Running on Empty: Power Anxiety and e-Bikes

Funny thing about e-bikes: I want more, more, more, tech on them.

On my regular bike, the battery died on the cyclometer literally years ago, and I hardly care. I could fix the problem for less than $10, but I haven’t.

But on this Hebb e-bike I’ve been testing, I’m finding the “dashboard” to be lacking.

Hebb Dashboard

Three lights: Green, Amber, and Red. When I’m not using the throttle, those lights indicate how much of a charge the battery has. When I’m using the throttle, the lights indicate how much the batter voltage has dropped based on what I’m demanding of the motor.

It’s like a gas gauge and a tachometer rolled into one–keeping me in a constant state of anxiety. Am just using a lot of power, or am I about to be stranded going up this hill with a dead battery and a 60 pound bike?

This is what I really want:

Distance to Empty

I want the bike to tell me how far I can go at my current level of electric-powered laziness. If I don’t have enough juice to get me to my destination, I’ll put a little more of my own effort. Then I want the bike to recalculate the distance to empty and say, Good boy! when my pedaling has extended my range.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, this data is not available on any e-bike dashboard. I only know that if I wasn’t on an e-bike, I wouldn’t be thinking of this stuff.

By the time the Hebb was giving me amber light, I’d gone 14.3 miles on a combination of flat, hills, and headwinds. The electric power was there, but barely noticeable. I’m not sure at that point whether I was breaking even between the assistance I was getting, and the extra weight of the battery and the motor.

I plan on riding the Hebb until the battery gives up entirely, just to see what the range really is, but I already think I’m well past the point of diminishing return

What’s with that? Are there electrical engineers out there that can explain to me why I can’t get consistent power output, and then have the power fizzle all at once–y’know, like a car?

With the right kind of instrumentation, I could probably handle knowing that I was on empty, and plan accordingly.

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