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If you live in a part of the world blessed with cold-weather months, then it’s essential to think about how to care for your electric bike (e-bike), whether you ride it in the winter or not. Lots of riders take advantage of an e-bike’s year-round flexibility. But, as the temperatures drop, it’s still important to consider the best way to store the bike, especially the battery.
Cold weather is not always conducive to healthy batteries, whether they are in your car, your riding lawn mower, or your e-bike. Knowing how to protect them best can save you money and keep your e-bike running smoothly all year round. What do you need to know about getting your battery ready for winter?
Why is Winter Hard on E-Bike Batteries?
Cold weather doesn’t mean you automatically have a dead battery. Batteries work through the power of an electrochemical reaction. That reaction sends power signals to the terminal ends, which, in turn, sends it to the electric bike motor.
Freezing lowers the battery power by as much as 60 percent on a car. The difference is that the car battery recharges automatically once the engine starts. The same problem occurs on an e-bike battery, but it doesn’t recharge automatically when you ride.
There are a few things you need to consider when it comes to cold weather and your e-bike battery. First, there are different ways to care for the battery depending on whether you intend to ride your e-bike throughout the year or store it during the cold months.
Can You Ride an E-Bike in the Cold Weather?
For many areas of the country, the answer is yes. Although, it may not be a good idea to ride it if there is snow or ice on the streets. If you choose to ride in these conditions, make sure to wear safety gear, including a helmet and gloves.
Also, it would help if you only rode in the cold on a fully charged battery. Keep this in mind, even if you plan on going just a short distance. Most electric bikes use a lithium-ion battery, the same as your phone or laptop. They don't do well in extreme cold.
How Cold Effects Lithium-Ion Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries store energy in the form of lithium metal within the unit for later usage. Different lithium battery chemistries employ different "ions," however, they are all grouped together in one category. Still, like all batteries, it is a chemical reaction that produces the kinetic energy that runs your e-bike.
The temperature has a significant impact on chemical processes. When the temperature rises, molecules travel quicker and have more kinetic energy. However, if the molecules are cold and traveling slowly, the chemical reaction will take longer and produce less energy.
Cold weather affects:
In the cold, the battery will struggle to produce the energy necessary to run the e-bike’s motor. That stress drains the battery at a faster rate.
What to Do If You Ride Your E-bike in the Cold
If you possess an e-bike, chances are you do get tempted to take it out for a spin on certain days, even when it's freezing outside. However, with the weather being so cold, planning is more of a challenge. Good winter care starts with the battery.
Take Care of the Battery
Never keep your lithium e-bike battery out in the cold for any longer than necessary. Even temperatures below 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit (or 5-10 degrees Celsius) affect the battery’s performance.
Batteries kept in the cold become less efficient and have less power. Bring your battery inside whenever feasible to keep it warm and to maintain peak performance.
Plan to Charge the Battery More Frequently
Charges last longer in warm weather. In the cold, the battery cannot store as much energy, so that charge that lasts you one or two days round trip in the summer will not last in the wintertime. You will need to plan ahead and figure out ways to charge the battery more often. The colder it is outside, the more often it will need to recharge.
Take the battery off the e-bike and store it indoors. Also, don’t charge the battery in areas where the temperature is below freezing. It is better to begin your ride with a room-temperature battery that has been resting indoors.
You may keep the battery fully charged if you are not planning to use your e-bike for up to a week. However, if you do not intend to ride your e-bike for an extended period, it is best to reduce the voltage to less than a 90 percent charge (usually around 70 percent). This will extend the life of the battery and improve the charge.
Tips for Riding Your E-Bike in Winter
Of course, the battery is just one part of your e-bike. There are ways to protect the rest of your bike, too, from the harsh weather.
If you venture out onto the winter streets, then make sure you dress warm enough to protect your body from the cold, too. It will be much harsher on the e-bike than you might expect.
