This article first appeared in the June issue of the Ashland Locals Guide
Take Care of That Battery
by Jerry Solomon
If you own or have been looking into an electric bike you know that the battery is the single most expensive component. Replacement costs run the gamut from $400 to over $1000 for a high quality lithium battery pack. Needless to say, its something you’ll want to maintain as effectively as possible to protect your investment. The simplest take-away from this article can be distilled to four words; KEEP IT FULLY CHARGED.
E-bike batteries do not like to sit in a discharged state for very long. So, its best to recharge your bike after every day of riding. At the very least you’ll know you have a full charge for your next riding adventure, and at best you’ll assure the longest possible life from your pack. Plug the charger in and let it do a complete charge cycle. Your smart charger will shut down automatically so there’s no risk of overcharging the pack. Its fine if the charger is left plugged in beyond the required time, however, you don’t want it left on indefinitely; the charger itself is still heating up a bit and that equates to wear.
There are no advantages to running the pack down completely nor are there any ‘memory’ issues like batteries of years past. The longest lasting batteries are those that get ‘topped off’ repeatedly and seldom get fully discharged. If you do run your battery down to its shut-off point, it’s OK. That’s part of what the battery management system is designed to do – prevent damage from over discharging. Don’t do it on a regular basis and you’ll be fine.
Its best to wait thirty minutes or so after a long ride to let your battery cool down before recharging it, especially on hot summer days. Keep the battery and the charger out of the direct sun as well. Conversely, in the winter its best if you can charge and store the pack in a warm space between rides. If not, your riding range will be less than what it is during warmer seasons. (My bikes live outside all year and don’t seem to be any worse for the wear.) If the temperature drops below zero then you do need to make provisions for a warmer space before charging.
On the topic of winter; if your bike sits (fully charged, of course!) for more than a month without being used, plug the charger in for the short time that it takes to bring it back to full. These short charges every month will keep all the individual cells within the pack balanced and prevent unnecessary issues come springtime. Connecting the charger in November and forgetting about it all winter IS NOT THE SAME THING. E-bikes utilize smart chargers and they are very different than trickle chargers. Do the once-a-month routine and you’ll be fine.
As you can see, maintaining your e-bike battery is not that difficult. Treat it like the valued resource that it is and you should get many years of service in return. Now, get out, take a ride, and be sure to charge your battery once you’re back home.