Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by Matt
In this guide, I will walk you through the steps of how to properly charge your electric bike. I’ve developed this checklist based on my own experience with electric bikes, so charging procedures may vary from one electric bike model to another, but this guide will apply to most e-bikes. I will also cover the best practices of electric bike charging for efficiency, durability, and safety. Let’s dive right in!
Charging your electric bike – step-by-step guide
Following the right procedure every time you charge your electric bike prolongs its durability and enhances the performance of the battery. Proper charging also means avoiding common charging mistakes that affect the lifespan of your electric bike, the charger, and other electrical components like the controller and wiring.
Use the following procedure as a general checklist whenever you need to charge your electric bike.
Step 1 – Understand the charge levels of the battery
First, I recommend taking some time to understand the various charging levels and battery status messages for your electric bike.
Most electric bikes have a battery level indicator that shows you how much charge you have left, or how many miles of range you have left on some bikes. Advanced e-bikes have detailed battery information broken down into range, wattage, efficiency, temperatures, etc.
Generally, you should charge your electric bike whenever the battery level is at about 40% or below, but make sure to study your own e-bike’s battery for the specifics.
When you first buy the electric bike, charge the battery to full capacity. A full first charge is recommended to condition the new battery and help with calibration. It can also help you understand the capabilities of your bike in terms of range and efficiency.
Charge your electric bike if the remaining range or charge of the battery is lower than the distance you need to cover. I recommend charging your e-bike to the maximum level every charge cycle if possible. Charging your e-bike to capacity every time ensures accurate battery calibration and range estimation.
More advanced electric bikes like Rad Power can calculate or accurately estimate your range based on the status of your bike at any given moment. They measure metrics such as terrain, rider weight, pedal assistance use, battery level, etc.
Low battery level
It’s not recommended to start riding your bike when the battery is critically low, especially if on a public road. I advise you to have at least a quarter charge before you set off, just to make sure you don’t lose power and have to use manual pedal power to propel the bike (although that’s not the end of the world, either).
Charge after every ride
An easy way to avoid forgetting to charge your electric bike is to charge it after every ride. I usually use my electric bike during the day and charge it in the evening.
Step 2 – Turn off the electric bike before charging
Turning off your electricity before connecting it to a charger is a safety requirement and a best practice. It helps you avoid accidentally shorting electrical components as you connect the charger.
Some electric bike models do not allow you to connect the charger while the bike is still running.
For removable batteries, switch your e-bike off if you choose to charge the battery separately. Never open the battery case and unplug the battery when the bike is still running. Doing this might affect the controller and other electrical components.
There are various methods used to turn off an electric bike and this depends on the specific model you own. The most common include:
- Using the remote – Some electric bike models come with a remote that can be used to turn them on and off by pressing the on/off button.
- Using the screen control – Your electric bike may have an on/off button you can use to switch off the bike before charging. In some models (e.g. Shimano bikes) you need to navigate to the mode selection menu before you choose the option to turn off the e-bike. Some bikes may have the option to turn off the display alone and not the entire bike.
- Use physical power button – Many electric bikes come with physical on/off buttons that are usually part of the control console or LED display. Turn off your electric bike by pressing the off button and ensure the LED indicator is in the right mode to show that the electric bike is off.
Step 3 – Detachable battery removal
Some electric bikes have removal or swappable batteries that can be charged separately from the bike. Make sure you follow the battery removal instructions for your specific e-bike for this step as the procedure varies depending on the design of the e-bike casing.
In some electric bikes, you can charge a detachable or external battery while it is still on the bike. Check if the charging port needs to be aligned using the key to allow charging, or if there are any other special requirements for “hot charging”.
Step 4 – Find your e-bike charger/charging cable
You need the charger or charging cable that comes with your electric bike for charging as well as an electrical outlet. The charger you use must be compatible with your electric bike’s charging port, battery type, and wall plug. Never use a different charger from the one that came with your e-bike, as the voltage limit, plug, and charging rate may be different.
Standard electric bike chargers usually have an output of between 36V and 48V. Typically, the charger voltage is a bit bigger than the battery’s voltage.
In some cases, manufacturers may provide chargers with fast charging ability. These have an even higher voltage output and take less time to charge your e-bike’s battery. However, standard practice is to have a charger whose output in voltage is the same or slightly higher than the e-bike’s rated voltage.
In any case, the primary rule is to use the OEM charger that came with your electric bike.
