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Some people love e-bikes for their ability to carry the rider on long, enjoyable rides across a considerable distance. Others use them for adventurous rides where they might need an extra boost of energy. Practical riders use e-bikes for everyday commuting or even towing.
The hard part is choosing precisely the right e-bike for your needs. After all, an e-bike is a huge investment.
Battery voltage is a key factor in making that decision, so let’s think about whether a 36-volt or 48-volt e-bike would be best for you.
Let’s compare and contrast two popular types to help determine whether a 36 or 48-volt e-bike is best for you.
The difference between 36 and 48-volt e-bikes
The battery is what distinguishes a 36-volt e-bike from a 48-volt e-bike. The battery powers the bike and allows you to do things you can’t do on a regular bicycle. E-bike batteries are rechargeable, usually by plugging them into an outlet at home. Some use solar power, at least in part.
Of course, 48-volt e-bikes have a higher voltage. This means that a cyclist could potentially ride a 48-volt e-bike for a longer length of time, or on a higher power setting, or both. But what does this actually mean?
How battery voltage affects an e-bike
The voltage of a battery refers to the amount of juice it can hold, while the wattage refers to the amount of power it can put out at once. In other words, you want to consider voltage when thinking about how long you want the bike to be able to run, whereas wattage refers more directly to the amount of force you can use at any given moment.
There is a quite direct relationship between the two: The higher wattage you use throughout your ride, the faster the battery will drain. In other words, the main thing to think about with voltage is how long you want or need to go between charges.
You should also keep in mind that several other factors affect the battery life between charges. The heavier your bike and the load it carries or pulls, the faster the battery will drain. The same battery will not last as long for a rider weighing 200 pounds as it will for a rider weighing 150 pounds.
In addition, wind resistance (more power is needed to ride into the wind), road conditions and terrain (rough and uneven terrain like a dirt path uses more energy), and the strength of the rider all contribute to how long the battery will last.
More power is not always better
The 48-volt battery has some downsides that you should consider before choosing it for your e-bike. For one thing, it will be significantly heavier than the 36-volt battery. To deliver more power, the 48-volt e-bike battery needs more cells. More cells mean more weight.
That said, you might still be able to find a light 48-volt e-bike that weighs less than some other 36-volt e-bikes. However, they will likely be stripped of all their bells and whistles to save weight, or they’ll be much more expensive because of their materials.
That brings us to our next big bike bummer: The 48-volt e-bike will almost always cost a lot more money than the 36-volt. This is a big factor if you’ve been saving up for the perfect e-bike.
If you were to compare a 36-volt e-bike and a 48-volt e-bike that cost roughly the same, it means the 36-volt is likely a much better made piece of equipment overall. It’s a significant trade-off.
Ultimately, if you care more about being able to get lots of juice out of your e-bike battery with ample time between charges, go for the 48-volt.
If your priority is the bike’s weight and potential speed on a ride, or if you’re trying to save a few bucks, go with the 36-volt e-bike.
We hope this helps you choose between the 36 or 48-volt e-bike. Keep in mind that, in the end, the best bike for you is the one that you enjoy riding the most.
Thinking of going camping with an e-bike? See our post about how to charge a bike while camping.