Energy recovery and e-bikes

Energy recovery refers to the energy that can be recovered with the help of your motor when braking your e-bike. This energy recovery is also sometimes referred to as 'recuperation'. Most e-bikes do not offer recuperation, but some bicycles have a motor to do this. Below, learn more about how energy recovery works, which e-bikes can do it, and whether energy recovery actually makes sense for an e-bike.

How does energy recovery work?

E-bike energy recovery works by feeding the kinetic energy generated when braking the e-bike back into the motor. There, the braking energy is converted into electrical energy and fed back into the bicycle's battery. This should, in theory, increase your battery’s range by that amount of energy. Similarly, when going downhill, the bicycle generates more energy than is needed, so that energy can theoretically be recovered. 

Can e-bikes use energy recovery?

The majority of e-bikes sold do not use energy recovery. This is, in part, because mid-drive motors are among the most popular motors on e-bikes, but their architecture does not allow energy recovery. Only hub motors, normally mounted on the rear hub, can be configured for energy recovery. The rear hub drive allows greater load capacity but does not allow back-pedal brakes to be installed with it. When braking and when going downhill, the hub motor can absorb the excess braking energy and feed it into the battery, increasing your range. 

Does energy recovery with an e-bike work?

Whether energy recovery can be useful on an e-bike depends on your riding behaviour, your battery charging habits, and your preferences. Tests have shown that the energy recovery of an e-bike in city traffic is about ten percent. As should be clear, for city riders, this does not mean much of an increase in range before the next recharge. Even on hill descents, it would take a very extended descent to provide any significant energy recovery, certainly more than just going down a hill of a few metres. If you would benefit from even a small increase in your battery’s range in everyday use, or if you regularly undertake long tours in hilly terrain, e-bike energy recovery on a hub motor could be interesting for you. But keep in mind that by configuring your e-bike for energy recovery, you will be sacrificing the advantages of back-pedal brakes and a mid-drive motor. Mid-drive motors have some advantages over rear hub motors and front hub motors: their position puts the e-bike’s centre of gravity high and in the middle of the bicycle, which makes for smooth handling; additionally, these motors are usually lighter and more efficient.