Electric bikes are one of those things that sound simple, like they wouldn’t go that fast, but then you get into it and bam: you find out just how fast they can go.
Of course, this all depends on the battery wattage, the motor, frame weight, rider weight, incline, you get the idea.
There are a lot of variables to consider that dramatically affect your bike speed, but we’re going to break those all down today, and dissect the question: how fast does an electric bike go?
(Psst, a lot faster than you might think.)
Are Electric Vehicles Faster Than Traditional Ones?
Thanks to modern advances, most electric vehicles reach plenty of peak speeds that are more than acceptable.
They can exceed speed limits set just about anywhere in the world. That being said, you might still be thinking about earlier Hybrid days when they were fairly limited and weren’t exactly highway-friendly. We get that.
These days, electric cars can be fast, but in extreme situations, they don’t exceed the fastest combustion engine vehicles out there. At the time of writing this, the fastest gas engine car in the world is the SSC Tuatara, which can hit speeds of 316 MPH.
Then we look at the Rimac Nevera, which hits a maximum speed of 258 MPH. What I’m getting at is it’s very unlikely you’ll ever be in a situation to fully utilize either of these vehicles’ top speeds.
Even on a more convervatie note, electric cars can still hit 0-60 in similar times to gas engines, making them just as viable for highway travel and matching the pace of gas engines. In fact, there’s one perk to an electric car that you can enjoy over gas engines, which is faster acceleration.
Because it’s all electrical and waits for electrical responses, you don’t have to wait for a combustion response from the engine. You can accelerate faster, and while that may not always lead to hitting 60 MPH faster than ever gas car, you can get more consistent ramp-up speeds and still meet that 0-60 MPH timeline in similar fashion to gas engines.
Before we proceed, it’s also important to note that since electric vehicles require less traditional working parts than gas engine vehicles, they tend to be more lightweight and have a lighter overall drag, so this helps with handling and attaining speeds slightly faster.
We’re here to talk about electric bikes, so let’s compare that to a gas engine dirt bike, for example.
An electric bike with full throttle capabilities will not be more powerful than a gas engine dirt bike, because the combustion engine is a lot more straightforward, it can hit high speeds relatively quickly. That being said, the cost and power disparity is enormous.
You’re not going to find an off-the-shelf electric bike that can hit the same speeds as a 125cc dirt bike, and since dirt bikes have a faster RPM, they will hit speeds quicker, but does that really mean these outclass electric bikes? Not exactly. Their utility is entirely different.
If we’re talking about the main competitor to electric bikes for commuting and city use, let’s look at mopeds, which peak at a speed of 19 MPH (to be considered a moped, it must have under a 50cc engine).
Class 3 electric bikes can not only hit 19 MPH faster than a moped, but can hit up to 28 MPH before electric assist caps out.
Is an electric bike going to outperform a dirt bike or motorcycle? No. It hits a specific criteria between a moped for commuting, and a motorbike for recreational use; you’re getting the best of both worlds with agreeable speeds and power.
What is a Limiting Factor in Electric Bike Speed?
Electric bike speeds do have limitations, some of which are situational, and some of which are intentional by manufacturing. Let’s go over what is and isn’t within your control when it comes to ebike speeds.
This means lowering your backpack contents, wearing lighter clothing while still having a safe level of coverage, and being aware of any additional cargo you bring with you.
If your electric bike is being used to haul goods, consider minimizing the amount of cargo you bring with you. This is also a good time to consider any add-ons you’ve applied to your electric bike.
The battery, motor, and other components that actually make it an electric bike are pre-set: you’re not going to be able to mess with these weight values, but what you can do is put those components on a lighter frame.
Consider converting a lighter frame bicycle to an ebike, just be sure that the frame weight change is considerable before you take on that multi-hour task.
There are federal limits on how fast an ebike can go. Now, while you can remove speed limiters, it’s not advised to do so, but this is something that you have no control over when it comes to buying pre-made ebikes or conversion kits. The only way around this is by completely DIYing your ebike.
Your battery limitations mean that it can only output so much power to a motor, even if the motor can handle more. Consider your battery capacity when making your own DIY ebike or looking at newer ones for purchase.
How to make Your eBike Go Faster
This is a quick list of things you can do to make sure your ebike goes faster, and maintains high speeds. Some of these are at-your-own-risk kinds of solutions, but still at your disposal nonetheless.
Run on a Full Battery
It sounds simple, really, but because your voltage drops, so does your speed. Riding on a full battery is going to give you better consistent speeds than running at 30% capacity.
If you’ve ever run until you’re empty, you can feel that slow-down sputter that happens around a certain battery level. Try to avoid that at all times (perhaps by using solar panels to power your bike as well).
Remove Speed Limiters
This one is dodgy and may prevent it from being street legal depending on your state and local laws, but it’s an option. When you remove the speed limiter, you can just throttle the heck out of the battery all you want.
However, the battery will drain faster, and you’ll have to change rider weight, frame weight, and other things to hit higher speeds. Your battery is only going to be capable of so much.
Swap Out to Road Tires
Road tires are thinner and smoother than standard tires that come on most bikes, so if you’re using your ebike in paved areas, you can swap out to road tires to give yourself a bit of an advantage.
You’ll be able to pick up momentum without the drag of treads scraping against the ground, which means you may be able to hit higher speeds with momentum in the mix, and it will be easier to accelerate, or rather, faster to accelerate to your preferred speed.
Swap to a Higher Power Motor
More power from the motor means higher speeds, simply put. You just have to make sure your speed controller, throttle, and battery are all compatible, as well as your wheel size for the hub motor.
An easy enough thing to do, but when you get higher powered motors than you find on standard ebikes, that’s when it starts getting expensive.
Hack Your Battery
Your battery has a certain amount of cells in it, and each cell usually runs 3.6v of electricity. Ten cells together make a 36V battery, so what about 12 cells? What about 20 cells/
You can (safely) open your battery housing and add more cells, as long as you know how to rig it together properly. You want to use the same cell manufacturers, the same voltage, and understand the limitations of your hub motor and speed controller before doing this, but you could theoretically have a 98V battery and absolutely zip down every road you encounter.
Maximum Speed, Maximum Potential
Even if you hit that class 3 maximum speed of 28 MPH, you’ll find plenty of people in the electric bike community that want to go faster, that want to push the limits of what their ebikes can do.
Keep in mind that if you want to do this, you must proceed at your own risk. There are state laws that must be taken into consideration.
You can max out the potential for your electric bike at the cost of losing its street legal status, or simply peak at that 28 MPH with a class 3 bike as long as it’s within your state and local laws to do so. Electric bikes can go a lot faster than you thought when you came here, huh?
Noel Joseph has been in the world of motor vehicles for a long period. Currently, he is enthusiastic about Electric & Hybrid Motors and is an independent researcher. He advocates for a clean and sustainable future and envisions utilizing his years of experience in mechanical engineering. His new venture here at CompactPower.com is to organize and simplify knowledge on Electric vehicles. He wants to build a space where people can talk about EVs and associated technologies with freedom.