3 August, 2021
Orbea Lab: Dealing with Range Anxiety
Range anxiety is very real, you can be sure about that. In the world of electric cars the range is the main factor which drives purchasing decisions. Interestingly the second most important factor is how much fun the car is to drive. It seems that there are a lot of parallels between electric cars and bikes.
Anyone who has ridden an e-bike knows that fear of dropping down into a valley and not having enough battery to pedal back out, or the fear of your battery running out and all your friends leaving you behind. How many of us have had to be towed up that final climb by a friend who has been more careful about saving their battery during the ride?
Making an e-bike with more range typically means adding a bigger battery and making the frame big enough and strong enough to house that battery safely. That approach comes with compromises of course, in the form of increased weight. For some people those compromises are worth it and they want the most assistance possible in a long travel, hard hitting e-bike. Other people are looking for something different, they want an electric bike with a lighter, more natural, fun ride.
Is it possible to give these riders what they want without compromising on the possible range? Can we make a light, fun, e-bike without leaving riders suffering from the dreaded range anxiety?
These are questions we asked ourselves when we started developing our RS concept for the RISE. Let’s take a look at that and see how the RISE answers these questions.
Free Range Bikes
The RISE generates confusion among some riders. We understand why; we tell you that the RISE is intended for big rides but then it comes with a 360Wh battery, leaving some people doubting the range claims.
There are three key concepts we need to consider to understand how the RISE offers the range for long rides without adding weight.
1- The 1.5x Factor
Our RS concept allows a great day on the trails because the lighter bike, lower power consumption and of course, greater reliance on your legs extends battery life by a factor of over 1.5x. Our engineers worked with Shimano to configure the EP8 motor with our RS firmware to offer natural assistance which works together with the rider in a cadence range of 75-95rpm. This is where the typical rider is most efficient, meaning that the rider and the motor deliver peak power together, maximising the fun as well as the range.
This means the 360Wh RS Battery of Rise delivers ride times and ranges similar to a 540Wh battery in a typical eBike.
You can read more about the RS concept here:
2- Building a Better Battery
The battery is one of the most noticeable components of an eBike system, so with our Rise every step has been taken to create the lightest, smallest, highest capacity and most discreet unit.
The Rise features a modular battery solution that provides up to 612Wh, combining the light and compact 360wh main battery and the patent-pending 252Wh range extender.
The main battery, at 2,1kg might be one of the lightest and slimmest examples out there. We based our batteries on the newest 21700 cell technology, which provides a higher rate of charge/discharge and heat management. That heat management improves the battery life, meaning it retains around 20% more capacity after 1000 charge / discharge cycles.
Integrating the battery into the frame also allows us to make important improvements in weight, both with the frame itself and the battery.
3- Range Extender
Rise is intended for big rides but let’s be honest, how often are we really riding 3-4 hours? And by that we mean 3-4 hours of pedalling time, not food breaks, not map checks, not talking to your friends! Of course it happens, and some days just demand more – more time on the bike, a few more meters of climbing, but, that is not every day so why should we carry all that extra battery weight around on days when you don’t need it? That is where our RS Range Extender comes in with its additional 252Wh of exploration potential.
Combined with the internal battery that’s an impressive 612Wh, something approximately equivalent to a 900Wh battery on a regular ebike and is more than enough for the longest riders.
The Range Extender fits into our water bottle cage and provides instantaneous power, so plug it in at any time or even carry more than one for ridiculously long rides. When you don’t need it, just leave it at home and fit your water bottle.
Some Real World Data
In the real world we regularly record around 2500m of climbing in ECO mode with just the main battery. With the range extender that rises to well over 3500m but the truth is that most rides stop before we reach that limit. In one recent ride one of our ambassadors recorded 2867m of climbing over 70km with just the main battery.
The truth is that the range of any electric bike depends a lot on the rider, conditions and which assistance mode you choose, and for this reason it is hard to give a definite answer to how much range an electric bike has. It is more correct to give an idea of the maximum range and then consider the factors which can affect that range.
In repeated tests using the same test track in different conditions, with different rider weights and using different assistance modes we measured the difference in range. We used meters climbed to measure range.
1- Weight vs Range
When we added 20kg to the rider’s backpacks we measured an approximately 20% reduction in range. To put that into context, if you weigh 90kg and are riding with a friend who weighs 70kg, using a mix of ECO and TRAIL with occasional blasts of BOOST, you might expect to be able to climb 1800m but your friend will keep on going to over 2100m of climbing.
2- Conditions vs Range
One of the biggest factors is simply the conditions on the trails and the type of trails you ride. If you ride on the muddiest days with the lowest temperatures you might expect to reduce your range by over 40%.
3- Assistance mode vs Range
The assistance mode makes a big difference to the range. If you ride in TRAIL you would see a reduction in range of around 22% compared to ECO and then a further 20% reduction as you climbed to BOOST.
AVERAGE SPEEDS DURING OUR TESTS
While we were carrying out these tests we also measured average speeds. It was really interesting to look at the average speeds between different bikes. Using the Rise in TRAIL mode and a WILD FS in TOUR, and also comparing it to the Occam, we saw that the RISE was around 35% faster than the OCCAM for fit riders, whereas the WILD FS was around 50% faster. So a 40 minute climb on the OCCAM takes around 29 minutes on the RISE and 20 minutes on the WILD FS.
Remember, for these tests the rider fitness will affect the RISE average speed significantly but have much less effect for the WILD FS. We used a moderately fit rider, with a fit rider and fresh legs the average speed of the RISE will be significantly higher, closer to that of the WILD FS.
It is important to keep these factors in mind as you plan your ride and manage your battery. If in doubt you can always add the range extender. And don’t forget that with the lightweight RISE and the low friction pedalling, even if you do end up running out of battery you can always pedal the RISE home without too many problems.