How Fast Can An E-Bike Go (Speed)?

ebike-speed-limit

So you’re interested in trying out an e-bike, and you want to know what their top speed is. 

Well, the answer is both simple and complicated, but either way, e-bikes are fun!

Read on to find out how fast you’ll be able to go!

How Fast Can I Expect to Go On an Electric Bike?

E-bikes can go faster than you might think. In fact, on a downhill without electric pedal assist you can go as fast as you want.

It’s ONLY when you engage your electric bike’s pedal assist or electric motor that the speed limit in your local jurisdiction applies.

Read on to find out how fast you’ll be able to go with your electric bike’s throttle cranked to the maximum!

Factors That Determine Electric Bicycle (E-Bike) Speed Limits

Before we go into actual examples of e-bike top speeds below we’ll need to consider the physical, technical and legal factors that limit electric bicycle top speeds.

Physical & Technical Factors 

The laws of physics are one set of factors that determine what will happen when you press your e-bike’s throttle.

How fast will you go when you press it all the way down?  

Here are the physical factors that influence how fast your electric bike motor will be able to propel you forward:

Battery Voltage (V)

In terms of e-bike batteries, the higher the voltage the faster your top speed will be. Common e-bike batteries are 24 volts, 36 volts, and 48 volts – although they go up to 72 volts and beyond (although with a battery that big you’ll need a very small controller to remain street legal at around 500 watts or so).

If you want to go fast on an e-bike you might want to consider getting a battery with higher voltage (but one that keeps your e-bike classified as such, and not something else such as an electric moped). If you choose a 72 volt e-bike battery you may run into issues in your jurisdiction, so make sure to do thorough research before making any purchases.

Example Voltage Calculation

Your e-bike’s power, and therefire its top speed can be calculated using this simple formula: Volts x Amps = Watts.

For example – if your e-bike battery is 36 volts and your controller is 15 amp hours (15AH) then your wattage will be: 36 x 15 = 540 watts. This wattage (540 watts) is a decent amount of power for someone of average weight on average road grades – although it may exceed the maximum allowed wattage according to e-bike laws in your area.

You can think of the voltage in an e-bike battery as being like horsepower in a car. The more ponies under the hood, the more torque you’ll have!

Battery Amperage / Amps / Amp Hours (AH)

The second major factor determining how fast you’ll be able to go on an ebike is your battery amperage – as measured by amp hours.

Following the example above – if you have a 48 volt e-bike battery and a 20 amp hour controller then your wattage would be: 48 x 20 = 960 watts.

Note – some jurisdictions (e.g. Vancouver, BC, Canada has a 500 watt limit, so the setup in this example (960 watts) would be almost double the maximum permitted speed).

The higher the amperage in your e-bike controller, the higher the multiplication factor will be in the V x A = W calculation, so be sure to consider the true number of amp hours your controller has (aka your ebike electric motor) .

FYI – common amp hour values for electric bike batteries are 10 & 20 amp hours.

Watts / Watt Hours (WH)

Your e-bike battery will provide a given number of watts. The speed at which you deplete the battery will determine how long your charge will last, and this is largely influenced by the amount you use your electric bike pedal assist.

For example – if you are running your e-bike up steep grades constantly and relentlessly the wattage demand will be higher.

Also, if you are running at top speed at all times the wattage demand will be greater. Sure, you’ll be going super fast, but your battery won’t last as long.

For most people it’s a matter of balancing travel speed vs. charge duration, so try to save the pedal assist feature for when you need it most, and use human pedal power and downhill gliding (no speed limit) the rest of the time to save battery life.

The Trick to Maximizing Your Ebike’s Battery Charge (Each and Every Time)

Here is a tip we give to e-bike newbies – coast on downhills to save time and battery life, use pedal power on flat ground, and use the throttle / pedal assist feature ONLY on uphills.

By doing this you will save time AND extend your battery charge. You will also get a mild workout on the flats.

In simple terms – only use the throttle on inclines or uphills.

The beauty of ebikes is you get to determine how much wattage you want to produce from your own legs, and thus how many calories you want to burn. It’s a workout program that can be whatever you want it to be on any given day.

Tires

As with any vehicle your electric bicycle’s top speed will partially be determined by the width of the tires.

The reason for this is simple – the thinner the tire the faster you will go because there is less friction or drag.

The best example of this is professional road cyclists who use very thin tires to maximize speed and minimize friction.

If you want to go fast on your electric bike you might want to consider using skinny tires.

Rider Weight

On flat ground the rider weight has less influence than if there are uphill or downhill grades on the road (due to gravity).

For example – a heavier ebike rider will have a higher top speed on a downhill slope thanks to increased momentum. Conversely, their electric bike will require more power on an uphill section.

In contrast, a lighter electric bike rider will require less wattage in their controller to obtain the same speed.

When it comes to determining the fastest speed for an electric bicycle the rider’s weight certainly plays a role in how fast the machine will go.

