E-bikes are the fastest-growing bicycle segment worldwide providing sustainable, environmentally friendly and simple transport solutions for a wide range of people. The technology is getting better as electronic systems become smaller, lighter and more affordable, a trend that will only continue into the future as the technology gets more sophisticated.
Electronic bikes are found in many different cycling disciplines but commuting is where they make the most sense. They are perfect for short commutes around urban and city areas, they enable people to make short trips without sweating or expending large amounts of energy, they ease congestion on the road and are extremely practical in terms of carrying cargo and safety. We've had a look through some of the best E-bikes for 2020 around AUD$4,000, and come up with seven great options (in no particular order).
What to Expect
Before we jump into what to expect at this price range and what features to look out for, it's important to know the laws in Australia regarding E-bikes. A power output of 250 watts (increased from 200 watts in 2012), is the maximum allowed and the powered speed of assisted bikes is restricted to 25kph, meaning that once you hit 25.1kph the drive unit will taper off and you're on your own. Riders also have to pedal for the bike to be considered a power-assisted bike. If riders don't need to pedal to access the power assistance, and it is deemed that the motor is the primary source of power, it is categorised as a motor vehicle and standard road rules apply.
As speed is limited to 25kph, power (referred to as wattage) of the electronic unit is less significant than things like battery life and 'range', which will tell you how far you can travel with a full battery in different modes. A boost or turbo mode can be handy in traffic to get away quickly from lights or stoppages, often this is represented in the amount of torque available, the greater the torque, the faster you can get up to speed. The number and type of modes are also essential and your priorities will change depending on your chosen type of travel, short commutes will require different features than if you plan on touring adventures or longer trips for example. The weight of the unit is another consideration and there is an obvious trade over between battery life, range and weight.
There are a variety of different options for brands to choose as its electronic solution so we'll aim to outline the power of each unit (wattage), torque, battery size, weight and range, and any other relevant factors like sensors, display units, and controls, so you can compare.
As far as the bikes themselves, the frame and fork are likely to be aluminium, and made to be robust and durable to cater for the extra weight from the electronic system plus any additional luggage you intend on carrying. The options we have listed below are either step through or conventionally shaped frames complete with fenders, racks (or mounts for racks) and even kick-stands. Integrated lighting is another common feature of E-bikes within this price range.
Disc brakes are almost universal for E-bikes to better cope with the extra forces of having a motor, and to provide consistent, reliable performance in all weather conditions. You can expect between 8 - 10 gears to play with, some options with a standard cassette, others with an internal hub system but all with a significantly wide range to cover the majority of profile and terrain you'll experience when commuting. And you can expect the tyres to be large (over 35mm wide) and durable to reduce the chance of getting a flat, provide a comfortable ride with plenty of traction, and adequately carry the additional weight of the bike.
As a result of all of these specific E-bike features, they are often over 20kg with such things as water bottles, luggage, and tools bags not included.
Kalkhoff Sahel 3.I Move - AUD$3,599
The Kalkhoff Sahel is a fully loaded small tyre commuter with everything you could ask from a city E-bike. The bike uses an Impulse 2.0 drive system 70Nm of torque and 250W. The unit relies on information from speed, torque, motor and pedal rotation sensors to know when to deliver a boost and by how much. The entire system is controlled by a handlebar-mounted command centre that allows riders to adjust power on/off, select various riding mode and change the light settings, even though the front and rear lights have sensors that auto-adjusts brightness based on light conditions. Better yet, Kalkhoff claims a maximum range of 205km, the best on this list.
Shimano provides hydraulic disc brakes and drivetrain, and offering plenty in the way of comfort and traction are the mountain bike style Schwalbe Big Ben tyres measuring 20x2.1”.
Norco Scene VLT - AUD$3,699
The Scene VLT is the first of three step-through bikes with a low standover height that many commuters will appreciate. Norco utilises the Shimano E6000 E-bike system, which is targeted at commuting and gentler riding. The E6100 provides 250w, 50Nm of torque, and a range of over 140km in ideal conditions on 'Eco' mode thanks to the 2.5kg frame mount, rechargeable, 500Wh lithium-ion battery.
The bike is ready to go off the shelf with hydraulic disc brakes, a nine-speed Shimano Alivio drivetrain and large 27.5x2.2” tyres.
Focus Aventura - AUD$4,499
While the Aventura is the most expensive bike on this list, it is equipped with the highest specification. The Aventura is also equipped with Bosch's Performance CX E-bike system, a drive unit with performance elements; 250w of power, 75Nm of torque, a range of over 140km in ideal conditions on 'Eco' mode, and a 2.5kg, 500Wh lithium ion battery, expandable up to a whopping 1125Wh with a separate battery.
The system is perfect for this category, more suited to commuting and trekking which, the Adventura's specification list backs up. The bike comes equipped with everything a commuter could ask for; full fenders, rear carrying rack, kickstand, lights (front and rear), huge 2.25” tyres and hydraulic disc brakes.
Giant E-Explore GTS - AUD$3,198
The Giant E-Explore GTS represents arguably one of the most capable bikes at this price point. The build kit certainly sets the Giant apart from other models we've listed here. The rugged frame complete with it’s sloping top tube affords a low standover height while the integrated battery adds to the sleek aesthetic. From a practical point of view, it ticks all the boxes with provisions for racks, fenders and a kickstand, a large backlight LCD display, and huge 45c tubeless tyres.
The power comes from Giant’s own SyncDrive Sport unit powered by Yamaha that provides 250watts, 70nm of torque, and over 150km of range in 'Eco' mode in ideal conditions.
Electra Townie Go! - AUD$3,399
Electra has produced one of the radical-looking commuter bikes on this list with the Townie Go!. Like many other bikes, the Townie is driven by Bosch Active line system producing 250w of power and 48Nm of torque, while the juice comes courtesy of a Bosch PowerPak 300Wh battery system.
While the power and range are good, the rest of the bike lacks a little compared to the others from a purely commuter point of view, but it makes for a great leisure bike as a result. It has large tyres to soak up road buzz, a kickstand, chain guard and disc brakes as standard, but lacks the full fenders and rear carrier that come as standard on most other options.
Merida eSPRESSO City 300 EQ - AUD$3,599
Powered by the popular Shimano STEPS E5000 which sits as the entry-level option of the company's four offerings. STEPS E5000 provides 250w, 40nm of torque, four different power modes, and uses a control centre that informs you of battery life, the mode selected, speed, even when the bike is due for a service.
The bike comes equipped with a seat tube mounted rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a sleek step-through frame. Full fenders, cargo rack, kickstand, hydraulic disc brakes, and large tyres tick all the commuter bike boxes, and the upright riding position is sure to be favoured by commuters.
Trek Verve+ - AUD$2,999
The Verve+ is powered by the big brand preferred Bosch Active Line mid-motor system, one of the industry leaders in E-bike technology. The drive unit is backed up by a powerful 400Wh battery, while a sleek Purion controller relays speeds, range and ride statistics to riders.
There are plenty of great features for commuters here including full-coverage fenders, and cleverly integrated front and rear lights powered by the battery. Shimano hydraulic disc brakes provide the stopping power, Shimano also provides the drivetrain components and robust Bontrager H5 Hard-Case 45c tyres also feature.