If you’ve walked around cities like New York or San Francisco in the last few years, you probably noticed the increasing number of e-bike riders zipping through the streets and bike lanes, many of them hauling large food deliveries. If it seems like this trend has exploded recently, that’s because it has. More than ever, the food delivery industry is relying on e-bikes to create efficiencies and improve the customer experience. Why is this? e-Bikes allow delivery personnel to bypass the automobile traffic that’s so rampant in metropolitan areas and get from door to door in record time. Faster deliveries mean fresher food—and happier customers.
Food delivery businesses are also discovering the cost-saving benefits of e-bikes. Their increased speed allows for more deliveries per day. Also, they’re far more reliable, and much less expensive, than delivery cars (see our Food Delivery via e-Bike vs. Car blog post for more on that). Today, save for a few holdouts, most cities have deemed e-bikes legal for widespread ownership and operation, paving the way for a food delivery renaissance. The only question left: Which e-bike should you choose for your deliveries? Let’s review some key factors a potential rider should consider.
Range is undoubtedly the most important factor to be aware of when choosing an e-bike for delivery; range anxiety is real and for delivery workers it becomes even more critical. In order to confidently choose an e-bike for delivery, they need to know that it can go the distance—to reach more destinations in a broader radius without petering out and leaving customers hungry and upset. Range is affected by a wide variety of factors, but a select few have an outsize impact…
Watt-hours are the most useful spec in determining an e-bike’s true range or run time. When attempting to maximize total range—or time before you need to recharge the battery—you should immediately consult the watt-hour rating of the bike’s battery.
As its name suggests, pedal-assist e-bikes support riders by providing extra power as they pedal, drastically reducing the physical energy riders must exert to go fast. These types of e-bikes are equipped with sensors that evaluate the rider’s pedaling force. When a certain threshold of force is reached, the e-bike’s electric motor is activated and it “shares” pedaling duties with the rider. Most pedal-assist e-bikes are equipped with mechanisms—a switch or shift lever—that allow the rider to vary the amount of help they get when pedaling. This gives the rider the freedom to leverage more battery power to make the rider easier—or make the ride a workout and, in turn, extend the battery range.
Throttle e-bikes, on the other hand, work more like motorcycles. The throttle is normally placed on the handlebar and is activated with a twist, providing variable motor power without pedaling. There are several different e-bike classes on the market; some use throttle while others don’t. It should come as no surprise that using throttle on an e-bike will drain the battery at a higher rate than using pedal-assist, as the rider is not mitigating the power drain with their legs. Faster battery depletion means reduced range.
In general, most bike couriers and delivery personnel agree that a 30+ mile range is needed for a regular 8-hour shift.
Depending on the city in which you plan to make your deliveries, your e-bike motor needs are going to change. Let’s explore the different types of motors for different types of riders.
For cities with a lot of uphill and downhill climbs, like SF or Seattle, you may want to consider a 500+ watt geared motor. That will ensure you have enough power to maintain speed on steep streets while still leaving you a wide selection of affordable bikes to choose from.
Similarly, for flatter cities like Los Angeles or New York, aim for 350+ watt motors. These will give you a selection of bikes that have the quick acceleration necessary to conquer the crowded streets (without breaking the bank).
Those in the delivery game will likely subject their e-bikes to higher mileage and more rigorous use than the average rider. For these folks, durability is a major point of consideration. They’ll want to make sure that all of the e-bike’s components can perform as intended for as long as they own the bike. If you’re one of these riders, you’re in luck—Ridepanda’s Vetting System ensures that we only sell e-bikes that meet the strictest durability standards. By evaluating suppliers in terms of quality, brand reputation, and technology, we can make your experience buying an e-bike a heck of a lot easier.
As is the case with the core components of an e-bike, it pays for delivery workers to consider their extras carefully.
Visibility is paramount in maintaining safe conditions for delivery workers, pedestrians, and anyone else sharing the city streets. At the bare minimum, an e-bike should be equipped with front and rear lights. It also never hurts to have some extra lights on your helmet, on your body, and any other spot that will make you stand out. Many e-bikes come equipped with front and rear lights, but some require you to purchase and install aftermarket solutions. Take this into account when making your choice.
Depending on the type of delivery worker you are, you might want to consider an e-bike that’s properly equipped to carry some cargo. This means choosing a bike with a built-in rack (front or rear), or one with the capability to add a rack if needed.
As we discussed earlier, range is one of the most important factors delivery workers look for when buying an e-bike; if your bike can’t get you where you need to go on a single charge, it might not be the bike for you. There is one exception to that rule, though: a bike with a swappable battery. By choosing an e-bike with a removable battery that can be replaced on the fly, riders can switch a spent battery for a fully charged spare and effectively double their range in seconds.
We hope this post helped clarify which factors make an e-bike ideal for your average delivery worker.
By adding a little electricity to their everyday, these professionals can make their jobs safer, easier, and more fun—and Ridepanda will be here to help them every step of the way.