Are E-Bike Conversion Kits Worth It?
Have you been mulling over the idea of an e-bike conversion kit? They seem like the easiest option if you want to rev up your mileage without forking out thousands on a brand new e-bike, but just like anything in this world, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. There’s an old saying which is particularly relevant in this context and that’s ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. For the amount of risk these conversion kits pose, you’ll most likely end up having to replace the kit and your bike too.
E-bike conversion kits are not only dangerous, faulty and unreliable, in a lot of cases, they’re illegal. So before you hop on the conversion kit wagon, please consider what you’re really letting yourself in for and how it could affect you and your pockets in the long run.
What Are E-Bike Conversion Kit and What Different Types Are There?
An e-bike conversion kit is a motor you attach to your push bike to power it with electricity. It still requires you to pedal in order for it to be powered but the added juice will make your bike ride a lot faster. However, with extra speed comes extra pressure which your good old push bike wasn’t really built for.
There Are Three Main Types of E-Bike Conversion Kits Available And Those Are:
- Front hub
- Rear hub
A front hub electric motor is one of the most common types you’ll come across, this is because they are easier to fit and maintain. These motors struggle with a lot of power and are very heavy. The extra weight will put a strain on your bike’s front forks which will cause significant damage when used day to day.
Rear hub motors are harder to fit than front hub motors but they can handle more power. However, if you want to place your battery at the rear it will cause a very unstable feeling and you could find yourself doing wheelies down the street. If you opt for a rear hub motor you will notice a feeling of being pushed rather than being pulled which is the sensation a front hub motor will give you.
The mid-drive motor is the most powerful but because there are so many moving components in the kit, it means there is more to go wrong. These motors are much more expensive than the previous two so you’d be better off using the money for a purpose-built e-bike.
Are E-Bike Conversion Kits a Cheaper Alternative?
Most people opt for an e-bike conversion kit because they don’t want to pay the price for a purpose-built e-bike. While they may seem like the cheaper option to begin with, the cost can soon mount up.
A typical conversion kit can be priced anywhere from £150 - £1000 and most of these kits don’t come with a battery so you’ll have to purchase that on top of the conversion kit itself. A large majority of kits also require you to make upgrades to certain components on your bike in order for them to work, this again can ramp up the cost.
What About My Bike Warranty
It’s also important to think about your bike warranty. If you’ve just purchased a brand new bike and fitted an e-bike conversion kit to it you may find that your warranty becomes invalid. So if you have an accident or damage your bike (which is highly likely due to the added weight and battery risks which we’ll speak about below) you’ll have to spend that money all over again to replace it, this makes it a very risky investment.
On the flip side, if you buy a purpose-built e-bike, most of them come with a warranty. For example, with the WAU e-bike, the electronic and mechanical components are covered against manufacturing and material defects for 1 year. Whilst the WAU battery pack is covered under 2-year warranty from the date of purchase or 10,000 miles, whichever arises first.
Yes, e-bikes are a little pricey (and if you want to know why here's a quick article) but this means you can have peace of mind that once you’ve made the initial payment for your e-bike, you won’t have to spend more in the years ahead.
Are E-Bike Conversion Kits Safe?
You probably wouldn’t fit a turbo engine onto your car yourself, so why would you fit an e-bike conversion kit to your push bike? People think it’s just a case of adding a battery but there are many factors which make them high risk for riders.
Standard Bike Frames Aren’t Built The Same as E-Bikes
The frame on an average push bike was built to distribute the weight of you and only you. So when you fit a conversion kit to your bike it will struggle to withhold and distribute the extra weight making it very unstable.
Whilst your bike is under immense pressure from poor weight distribution, it will also be wrestling to maintain the fast speeds which your e-bike conversion kit causes. Your average bike frame wasn’t built for the speeds which an e-bike reaches so this combined with the pressure of extra weight will make your everyday journeys exceptionally dangerous.
Because standard bikes weren’t built for electrical components to be added it makes them much more likely to break down. Trips to the menders when your bike is electric come with a much heftier price tag so be prepared to put extra money aside for those emergency breakdowns.
Standard Bikes Weren't Built to House and Protect a Large Battery
E-bikes use large lithium batteries and whilst these are great for zooming you around from A to B, they can be a dangerous fire hazard if they’re stored incorrectly. Purpose-built e-bikes are designed by professionals who correctly house the batteries and integrate them into the frame so they don’t pose a risk to the rider.
With conversion kits, the battery is strapped to the bike with no consideration for the danger it poses. In fact, there have been multiple reports of conversion kits starting fires because the battery has been exposed to too much sunlight and heat.
How Do They Catch Fire
Lithium batteries are composed of two electrodes with electrolyte fluid running in between them. The fluid is highly combustible but this isn’t an issue if they are stored correctly, however, when they’re not, they can overheat. If a single battery cell overheats, the other one will follow causing a powerhouse of heat and pressure which results in an explosion.
Are E-Bike Conversion Kits Legal?
Yes, they are legal but because anyone can sell an e-bike conversion kit it means that a lot of them are created by unregulated companies. These kits aren’t created for the laws in your country, they’re just there to make money so be wary with who you buy yours from and the product specifications. The e-bike laws in the UK state that:
- Your bike must show the power output and the manufacturer of the motor.
- It must show the battery’s voltage or the maximum speed of the bike.
- Its’ electric motor must have a maximum power output of 250 watts and should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph.
A lot of riders have found themselves in trouble with the law after fitting a conversion kit which didn’t have the above specifications. If your e-bike doesn’t comply with the laws stated above, you can face various penalties which include:
- Your bike being confiscated.
- A fine for no insurance, MOT or tax.
- Points on your driver’s licence.
- You could even be arrested if you’re already disqualified for driving.
Are E-Bike Conversion Kits Really Worth Your Time and Energy?
The only pro of buying an e-bike conversion kit is that it saves you money and even that pro isn’t entirely true because of the huge number of ways the conversion kit ends up costing you money in the long term.
When you weigh this up with the huge list of cons, it makes you wonder if they’re really worth the hassle. The bottom line is that if you’re looking for an e-bike it’s usually because you ride your bike every day for very long distances. If this is the case, it means your bike needs to be extra safe and reliable so you can trust it for your lengthy jaunts. Adding an e-bike conversion kit will no doubt cause you extra grief in the long run and if you’ve got the time, money and energy to sort the issues out that’s great.
We’re guessing you haven’t and that’s why you want to make your trips from A to B as quick as possible. If that’s true, then save yourself the bother and invest in a purpose-built e-bike which will work with you, not against you.