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Electric Cargo Bike

An electric cargo bike is a bike with a storage area to carry cargo such as your groceries or children. This is a popular solution in large cities where a car is expensive and difficult to park. For this reason this type of bike is very popular in cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. This type of Dutch cargo bike is now however also available in the UK. An electric cargo bike combines the functionality of having a lot of cargo storage with the easy of use of having an electric motor for that extra boost when you’re carrying heavy cargo.

What is an electric cargo bike?

Originating in 1877 in England, cargo bikes have proven their importance in cycling lore and are now seen all over the world. The Netherlands have grown especially fond of these useful bicycles, called “bakfiets” in Dutch which translated directly to “cargo bike”. A cargo bike is typically a bicycle which has been designed with storage in mind, primarily to carry large volumes or weight. With modern technology electric cargo bikes have proven increasingly popular, allowing the rider to transport even heavier goods with ease thanks to the electric assistance from a powerful motor and battery. Their frames are designed specifically to carry large weights with ease thanks to a range of clever features:

  • Smaller wheels: They often have smaller wheels than a standard bike within the 16-20” mark which enables them to accelerate quickly. The smaller wheels also give lively handling as well as ensuring the weight of the bike and storage is low down and as stable as possible.
  • Reinforced frames: The frames are often elongated and have a longer wheelbase than a standard bicycle to incorporate the extra storage. Because of this the frame is often reinforced to make it as safe and sturdy as possible. This adds to the overall weight of the bike but as it is electric assisted this does not affect the ride quality.
  • Space to allow for large storage containers or other integrated options: Electric cargo bikes are incredibly diverse and can be adapted to virtually any task, from carrying bricks in a storage container to transporting children in a custom seating unit.
  • More powerful motor: An E-cargo bike will typically have a more powerful motor than a standard electric bike, designed to pull greater weights and with more torque for easy acceleration under strain.
  • Higher-capacity battery: It is not uncommon to see an electric cargo bicycle with a higher capacity battery than a standard electric bike, or possibly two batteries.
  • Integrated everything: Most cargo bikes can be found with mudguards, front and rear lights, kickstands and a built-in display to ensure you are fully ready for whatever your journey will throw at you.

What are Electric Cargo bikes used for?

Electric cargo bikes can be used for a whole host of different activities and purposes which is why they are so popular:

  • Commercial: These utility bikes make for excellent commercial vehicles and studies have found they can often reach their destination faster than a car in most cities. Popular among couriers, they are ideal because of their large storage offering and all-day assistance thanks to the motor and large battery.
  • Family bike: In many parts of Europe electric cargo bikes are proving popular with families, once again due to their amazing functionality. With most brands launching integrated seating options, parents can now carry their whole family on a single bike.
  • Commuting: For the commuter who must take a lot of stuff to work everyday a cargo bike is the ideal alternative to a car. They offer a sublime ride whatever the weather and make for an easy, sweat-free commute to work.

How much can an electric cargo bike carry?

As with most answers concerning bicycles, the maximum weight will differ based on the bicycle model and brand. An electric cargo bike will be able to comfortably take more weight than any other type of bike, and this ranges from 150kg up to 250kg total payload. They can take such an impressive weight due to their design and reinforced frame and componentry. In terms of overall carrying volume, most cargo bikes come equipped with a luggage container which will have a volume of between 200 – 300 litres, allowing for a huge amount to be carried. Here are a few scenarios which the bike should be fine using (consult the specification of the electric bike to double check first if unsure):

  • One rider, a dog and 30kg of shopping
  • One rider, two children and some luggage
  • One rider and 75kg of parcels to deliver

How do I choose a cargo bike?

This is often the most popular question relating to cargo bikes because of the great variety to choose from. As with most bicycles you should first ask yourself where you plan to ride and what the purpose is. Typically if you will be only cycling in urban areas then you need an e-cargo bike with slim, slick tyres which will grip to the tarmac and offer improved rolling resistance. If you’re looking to go a little off-road on tow paths and light trails then a cargo bike with chunkier tyres and some knobs will be ideal and offer a more comfortable ride.

