Can electric bikes recharge as you pedal?

Yes. Some electric bikes recharge as you pedal, brake or go downhill.

Some electric bikes recharge as you pedal using an energy recovery mechanism.
These bikes use the bike motor as an electrical generator to recharge the battery
Most bike manufacturers have chosen not implemented regenerative technology on their bikes. Critics claim that efficiency gains are minimal and not worth the extra cost / weight / resistance.

How do electric bikes recharge as you pedal?

The battery on your bike recharges as you ride through:

  • Regenerative braking (or Regen braking), and;
  • Pedal or roll to recharge.

Regen braking

  • Regen braking uses your hub motor as an electrical generator to recharge your battery when you apply the brakes. The technology has been used on trains since 1886. It is very common in electric cars, but rare on electric bikes.
  • BionX hub motors
    A motor with regen braking

  • Electric bicycles with regen braking will typically achieve 10% more range than a comparable standard electric bicycle.
  • In practice, the efficiency gain will largely depend on how hilly your riding environment is and how much braking you do.
  • You may achieve a 20% improvement in range when riding in mountainous terrain. On flat empty terrain, the gain may fall to around 1%. For moderately hilly city commuting 10% is possible.
  • Power generated through regen braking is no substitute for recharging from a power outlet. To fully recharge a battery you would have to cycle a great distance (without using the motor).
  • Regen braking on electric bicycles requires a gearless hub motor. This form of motor is a less popular design than a geared mid-drive motor.

Pedal or roll to recharge

An extension of regen braking is to be able to recharge your battery as you pedal (or roll down a hill). This uses the same technology as regen braking but you have the ability to manually activate the electrical generator when you are not braking. When you activate the “recharge” mode pedalling becomes harder as you are using your energy to turn the motor to generate electricity.

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