It's often said that scooters are the most convenient means of transport in the capital, especially if you live a little further afield. China also happens to be the world’s largest electric bike manufacturer (and exporter), according to United Nation Sustainable Development, with an estimated 200 million e-bikes on the country's roads. That means you'll be in good company should you decide to saddle up, but it also means that there's a hell of a lot of choice when it comes to deciding which ride is best for you.
Below we've listed a few things you should consider below before you drop RMB 2,000-4,000 and join the ranks of China's e-bike riders.
Depending on the model of the e-bike, the range – the distance the battery allows for you to drive it – can vary by quite a margin. For example, a typical smaller e-bike with a basket will have a shorter battery life than a larger model. Usually, unless you're a waimai driver, covering the entire city on your e-bike, you will typically need to charge it every 2-3 days. The good thing is that batteries are much lighter than they used to be, even compared to just a few years ago. Inevitably, brands also matter when it comes to battery quality, and the top five trustworthy brands are often considered to be Yadi, Lvyuan, Xinri, Aima, and Xiaoniu.
Remember to always take your battery out of your bike – if you don't, you may soon find that your battery has plenty of range but this time in the hands of a thief.
The size of your e-bike matters. Before purchasing a bike, you should take into consideration whether you’ll largely be riding solo or if you will often have a second person riding pillion, which can slow down less powerful bikes significantly. There are also foldable e-bikes, which are much easier to secure in your apartment or office.
Below is a rough approximation of prices for the top five e-bike brands mentioned above:
Yadi (雅迪 yǎ dí): RMB 2,700-9,000
Aima (爱玛 ài mǎ): RMB 2,400-7,000
Xiaoniu (小牛电动 xiǎo niú diàndòng): RMB 3,100-20,000
Lvyuan (绿源 lǜyuán): RMB 2,000-7,000
Xinri (新日 xīn rì): RMB 2,000-6,700
Sites like JD.com often run sales on bikes like these with significant savings, so keep an eye out.
An e-bike will usually last you around 3-5 years with a few minor repairs. After that amount of time, replacement parts may be harder and more expensive to get hold of. However, using an e-bike is definitely still cheaper than relying upon taxis and Didis, and if you use your bike for an extended period of time, it may even come out cheaper than riding the subway – huzzah!
Sadly, the days of buying a scooter on the black market and riding off into the sunset are long gone. Sensibly, the government has since decided to limit the number of vehicles on the street, which means you will need to register your bike upon purchase. If you have no idea how, fear not, just follow our instructions right here.
Now you're full-throttle on what to consider when buying an e-bike, don't forget the most important factor of all: safety. Always wear a helmet, be extra cautious while riding in the dark, slow down at intersections, and never ride an e-bike under the influence!
Wanna drop the 'e' from e-bike? Here are four reasons why cycling in Beijing is way nicer than you think.