There are lots of different style of e-cargo bike and the desired use will help you decide which shape is best:

  • Extended wheelbase models: These are often ideal for taking larger volume objects and can offer the heaviest weight payloads. These are great for delivery riders and commercial use, whilst a family might struggle due to their large size and lack of portability.
  • Shorter wheelbase models: This option is more often suited to a family or commuter, with often enough storage to hold a child or a full shop, but not the same capacity as a longer-wheelbase model. A benefit is that they are much more portable and easier to store, whilst the short wheelbase allows for a better turning circle.
  • Weight requirements: If you are looking at carrying very heavy weights then it will be important to select a model of e-cargo bike which has the highest payload possible. This is the total weight including bike and rider.
  • Battery position and overall appearance: The battery position can differ on an electric cargo bike as is seen across other disciplines as well. Some cargo bikes will have the battery mounted on the rear rack which allows for easy insertion and removal to charge it. Other cargo bikes will have a battery on the down tube or integrated partially into the frame which can give a cleaner aesthetic, whilst other models choose to store the battery away within luggage containers which keeps the overall appearance especially neat.
  • Wheel position: Electric cargo bikes can be found in two main groups regarding wheel position: two-wheel and three-wheel options. The two-wheel option usually features a longer wheelbase for added stability, whilst a three-wheel option features a shorter wheelbase but also added stability with the wheels usually at the front. The three-wheel options are usually slightly more complex to ride as you must learn to utilise tilting to help you corner, whilst a two-wheel options handles much more like a normal bike.

How do you store an electric cargo bike?

Most e-cargo bikes are supremely hardy and weather-resistant which means you can happily ride them in adverse conditions without worrying about causing damage. When storing your bike however it is advised to store your bike indoors in a shed, garage, bike container etc. This is because the motor and battery can suffer damage if left outside for long period in wet or very cold conditions. Due to the cost of an electric cargo bike it is also a safer idea to store the bike indoors, and always with a lock to prevent the risk of theft. It is important to consider this when purchasing a cargo bike for the first time, you might need to choose a smaller cargo bike or even a folding version if storage is at a premium.

How do you use an electric cargo bike?

You can use a cargo e-bike much like any other bicycle. You can still pedal as normal, but you have the added reassurance of an electric motor which provides assistance if needed. The cargo bike will most likely be longer than you are used to, or in fact have three wheels if it is a tricycle cargo bike. This will mean that it handles slightly differently so might take a few rides to get used to. The smaller wheels help to maintain cornering prowess, whilst also spinning up to speed easily. It is beneficial to test ride the cargo bike in a wide-open space first to get used to handling before taking to the roads or cycling through busy urban areas.

Where can I ride a electric cargo bike?

You can ride a cargo bike anywhere a normal bicycle can be cycled. This includes cycle paths and cycle lanes, which makes it beneficial over a car or public transport within urban areas. They can also take to the road, however you need to be confident of the larger proportions when riding in traffic to prevent any safety risks. Depending on the local laws you can also cycle on bus lanes which helps zoom past traffic to your destination.

How fast can I go on my electric cargo bike?

Within the UK and much of Europe electric bicycles are subject to speed restrictions. This is capped at 15.5mph or 25kmh and most electric bicycles can accelerate to this speed whilst you are pedaling. Once you surpass this speed the assistance from the motor cuts-off and you are solely powering the vehicle. There are some electric cargo bikes which come with a twist and go functionality, where the bike will accelerate to a little under 4mph without any pedaling, before switching to pedal assist.

How far can I ride on an e cargo bike?

One of the most asked questions when looking for an electric bike is related to the range and the distance the bike can cover. There is no single answer as this depends on a wide range of conditions. The battery capacity ultimately dictates the range of an electric bike and this should help give an initial steer. The motor is another key element and different motors are designed with different uses in mind, whether it is for performance or economy of movement. The speed you ride / mode you select can also have a significant effect on range, as can the terrain you will be riding and surface. Typically an electric cargo box bike will be able to assist you for up to 50 miles without needing to recharge, but some bikes will be even greater than this if they have dual batteries. That being said, the range can be heavily affected by the weight loaded on to the bike so bear this in mind when choosing a cargo bike. Unlike other electric bikes they are much harder to ride unassisted due to their weight, so the assistance is more important to keep you riding with a smile.

What is the best electric cargo bike?

The best electric cargo bike depends again on where you want to ride and the purpose. There are a huge range of brands manufacturing electric cargo bikes with different unique features. As a guide you should look for a cargo bike which features a branded motor from Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha or similar as this guarantees tried and tested performance when it matters most. The battery capacity is also highly important as this will dictate how far you can cycle. Most cargo bikes have 300-500WH batteries which can run for up to 50 miles (80km) dependent on conditions, power mode etc. Some bikes boast larger batteries than this, with 1,000Wh batteries found in selected models which use two different batteries.

Why choose Vansprint for your electric cargo bike?

We make it easy to choose your next bike, with free shipping and 100 days to return the bike if it is not quite how you expected. With the option to pay in instalments, your next electric cargo bike has never been more affordable. If you are not sure and want to try one first, then you can also book a test ride for free.