For rental e-bikes, use the charge or charging station cables designated for the model you are riding. For instance, don’t try to charge a rental bike in an electric scooter charging station even if the plugs are compatible.
Step 5 – Connect the charger to the bike
Most electric bikes have a charging port on the side of the battery casing with a flexible cover. Locate this port and open the flexible cover or lid, and then plug in the charger. A compatible charging cable should be able to slide into the charging port smoothly.
To start the charging process, connect the other end of the charging cable to a power source (outlet). Electric bikes have an LED indicator near the battery that turns on or changes color to indicate the charging status.
In some models, you can monitor the charging process from the screen or the companion app.
In either case, you don’t need to do anything while the battery is charging.
How to know when your electric bike is fully charged
For most electric bikes you can tell when charging is completed by looking at the LED charging indicator. In almost all cases, the indicator light will be red while the battery is charging, and green when the battery is fully charged.
Depending on the design of your electric bike, the charging LED could be positioned somewhere on the charger, near the charging port, or on the LED screen on your handlebars. The charging indicator could be showing a row of bars to indicate charging, blinking, or changes to a different color.
Advanced electric bikes with LCDs show more information about the charging status like the temperature, charge rate, and charging status. In these models, you will get a message on the LCD or companion app when the battery is fully charged.
Electric bike charging best practices
Besides the steps outlined above, the following best practices will help you avoid common mistakes and hazards associated with charging electric bike batteries.
Avoid after-market chargers and battery accessories
Most e-bike manufacturers discourage the use of after-market chargers and battery accessories. After-market chargers and accessories could charge your-electric bike but may also cause damage, since many after-market chargers do not have the correct charge rate and operating temperatures for safe charging.
Ensure optimal charging temperatures
The lithium-ion battery in your e-bike uses temperature-dependent chemical reactions to charge. Charging your electric bike in freezing and below-freezing temperatures is not ideal for the chemical reactions needed for charging which may slow down or prevent the reactions. On the other hand, very high temperatures may cause internal damage to your lithium-ion battery in some cases.
Refer to the technical manual of your electric bike for details on the optimal charging temperatures. For standard lithium-ion batteries, the recommended optimal charging temperature usually ranges between 44 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit / 6 to 25 degrees Celsius. This is also the reason why it is not recommended to charge your e-bike while the battery is hot from a riding session.
Inspect the charging components before charging
As a preventive safety measure, it is recommended to always inspect the charging components (battery, charger, and charging port) before you start charging. You can use the following checklist when inspecting these components:
- Check the battery for damage (swelling, hotness, leakages, vapors)
- Check the charging port on the e-bike for foreign debris and damage
- Check that the battery indicator is working
- Check the charger for physical and electrical damage – this includes burnt cables, broken plugs, frayed cables, broken insulation, etc.
- Check for liquid on any of the charging components – never use a charger that was previously submerged in water to charge your electric bike.
- Check for unusually high temperatures, burning smells, or cracking sounds when connecting your charging components to power.
- Check the voltage of your charging components – USA and Canada power outlets supply a voltage of between 110 to 120 volts. Some imported electric bikes may have charging components with bigger or smaller voltage ratings that need to be stepped up or down to work on US power outlets. That said, many modern electrical products come with voltage-adaptive charging components.
Can you charge an electric bike at home?
Yes, you can charge your electric bike at home by connecting it to an outlet using a charger compatible with normal US power outlets. Early e-bike models came with a special charging system that you had to install with the help of an expert. Consumer e-bikes today come with detachable chargers you can use in any place that has a power source.
Can you overcharge an electric bike?
Modern electric bikes have a smart charging system programmed to automatically cut the current flow to the battery when it is full. However, it is possible to overcharge your electric bike if you use after-market chargers that don’t have these smart monitoring features.
Overcharging your battery is dangerous as it raises the temperature of the battery which may cause fires or permanent damage. While usually nothing will happen if you leave your electric bike plugged in after the battery is full, there is still a minuscule risk of something going wrong.
That’s why it’s still best practice to unplug your electric bike when the battery is full.
Can you charge an electric bike without a charger?
It is possible to charge an electric bike using normal power cables and an improvised connection to the battery. However, this is not recommended as the voltage and charge rate are not regulated or monitored. Doing this may damage your battery over time and void your warranty.
Check this video for an idea on how you could go about this for Razor bikes.