Put another way – if you are an old guy who’s ‘over the hill’ like me then ebikes are perfect for you!

Bike Weight

Put simply – the lighter the bike the faster you’ll go – particularly on uphill sections. However – a heavier bike will carry more momentum downhill and conversely the speed will be higher.

As a factor limiting speed, however, bike weight plays a much smaller role than rider weight.

Click here to read more about how much ebikes weigh, and whether bike weight is an important factor in your purchase decision.

Road surface 

This one is easy to understand. On a smooth road surface you will go faster on your electric bike compared to a rough road surface with potholes, cracks construction areas, gravel patches, etc.

Road grade

This one is related to rider weight as mentioned above. It’s probably obvious to you that a bike can go faster on downhill sections than on uphills.

However – the speed limit of your electric bicycle is ultimately determined by where you live – as opposed to the theoretical physical capabilities of your bike.

Whether you obey the limit is up to you (though we advise you to obey the electric bike speed limit in kilometres or miles per hour – wherever you are).

In general, ebikes as a machine are capable of going much faster than the legal speed limit in any given jurisdiction.

The best way to go fast on an ebike is to go downhill and NOT use the pedal assist so that the electric bike speed limit DOES NOT apply.

In that case – you can go as fast as you want, downhill, and with no pedal assist. Bombs away!

Traffic

It’s not advisable to go super fast on an ebike in dangerous traffic conditions. Safety is the number one priority, so in order to test the top speed of any electric bicycle be sure to find an area with little to no traffic and lots of room.

E-bike saftey is a topic we’ll be writing more about in the future, so stay tuned.

Wind 

If you are riding into a stiff headwind there will be more drag on your body. However, your e-bike pedal assist will not be affected by wind speed.

Because the motor-assisted speed is limited by jurisdiction and electronics rather than wind drag the wind is only a factor when gliding downhill.

Want to go faster on your ebike? Glide downhill and don’t use the pedal assist!

We have discussed a number of physical and technial factors that limit electric bicycle (e-bike) top speeds.

Now, let’s look at the legal limits (before diving in to actual ebike top speed examples with pedal assist).

Legal Factors Limiting Electric Bike Speeds

Electric bicycle laws vary depending on which country, state or province you are in. In other words – it varies by jurisdiction – so be sure to check the laws in your home town or city.

Some places allow higher top speeds than others.

Do an Internet search for “electric bicycle laws + city, state or country name” if you want to get more detailed information on how fast you can go on an ebike in your hometown.

A complete list is beyond the scope of this post.

However- we will provide one example from our home city to give you a reference.

Actual E-Bike Speed Limit (Top Speed) Example in Watts & Km/h / Mph

Here is the E-bike speed limit and electric motor wattage limit for Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada:

  • Electric Motor: 500 watts or less – e.g. 50 Volt e-bike battery x 10 Amp- Hour controller = 500 watts)
  • Electric bike motor (aka pedal assist) cannot propel the electric bicycle faster than 32 kilometres per hour (19 miles per hour) on flat ground with no pedalling by the rider

32 km/h or 19 Mph may not sound very fast.

However, when you consider the fact that you can cover approximately those distances in one hour of travel through traffic congested cities at rush hour you’ll begin to understand the freedom that awaits you.

Check this video to see an example (including a speedometer on the bike itself)!

Video Example of 500W (Watt) E-Bike Top Speed

Wow – that guy covered a lot of ground in the video! His speedometer was likely in kilometers an hour as it appeared as though he is located somewhere in Europe or nearby.

At EbikeTroop we advise you to obey the e-bike laws of your hometown. However – it’s your decision how fast you want to go when pedalling on your own on flat ground, and on downhills with no pedal assist.

In general, you will find that 20 pmh or 32.2 km/h are common e-bike speed limits – so use that as a rough starting point.

in order to maintain their classification as a bicycle rather than another type of vehicle (such as a scooter or motorbike) there needs to be appropriate speed limits placed on electric bicycles.

Conclusion

In this post we have tried to explain how fast you can go on an electric bike according to physical and technical limits as well as legal limits in your jurisdiction.

As long as you use your pedal assist feature within the designated speed limit for your area you can go as fast as you want when gliding or using your own legs to power your pedals.

The only thing awaiting you is to get out and go for a ride.

So have fun, be safe, go fast and enjoy the feedom that awaits you on your next e-bike adventure!

Sources:

https://www.ebikekit.com/blogs/news/electric-bike-batteries-explained

https://howtoebike.com/best-ebike-battery-a-beginners-guide/

https://www.evelo.com/blog/why-is-there-a-20mph-speed-limit-on-electric-bikes/

https://www.electricbike.com/ebike-battery-longevity

Featured image credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/vkCyrRJsHss

Dan

Hi, I'm Dan - the guy behind E-Bike Troop. I've been a cyclist for over 2 decades and recently became obsessed with Electric Bikes. Every week you'll find me out with my wife enjoying adventures on our E-Bikes, and when we're not, I'm here writing about them on E-Bike Troop.

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