Personal electric vehicles (PEVs) are rapidly becoming more and more popular. Even people who appreciate traditional bicycles for the exercise they provide would like to travel without getting drenched in sweat occasionally.
One answer for such a person is to have an electric bike and an analog bike ready to go. But when it comes to PEVs, there’s one problem every electric rider faces, range anxiety.
Extra Battery For An Electric Bike? (TL:DR Version)
Some electric bike riders carry an extra battery with them for double the range. Here, we’ll discuss why and how additional range can be achieved as well as the pros and cons of various methods.
PEVs & Range Extension Methods
Range anxiety is the fear of not making it there and back on a single charge. As the rider of multiple types of PEV, I can tell you, that range anxiety is real. But there are several different solutions.
The first solution is to choose a PEV with a long range. My go-to PEVs are a pair of electric unicycles (EUCs) that will get between 30 and 40 miles on a charge and achieve speeds of up to 45mph. For shorter trips, I use a OneWheel skateboard, which will give you 6 to 12 miles of range.
Multitasking With Your Ebike
But these marvelous machines are not perfect. Sometimes I want to go to the park and run the trail. In this instance, I need to be able to lock my ride to something immovable. Unfortunately, none of the above vehicles are well suited for that.
That’s when my “Lectric” electric bike comes in handy. It can easily be locked to a bike lock in full view of well-trafficked areas. This gives me the freedom to leave it behind and enjoy other non-riding activities.
As long as I keep it under 25 mph, the Lectic has about the same range of expectations as my unicycles. But sometimes life will bring you new challenges and opportunities. So what do I do when I need to go more than 30 miles on my electric bike?
Related article – 5 Of The Best Electric Bikes Under $1,500
Can You Carry An Extra Battery For An Electric Bike?
For most PEV riders the answer to range anxiety is to carry the charger.
If you are planning to spend a whole afternoon riding, this can be a great solution. When you stop for lunch, simply plug in your PEV and let it charge.
With a EUC or a OneWheel, carrying your charger is the only way. The batteries are not removable. This is a safety feature. The manufacturers know that a replaceable battery may lose contact with the system during use. This would cause the self-balancing system to power down, dropping the rider at potentially dangerous speeds. Believe me, doing a belly flop at 45 mph will ruin your weekend. With a two-wheel bike, cut-outs are nowhere near as frightening.
Unlike a EUC, many electric bikes do have removable batteries, making it possible to carry an extra battery. Not every electric bike has a removable battery. So if extending your range this way is important to you, make sure the bike you buy has removable batteries and that the company has additional batteries for sale.
Now, for more on carrying reserve batteries.
The details I’m about to give you are specific to the Lectric XP. But I can assure you that the basic characteristics of this model will hold for most electric bikes. This is because the physics of cell chemistry is going to be the same for any rechargeable cell and the system it powers. Technological improvements and brand quality notwithstanding, most electric bikes will adhere to the tips and suggestions below.
Related article – Can You Overcharge An Electric Bike Battery?
Carrying An Extra Battery In Practice
Alright, so if you have a bike that is at least comparable to mine, and you’re planning to double your range, here’s what you can expect.
For a start, the battery is the most expensive part of any electric vehicle. The Lectric XP costs about $900 in total, and buying a replacement battery will run you another $500. Now, for 60 miles of range, you are paying $1400 altogether. Yes, that does sound expensive, but it is worthwhile, in my opinion, if you really need the extra range.
The next thing you should understand is that these batteries are heavy. Modern rechargeable battery technology has made huge advancements over the last few years. Imagine how much power it takes to propel a 200lb man at 30 miles per hour for one to two hours without stopping. These are not your average copper tops!
The battery my bike uses weighs approximately 7 pounds. That added weight will take a few miles off your range if you carry an extra. So, instead of getting 60 miles, you can expect to get 50 to 55 total miles. That’s still not bad.
Interesting read – Can You Take An Electric Bike On A Plane?
The Danger Of Battery Fires
Now, there’s one more thing to keep in mind, and it’s a serious issue. You must carry your extra battery with great care.
If you break the seal on the internal cells, it will catch fire and possibly explode. They produce toxic smoke and nothing will extinguish them until the fuel is completely burnt up. Electric battery fires are dangerous. The many former owners of Tesla cars that suddenly caught fire will tell you the same.
To protect your battery during travel, my advice is to wrap it in a thick towel and put it into a compartmented backpack. This will help keep it from banging around. You may also need to forget about carrying groceries until you can make certain your battery can be safely packed in.
In the Lectric bike, the battery that is in use is protected by a thick, tight-fitting, aluminum shell. It’s very safe when it’s installed. Even if it does catch fire, I’m confident the metal shell would give me plenty of time to get it to a place where it can burn out safely. Further, small openings in the frame will keep the whole thing from turning into a pressurized disaster.
If I had a significant fall while carrying another battery, there is a chance that it would get bent and rupture. In other words, crashing while carrying your auxiliary battery could cost you $500, plus the additional damage the fire may cause.
Of course, any crash on any vehicle can cost you a ride to the emergency room. So, let’s face the fact that we are always taking a risk when we ride. There’s no way around it. In brief, yes, you can carry an extra battery for some electric bikes. Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons.
- Double the range (nearly)
- No more range anxiety
- More riding = more fun
- You will have a backup for your stock battery
- Lithium-ion batteries are expensive
- Lithium-ion batteries are heavy
- Battery fires can be very dangerous
- Carrying a large battery means it is less protected than normal
The Legalities Of Lithium Ion Batteries
The final warning I’ll give you is about exposing other people to the danger of exploding batteries.
For a start, you cannot take large rechargeable batteries on a commercial airplane. Second, in the off chance that you dropped or sat on your battery and triggered a delayed fire, you may become a walking hazard. Suppose you went into a mall or restaurant with a damaged battery in your backpack!
It may even be illegal to go some places with a large rechargeable battery on your person. If the worst-case scenario occurs, you could end up facing lawsuits on top of possible injuries.
With all that being said, electric batteries are no more dangerous than any other mode of travel. But it’s important to know what the risks are and to be prepared for them. When it comes to carrying a large lithium-ion battery loose while engaging in sports/travel, know you are taking on additional risk. Prepare accordingly.
So, protect your health. Protect your investment, and carry your auxiliary battery with care and caution.
You may also be interested in How To Store And Protect Your Bike Outside.