e-bike manufacturers may brand their products as bikes which can regain lost power while you brake or ride down a hill.
But this is extremely rare, given how new this ‘regenerative braking’ technology is (at least to electric bikes, if not electric cars). To generate extra energy, you would need a sensor which, when you brake, triggers the motor to start using the bike’s forward-motion energy to charge the battery, rather than dissipating it as heat through the brakes.
The problem with it is it gives a pretty poor return power-wise, in that the extra weight and rigmarole that comes with adding a regenerative system is often seen as futile or detrimental.
It’s still much faster and more efficient just to charge normally, at least for now, though it does fare better on static exercise bikes.
Is There Currently a Self-Charging Electric Bike Available to Buy?
Some are certainly advertised as such; whether they are or not is another matter.
In 2016, for instance, Austria-based VELLO launched the fundraised VELLO BIKE+, which they described as ‘the first self-charging electric folding bike’, weighing less then 12kg (26lbs) and with the smallest fold on the market.
At time of writing, on their official website, the BIKE+ BELT and BIKE+ TITANIUM are available for €2,990 and €3,990 respectively, boasting a speed range from approximately 30 to 50 km in ‘Turbo mode’ to essentially an unlimited range when using the self-charging technology.
Companies Working on Self-Charging E-Bikes
VELLO are not alone, either. Far from it, in fact.
The crowd-funded DX self-charging e-bike launched in 2019, while you’ve also got the Neomouv FURTIVOO single-speed self-charging electric bike which weighs just 13.5 kg, and the foldable, aluminium-framed Eahora Snow X6 to choose from, too.
Could E-Bikes Charge Themselves in the Future?
It feels like there’s still a long way to go. Many remain dubious about how legitimate they are when it comes to being capable of self-charging, while others simply feel their extortionate prices represent little value for money.
Just reading reviews and YouTube comments about some of the above designs essentially bear that out. Many revolve around a lack of affordability – all of the above cost four-figure sums – as well as overselling the ‘regenerative braking’ concept.
Meanwhile, a review of the Eahora Snow X6 on Electrek, for example, says “this system is the most impressive form of energy recapture I have tried to date,” but adds that “that bar is very, very low.” Which about sums up what an embryonic stage self-charging electric bikes remain at in their development.
Maybe, if they become more affordable or more fine-tuned, they’ll become more commonplace in turn. For now, though, there seems to be a fair amount of scepticism.