How to Store the E-bike for the Winter
If you do not ride the e-bike during the cold months, there are still steps you should take to store it properly. Again, it starts with the lithium-ion battery. E-bike winter storage means you are putting it away for a prolonged period, not days but months.
Remove the Battery
Store the battery in a cool, dry place and somewhere that it won’t freeze. Avoid putting it on a stone or metal floor. If putting the battery in the garage, for instance, store it off the floor on a wood bench, cabinet, or shelf. Avoid storing it on the floor or on a metal shelf.
Ideally, you will put the battery someplace where the ambient temperature is over 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In cold areas, an attached garage might work because the heat from the house tends to warm the space.
If you live in a region prone to extreme cold, though, you’ll want to bring the battery indoors. Store it somewhere out of reach of kids and pets. It also needs to be in a dry area.
Charge the Battery Periodically
Batteries do not do well when they left idle for too long. You will want to keep the charge at between 50 and 70 percent. Check it regularly to see the charge level. When it gets near the 50 percent mark, pick a warm spot and hook it up to the charger. Take it back up to 70 percent and then store it until the next check.
Tips for Storing Your E-Bike
Clean the e-bike frame thoroughly before putting it away from the winter. Wipe it down with mild dishwashing soap. When cleaning, give the chain and rear tire cassette a little extra love using hot, soapy water and a scrub brush. Don’t use a pressure washer on the bike.
Rinse the soap off with clean water and a rag multiple times. Don’t hose it down; that may damage the motor. Once clean, wipe the frame down well with a towel. Don’t put the e-bike away still wet.
This is an excellent time to look the e-bike over for loose screws and to oil and grease key areas, like the seat post. You can buy bike cleaning kits that come with everything you need to maintain your e-bike frame and moving parts.
Store the bike in a dry area. If that’s not possible, cover it. Pick a cover that fits snuggly and will stay in place in strong winds. Try to put the bike someplace where the wind won’t hit it, such as between buildings or in an alcove.
What if the Battery Is Not Removable?
Not all e-bikes have removable batteries. Some come built into the frame. Riding a bike with a built-in battery has many advantages. For example, the bike may have better balance. It may also have more storage space because there isn’t a bulky battery.
The downside is that you can’t just remove the battery to store or charge it. The things you need to do to protect your battery from the cold and keep it at the proper charge don’t change just because it is built-in, though. You still need to move it inside. You’ll just have to bring the whole e-bike in instead of just the battery.
You still want to maintain the charge at between 50 and 70 percent for prolonged storage. If you are taking the e-bike out on the road, the battery should be at room temperature before you use it.
When The Weather Warms Again
When the weather warms and the new biking season begins, you’ll be glad you took the steps necessary to protect your e-bike from the cold. The best way to get it ready to use the bike again is to get a professional tune-up at your local bike store.
The technician will test the battery to make sure it charges fully. They will also look over the frame, brake pads, chain lube, and gear shifts to ensure everything works well.
If you prefer the DIY method, you want to redo some of the things you did before storing the electric bike. Start by giving it a good cleaning. Months of sitting untouched can lead to lots of dust build-up. Try to use as little water as possible this time around, especially around the moving parts or sensitive components.
To tune the e-bike up, you’ll need to:
It’s an extensive list which is why so many prefer to go to the bike shop to get a tune-up. With the right tools and knowledge, though, it is possible to do it at home.
Check the Battery Before You Ride
Before getting back on the e-bike, charge the battery and check that it is holding the charge. If you find your battery does not charge, check to make sure the charger works properly. Read the manual on your charger to see how to test it.
If the charger checks out, you need to test the battery. Your local bike store can do that for you. You can also do it at home with the right equipment, such as a voltmeter.
The best way to get your e-bike through the winter is to buy a quality ride. Work with a company that helps you find the perfect e-bike for your lifestyle and personal needs. To find out more, visit Sixthreezero.com.
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