Riding a bicycle is a great non-polluting way to get exercise and get around, but a steep hill or a long commute can turn into an unpleasantly sweaty affair. Converting a bicycle into an electric bicycle can create a vehicle with all the advantages of a regular bike, but with a little power assist to get past the disadvantages. You can assemble a set of components on your own or buy a matched kit.
Select a bicycle to convert. An electric bicycle can travel at higher speeds, so choose a comfortable bicycle with good brakes, a strong frame and possibly a suspension system.
Install a motor. Electric motors for bicycles come in several different forms, but the simplest to install is a brushless DC hub motor that is already laced into a spoked wheel rim. Most systems are available for use on the front or the rear but should be installed on a wheel without shock absorbers. Mount an inner tube and tire on the new rim with the motor. Remove the old wheel from the bicycle and make adjustments to the frame dropouts or forks so that the new wheel will fit.
Install a controller and throttle. The controller regulates the delivery of power to the motor and in turn, the speed at which you travel. Some higher power controllers may need to be mounted in a spot on the bike frame or rear rack with good air flow to prevent overheating. The throttle can be a thumb lever or twist grip placed on the handlebars.
Mount a battery pack. Batteries can be placed in panniers or on a rack behind the seat. Choose from sealed lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries, or lithium iron phosphate nano batteries. Lithium iron phosphate batteries are more expensive, but they are lighter and will endure many more charge cycles than the other types of batteries.
Connect the motor to the controller. Run wires along the frame to connect the controller to the throttle. Wire the battery pack to the controller.
Charge the battery pack. Make sure that the new wheel with the motor is tightly bolted to the frame and that all the electrical connections are secure and properly insulated. Road test the bicycle.
Items you will need
- Bicycle tools
- Electric motor
- Battery pack
- Battery charger
- Mounting hardware
- If you are unsure of your mechanical skills, have a professional bicycle mechanic install the components.
- Wear a bicycle helmet when you ride.
- Tires with a smoother tread will create less rolling resistance.
- Batteries rated for more amp-hours will provide a greater range of travel
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