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Electric Trike - A Buyers Guide

What is an Electric Trike?

An electric trike is a trike with a built in electric motor offering pedal assist power for the rider. The type of pedal assist typically comes in two options, a front wheel hub mounted motor or a mid mounted motor which is integrated into the pedal and crank area of the trike frame.


The size and power of these motors are usually governed by local regulations. Currently in Canada these laws allow a maximum motor size of 500 watts and a top speed no greater than 32 km/h. Electric trikes for adults are also required to be fitted with functional pedals in order for the trike to be considered a pedal assisted trike. An electric trike fitted with a throttle based option must have either a way to turn off the motor that is separate from the throttle, or a setting that prevents the motor from being operated with the throttle before travelling at a minimum speed of 3 km/h. Any electric trike that exceeds these regulations is classified as a motor vehicle and normal road rules apply.

Rules and Regulations

Pedal assist electric trikes for adults and electric trikes for seniors fall under the same standards as a regular ebike and therefore must comply to standard road rules for all bicycles. As well as abiding by bicycle specific local laws, all electric trikes are subject to power and speed limitations. Pedal assist bicycles are defined as either a two or three wheeled bicycle with operable pedals, handlebars, an electric motor no larger than 500 watts and a maximum speed of 32 km/h


In Canada, currently eight provinces allow electric power assisted bicycles. In all eight provinces, electric bikes are limited to the same maximum 500 watt motor and a top speed of 32 km/h on level ground using motor power. Rider age restrictions apply in Canada and vary by province and all require the rider to wear an approved bike helmet.

Alberta

No driver’s license, vehicle registration or insurance are required to ride an electric trike. Divers must be at least 12 years old and an approved helmet is mandatory.

British Columbia

The engine must disengage when the rider either stops pedaling, the throttle is released or the brakes are applied. A driver’s license, vehicle insurance or registration is not required. Riders must be at least 16 years old and wear a bike helmet.

Ontario

Electric trikes are allowed to share the road with pedestrians, cars and other traffic. New rules limit the maximum weight of an electric trike to 120kg and prohibit any modifications to the trike’s motor that would allow for speeds in excess of 32 km/h. Riders must be at least 16 years old, wear an approved bike or motorbike helmet and follow the same road rules and traffic laws as normal electric bikes.

Manitoba

As well as the motor ceasing to produce power if the trike exceeds 32 km/h, or when the rider activates the brakes, the electric trike must have a mechanism to turn the motor off and on that can be operated by the rider. If the electric trike has a throttle it must not engage the motor until the trike is moving at 3 km/h or more. Riders must be 14 years of age to operate an electric trike and all other Manitoba cycling laws apply.

New Brunswick

To ride an electric trike for adults on the roads in New Brunswick it must have wheels larger than 9 inches, have an operating headlight for night riding and a seat at least 27 inches off of the ground. There is currently no minimum age for riders, no maximum weight limit and electric trikes for seniors are allowed to use cargo and child trailers. If you have a conviction for driving under the influence the restrictions of the DUI will override the electric bike policy of an ebike as a bicycle and classify it instead into the motor vehicle category.

Nova Scotia

You can not currently ride an electric trike in Nova Scotia even though ebikes are allowed. The Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act defines a power-assisted bike as a bicycle with two wheels or four wheels1. Pedal assisted bicycles are allowed on the road providing the rider is wearing an approved bike helmet.

Prince Edward Island

Electric bicycles are classified as Mopeds and are required to pass inspection as a moped.

Quebec

Electric trikes are not classified as motor vehicles but must comply with federal regulations defining pedal assisted bicycles. The Quebec Highway Safety Code defines a power assisted bicycle as a bicycle with two or three wheels touching the ground. Electric trikes are permitted on the road as long as the rider is at least 14 years old. If the rider is 18 or younger they must have a scooter or moped license.

Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan power assisted bikes are classified as any two or three wheeled bicycle that has an electric motor no larger than 500 watts, is designed to be both pedal and power assist from the electric motor and does not operate at a speed above 32 km/h. A drivers license is not required, minimum age is 14, no special regulation is required, a helmet must be worn by the operator and normal road rules for bicycles apply.

Electric Trike Styles 

While electric trikes are fairly new technology to arrive on the local market there is a wide range of styles available to suit a wide range of customer needs.

Fat Tire

If you live in a hilly area or want to have a longer riding season, possible even into the winter months, then the fat tire trike is for you. With an extra rugged aluminum/alloy frame, Kenda fat tires larger motor/battery combo the eTc Cargo is a great example of a fat tire electric trike designed for riding in Canada.

City or Urban

Commonly referred to as commuter bikes or commuter trikes, these are among the most common options available today. Designed for commutes around the city and urban areas, an electric trike like the eTc City is designed for riding on cycle paths and paved terrain and are a practical commuter option with the addition of cargo carrying capacity.

Industrial Cargo Trikes

With super heavy duty steel and alloy frames, dual battery configuration and extra cargo carrying capacity, a cargo electric trike is a great option for someone who wants to commute to work while carrying all their gear, or carrying kids, shopping or pets. An industrial cargo electric trike is a suitable alternative to using a second car. These trikes are fitted out with extra large cargo racks, flat beds or cages for carrying larger loads and will often have modified frames and an extended wheelbase for further stability. Cargo racks can be front and rear or a combination of both.

