Pain at the pump? These low-cost e-bikes cost pennies to ‘refuel’

I know I know. The whole “Don’t like gas prices? Riding a bike!” sounds boring and impractical to most people. But if you didn’t already know, there is a much more practical alternative to classic pedal bikes: fun and energy-efficient e-bikes! Now more than ever, with gas prices soaring and the uncertain fuel outlook on the horizon, it might be time to think again about an e-bike.

Look, if you can pedal your entire ride, that’s great. Dark! But the simple fact is that very few car commuters have the patience or physical stamina to trade their car ride for strenuous pedaling on an old-school 21-speed. But e-bikes have had huge success in convincing riders to switch to two wheels.

Electric bikes essentially take the pain out of cycling, turning a long, strenuous bike ride into a shorter, faster, and more fun ride. While most e-bikes have a pedal assist feature that gives you a helpful push while you provide some of the pedaling, many (at least in the US) also have throttle levers that allow them to be driven like mopeds, no pedaling required. Pedaling is great for exercising, and it’s great that e-bikes offer this option. But sometimes you just need to get to work fast, and that’s where a low-cost e-bike with a hand throttle can be a good alternative.

Aventon Soltera Electric Bike

The savings at the pump are impressive. The national average gasoline price per gallon in the United States was US$4.32 today. Depending on your car, this can take you between 20 and 50 miles.

But on an electric bike? That same US$4.32 will get you over 2,000 miles. It’s because it’s ridiculously cheap to charge an e-bike, and they are ridiculously efficient. You probably won’t even notice a difference in your electric bill if you own an e-bike – they just barely use any power.

You do not believe me ? Here is the calculation. Considering an average national electricity price in the United States of $0.10 kWh and an average e-bike efficiency of around 20 Wh/mile, this equates to around $0.002 per mile, or 5 miles for a penny of electricity. If you’re an urban commuter and ride an 8km trip, you can do it on an e-bike for the price of a single sticky penny stuck in the bottom of your car’s cup holder.

Then consider the savings on parking fees, insurance, car payments, car wear and tear, etc. Many people have taken advantage of these savings by switching from two-car families to one-car and e-bike families. Some have even ditched cars altogether in favor of e-bikes, saving tens of thousands of dollars. For example, a woman in San Francisco calculated that in seven years she saved $50,000 by switching to an e-bike.

electric stepper xp
Step by step Electric XP

Is a cheap electric bike the solution?

Of course, there are some very nice e-bikes out there. Prices can easily soar into the multi-thousand dollar range. I’ve tested several of these expensive e-bikes, and yes, you actually get a better bike for the price.

But if the goal is to save money, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars. There are also great options at the more affordable end of the spectrum. And depending on where you live, they can pay for themselves in a matter of months. You will of course have to work out the price on your own, but with a tank of gas currently approaching $60-100 depending on the size of your tank, you can see how quickly an e-bike can pay for itself.

Then consider other factors like the price of parking. In San Francisco, where parking costs an average of $350 per month, a $1,000 electric bike can pay for itself in less than three months! Even if you have an electric car, the price of parking alone can be a great reason to upgrade to an electric bike for many trips.

And luckily, there are plenty of good e-bikes available at a reasonable price. I generally recommend avoiding anything under around $600, as e-bikes are largely disposable at this price point. But at around $800 to around $1,300, it’s a sweet spot for high-value e-bikes.

I recently compiled some of the best e-bikes I’ve tested at all price points (among over 100 e-bikes over the past two years), but below I’ll share some of the best budget options that would be ideal for relieving pump pain without requiring a huge upfront expense.

Electric XP 2.0 ($999): This is one of my favorite e-bikes for your money right now. It can hit fast speeds of up to 28mph, has a pretty decent range of at least 20 miles (although many e-bikes can go further) and comes with front suspension, a rear rack, fenders, lights and more included as standard equipment. Plus, the collapsible nature means you can also take it on the bus or keep it in the trunk of your car if you want to go to the outskirts of town and then cover the last few miles, saving gas and parking fees. Check out my full review here.

Electric XP LITE ($799):

The Lectric XP LITE is the little brother of the Lectric XP 2.0 from above. It’s not as good as a bike, but it might actually be the best option for some riders. It still gets good performance, including a top speed of 20 mph and a range of up to 40 miles with pedal assist. But it has an 18% smaller battery than the XP 2.0, so the throttle-only range isn’t quite as good – maybe only 15 miles if you’re riding really hard. However, if you only need to travel 15 miles or less (which is true for most urban residents), this might be the ticket for you. It’s also a single-speed bike with no suspension, so you give up a few of the nicer features of the XP 2.0. But if you’re okay with a singlespeed, it’ll reward you with a much lighter 46 lbs. It’s also smaller when fully folded, which means it’s even easier to lift and store in a car trunk or back seat. Definitely worth a look if you’re trying to get an awesome e-bike for under $800. You can see my full review here.

Ride1Up Roadster V2 ($1,045): This one doesn’t have a throttle, but the powerful pedal assist means the motor will help you reach speeds of up to 25 mph as long as you pedal a little yourself. The bike is super light for an e-bike at only 32 lbs. It is single speed and uses a belt drive which means you will never have to deal with chain issues or maintenance. The ride has more of a sporty, forward-leaning road bike feel. This will be great for some people, but others may prefer a relaxed, straight ride. You can get a more relaxed riding position on the company’s $1,399 Ride1Up 500 series, if that’s your thing. Check out my full review here.

Rad Power Bikes RadMission ($1,199): The RadMission is a more conventional metro-style e-bike, which might look more familiar to many riders new and old. It can reach a top speed of 20 mph and travel between 20 and 40 miles, depending on whether you plan to help pedal or not. Plus, it’s quite light compared to most e-bikes at just 47 lbs. It’s a single speed, but it also seems to work well on modest hills. Rad also launched a new e-bike recently known as the RadExpand 5. It has similar performance specs (although a little more range compared to a larger battery), but comes in a folding frame with big tires. At $1,499, it’s a bit more expensive, but it may be more of the type of vehicle you’re looking for. Check out my full review here.

Aventon Soltera ($1,199): The Aventon Soltera is a surprisingly high quality electric bike for the price. It has a top speed of 20mph and a very well integrated battery that hides in the frame, but is still removable for charging. It’s also a very forward-leaning city e-bike, but it comes with more city-focused features like taillights built right into the frame. There’s a throttle and assist pedal, and the bike is available as single-speed or 7-speed. Check out my full review here.

There are so many good e-bikes in a wide price range that there is almost certainly something for everyone.

But if you’re on a tight budget and trying to get started on the cheap, these are great options to get you rolling efficiently.

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