What is an eBike and are they better than cars and push bikes?

Electric bikes have been on the roads for years. But they haven’t taken off in Victoria to the extent that they have in Europe. Find out all about eBikes below and decide whether it’s time you joined the electric bicycle ‘velorution’.

eBike pilot program

RACV launched its eBike pilot program in 2017 with the aim of increasing awareness and providing access to a new mode of sustainable transport. This program has involved two main components;

  1. eBike trials: RACV have a small fleet of eBikes which we use for trials in local communities across Victoria. In 2017 we completed two trials, one in Geelong and one the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. Each trial involved providing a small number of interested RACV members with an eBike for a period of 6 weeks and capturing their feedback regarding the eBike, what they like, dislike, and how an eBike may have changed their transport behaviour. These trials help underpin our public policy and advocacy with real world user perspectives. Findings from the completed trials, and information regarding planned trials for 2018, will be made available in the coming months.

  2. eBike package: RACV launched the eBikes pilot in 2017, making ownership more affordable through offering a monthly repayments program. The program was successful in attracting interest in electric-assisted cycling as an alternate option for commuting. However, due to a number of factors, RACV has made the decision to no longer offer any new sales of the eBikes package effective 18th May, 2018. For any enquiries relating to an existing RACV eBike package please contact ebikes@racv.com.au.

RACV is committed to supporting all road users including cyclists. Our much-loved Melbourne Bike Share service is used daily by commuters and tourists, and we continue to support cyclists with our Bike Assist roadside assistance product, as well as our continued support of key cycling events across Victoria. 

In 2019 RACV released new research demonstrating the highest priorities for investment in Melbourne’s bicycle network: corridors such as Chapel Street, Sydney Road and St Kilda Road are all at the top of the list, and our advocacy to make this network safe and connected will continue over the coming years.

RACV would like to thank our loyal members who have taken up the eBike package or been involved in an eBike trial. We look forward to continuing our advocacy for bicycle riding in Victoria and offering more services in this space.

Please be assured that discontinuation of the eBike program will not cause any changes to the payment plan for current eBike owners.

What is an eBike?

Watch video - What is an eBike?

An eBike is a bicycle with an electric motor that gives assistance to the rider. It has the same basic features as a regular push bike, with the added bonus of some electric assistance when the rider chooses to use it.

What kinds of eBikes are there?

In Victoria, there are two types of eBikes that can be legally ridden on the roads:

Pedal assistance or ‘pedelec’

Pedal assistance eBikes have a motor that only works while you pedal. The motor assists up to a maximum of 25kph (you can travel at speeds faster than this, but only using human pedal power).

By adjusting the display panel, the level of assistance can be altered to suit the riding conditions. For example, you may choose to have maximum assistance when riding up a hill and then turn off assistance altogether when riding on a flat road. To cut the power, you just stop pedalling or start braking.

Throttle eBikes

Throttle eBikes allow you to use the electric motor to travel without the need to pedal. The throttle sits on the handlebars and gives a maximum power of 200 watts.

How far can an eBike battery get me?

Modern eBikes are powered by a lithium long-life battery. Batteries can be charged from a regular household power outlet. The distance you can travel on a fully charged battery depends on the bike, level of assistance and riding conditions.

What are the laws on eBikes?

Riders of eBikes must follow Victoria's road rules for bicycle riders

Why ride an eBike?

Watch video - Why ride an eBike?

What are the pros and cons of riding an eBike?

RACV believes ebikes are not only a valuable mobility option for many commuters but have the potential to address many of the barriers to riding a traditional bike, including the length of the trip, not feeling fit enough to ride, and other forms of transport being quicker than cycling.

When compared to a regular bike, an eBike:
  • Makes it easier to take off from a stopped position
  • Allows you to travel longer distances
  • Helps you get up hills
  • Can get you to your destination with less sweat than a conventional bike, so you probably won’t need to shower or change clothes when you arrive.
When compared to a car, an eBike:
  • Gets you out of congestion and sitting in heavy traffic
  • Means you won’t need to pay for parking
  • Helps you get some exercise in while you travel.

eBikes can also alleviate some of the drawbacks of other types of transport, such as cars and public transport. Whether you drive your car to work and sit in traffic most of the way or catch a crowded train a short distance because you don’t feel fit enough to ride your bike, it’s worth considering whether an ebike, or pedal-assisted electric bicycle, could make your journey more enjoyable.