Folding Trikes

If you have limited storage space or want to travel with your electric trike in the back of your car then a foldable trike may be the answer. These trikes often have a smaller wheels, motor and battery to further reduce their overall weight, making them easier to fold down and move.

People Movers

Need to carry a passenger or two on your electric trike for adults? An electric trike with a rear or front mounted bench seat with footrests, safety handles, cargo storage and even drink holders will allow you to carry another passenger (or two) with you. Paired with a 500 watt motor and 48v battery a properly configured people mover will have plenty of power to move up to 3 people comfortably.

Types of Motors

Almost all electric bikes and electric trikes on the market today come with a motor setup that is made up of a drive unit, control unit, battery pack(s) and wiring. There are two main motor styles available: a front wheel mounted hub motor and a mid drive motor mounted in the pedal/crank area and driving the two rear wheels, often referred to as Pedelec motors.


Mid drive motors offer more efficiency, a smoother ride and are more suited to riding in hilly areas.

Pedal Assist Levels

Electric trike motor and controller systems are commonly configured with 3-5 levels of power assistance. Most offer a standby mode, which offers no power assistance and your electric trike will ride like a traditional trike, and although quite a bit heavier can still be easily pedaled on relatively level terrain.


The lowest setting is often referred to as Economy or Eco mode. Eco mode is optimised for range and assistance levels can range from 25%-75% of the maximum. What this means is that for every pedal cycle by the rider the motor will provide an additional 25%-75% on top of this, typically up to 20 km/h.


Normal mode is commonly configured to add 100%-150% power to the rider’s pedaling. Range can be reduced by as much as half when using this extra power.


Turbo mode will make riding up steep hills and strong headwinds a breeze providing the rider with 200% plus of additional power taking you to a top speed of 32 km/h.


Keep in mind the higher the power setting you ride at, the greater the reduction in range per charge so keep an eye on your battery meter if you are riding at top speed a lot.

Batteries and Charging

One of the most important components of an electric trike is the battery. The most commonly used batteries for ebikes are lithium-ion and range in wattage and the number of watt-hours a battery has will ultimately determine its range. The higher the watt hours, the higher the range you can travel on a single charge. Most electric trikes come with single battery packs installed, however many models can have a second battery installed in tandem, effectively doubling their range.


When your battery needs charging you simply plug in the provided charger into a standard wall plug. Charging times will vary depending on the size of battery and charger. The 48v 20Ah battery on the eTc Cargo takes between 6-8 hours to charge. The typical charge lifecycle for a lithium-ion battery is 700-800 cycles, giving most users an effective lifespan of 3-5 years, depending on how much you ride and how often you charge.


For optimal performance and extended life, lithium-ion batteries should not be discharged completely before recharging. If you will not be using your electric trike for an extended period then the battery should be charged once every three months. For safety reasons you should only use the charger supplied with your electric trike and not leave your battery plugged in and unattended for a long period of time.

Maintenance

The majority of parts found on an electric trike are common bike parts like Shimano gears, Kenda tires, Tektro disc brakes, front suspension, derailleur, chain, pedals and cranks. This means that you can perform regular bicycle maintenance when it comes to cleaning and maintaining parts that wear. You can even take your electric trike for adults to your local bike shop if you need help with maintenance or repair.


Electric bike motors produce high amounts of torque which will increase wear and tear on consumable parts such as chains, tires and brake pads. It is recommended that you regularly inspect your electric trike for loose bolts, noticeable wear on brakes, tires and chain before use.


Maintenance on the motor or battery, which are both sealed units, should be carried out by a certified e-bike technician. This includes fixing any electronics on the controller or LCD display, replacing battery cells or the motor itself. However, the style of motors used on our electric trikes should rarely (if ever) require this service since the motor units are largely waterproof. You can wash your electric trike but we recommend you avoid getting water directly on the motor, battery, controller or any other electronics and do not use a pressure washer.

Price Range

Ultimately you get what you pay for, however entry level costs for an electric trike will be a little higher than for a traditional trike. Typical prices range from $2950 to $6000 and up.


Hopefully you found some useful information in this guide and have a bit more of an understanding about the world of electric trikes. We carry a wide range of electric trikes for adults and electric trikes for seniors, and offer Canada wide delivery. Visit us today for more information or to buy an electric trike.

Glossary

Pedal Assist Modes

These modes are the different motor speed settings allowing the rider to set the level of assistance provided by the electric trike motor

Torque

Torque is a measure of how much force is acting on an object which causes that object to rotate around an axis. In this case either the front wheel or pedals, depending on motor configuration.

Watts

This is a measure of the motor’s power. In Canada, pedal-assist electric trikes can legally provide up to 500 watts of power assistance to the rider.

Watt-Hours

Watt-hours is used to describe a lithium-ion battery’s total capacity. A 48v 20Ah battery equates to 960 watt-hours, producing 960 watts of power for one hour. Or when combined with a 500 watt motor, 1.9 hours of unassisted riding time.

Provincial Regulation Guidelines:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws#Provincial_requirements_for_use

This information is provided as a guide only and local rules & regulations, specs, battery and motor information may change.

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