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Why are E-Bikes so Expensive? Will they get any Cheaper?

Why are e-bikes so expensive?

If you have been shopping for e-bikes lately you might be wondering why are e-bikes so expensive? Why can’t you buy one at Walmart for a couple hundred dollars like any other bike? Are the prices going to keep going up? E-bikes cost more than a regular bike because of all the extra electronics you have to add and a few other factors. Let’s take a look at why e-bikes cost as much as they do.

Why are e-bikes so expensive?

When I first got interested in electric bikes several years ago there were a lot of options available under $500. Brands like Ancheer, Jetson, and Swagtron had several options each under $500. Now there are virtually zero e-bikes available under $500. The cost of an entry level e-bike has become closer to $700 now. One thing is certain about e-bikes. The cost has gone up.

The biggest costs associated with an e-bike are the bike, motor, battery, and electronics. Accessories such as racks, fenders, and lights also add cost. Let’s take a look at where the cost of an e-bike comes from.

Rad power bikes radmission product image

1. Bike frame

Low end e-bikes are built around entry level basic bikes. Typically a 26 inch wheel mountain bike. These bikes by themselves run about $300-$500. If you want to go DIY and build you own e-bike they are a good place to start. They have steel or aluminum frames and basic low level Shimano Tourney components. This will turn into a basic $500-$600 electric mountain bike using the cheapest possible other components.

basic bike frame

As you go up in level you get dedicated e-bike frames that have integrated batteries. These frames are designed as e-bikes from the start with enlarged tubes with cutouts so the battery can be mounted with a clean look. This type of frame no longer takes advantage of the huge volume manufacturing that generic normal bike frames do. I’m guessing these e-bike specific frames add in the neighborhood another $100 to the cost. They start showing up on $700 e-bikes.

Going up from there you get frames designed around mid-drive motors instead of hub-motors. The frame doesn’t really get more difficult to make. The volumes get lower so it drives the cost up even further.

REI Co-op CTY e2.1 product image

If you want the ultimate e-bike you will go for a carbon frame. A carbon frame by itself can run a couple thousand dollars. If you don’t believe me, look up any bike manufacturer that produces high end bikes like Specialized or Trek and see the carbon frames they sell by themselves cost. Thousands of dollars. That is just the bare bike frame and nothing else.

Specialized bikes carbon frame screenshot

2. E-bike battery

The battery is the next biggest cost for an e-bike. Any e-bike worth buying uses a lithium battery. Batteries can go from 36v up to 96v. More range and more power for your e-bike mean a bigger battery pack. Low end e-bike batteries start around $200 and go way up from there. A volume bike manufacturer is getting them for around half of that. There’s another $100 or way more.

e-bike battery

3. Electric motor and controller

Hub motors are the cheaper way to go for e-bikes and found on all low cost e-bikes. A hub motor and wheel will set you back $200-$400. Bike manufacturers are probably paying around half. Hub motors work with almost any conventional pedal driveline allowing to use of cheap high volume Shimano Tourney components. You can get a very powerful motor as a hub motor. There are 1000 watt hub motors out there.

e-bike hub motor and controller

Mid-drive motors which mount at the crank run $500 to $1000 or more for DIY kits. You won’t find a mid-drive motor on many e-bikes less than $2000. They are expensive and need dedicated crank hardware as well as the motors.

e-bike mid-drive motor

4. Bike wheels

Cheap bike wheels run around $100-200 a set. They probably cost the e-bike manufacturer around $50-$100 at the low end. If you want lightweight, high performance wheels expect to throw $500-$1000 out there. If you want carbon wheels and hubs you are just getting warmed up at $1000.

5. Pedal driveline components

Most low end e-bikes all use a very low cost simple Shimano Tourney driveline. This is the shifter, rear derailleur, freewheel, and cranks. This is a cheap and relatively reliable pedal driveline. It is found on almost every $200-$500 bike sold at Walmart, Meijers, or other big box shops. You will never see Shimano Tourney on a regular bike above $600. It makes me cringe every time I see a $1000+ e-bike with a Tourney derailleur especially if it is marketed for off-road use. There are a lot of them out there. Low cost components like Shimano Tourney cost the manufacturer around $50.

Shimano bike components

6. Add in extras like lights and racks

A lot of e-bikes come with extra accessories attached such as lights, fenders, racks, kick stands, etc.. All of these add a little bit more to the cost. A fully equipped e-bike with all of the above may cost you another $100-$200 on top of what a stripped down, no extras, bike cost.

Let’s add it up

Below is my best guess at the cost that the e-bike manufacturers are paying for components to come up with a complete e-bike.

  • Bike frame – $50
  • Battery – $150
  • Motor and electronics – $100
  • Wheels – $50
  • Components – $50
  • Labor and shipping – $100
  • Total = $500

As you can see, the cost of parts and labor to the bike manufacturer for a basic cheap e-bike is somewhere around $450-$550. They have to make some money on the bike or they wouldn’t bother selling it. That brings you to $600-$700 selling price for the cheapest e-bikes.

Rad power bikes radmission product image

Low volume niche market

e-bike volumes are relatively low compared to traditional bikes. They aren’t $200-$300 bikes pumped out by the millions to sell at big box stores. e-bikes can take advantage of volume by using things like basic regular bike frames and cheap Shimano Tourney components. As soon as the bike starts using a dedicated e-bike frame, with integrated battery it drastically reduces the volume produced and sold. The integrated battery that only works for 1 bike design also adds a lot of cost.

E-bikes are a relatively new concept and product

e-bikes have been popular for 10-15 years now. Regular bikes have been around since the 1800’s. The parts of an e-bike that are common with a regular bike are pretty refined and don’t change much. There is still a lot going on with the e-bike drivelines which aren’t settled.

You can get front or rear wheel hub motors along with mid-drive motors. Mid-drive motors are a more refined solution but they add a lot of cost to the e-bike. As more e-bikes are built with mid-drives the cost of entry will come down. The REI Co-op Cycles CTY e2.1 is the current cheapest mid-drive bike I know of at $1800.

Will e-bikes get any cheaper?

I doubt it. The low end of e-bikes has been steadily rising as we mentioned earlier. There aren’t any forces in play that will drop the cost of the entry level e-bike. You take a $300 entry level bike and through a few hundred dollars worth of motor and battery onto it and you have a $600 entry level e-bike. These bikes already take advantage of high volume production of the basic bike they are built off of.

I do think that some e-bike features will move down to cheaper e-bikes. Mid-drive motors will continue moving to lower price points. Batteries will get higher capacity as the automotive industry pushes battery development. This will allow more range and power at all price points. You will see more torque sensors instead of cadence sensors on lower cost bikes too.

What to expect for different price points

$500 e-bike

For $500 you will get a $200-300 conventional bike with a 36 volt battery bolted to the frame downtube and a 350 watt rear wheel hub motor and Shimano Tourney components. You will get u-brakes. This is the cheapest possible e-bike to manufacture or make DIY.

See our guide to the best under $500 e-bikes to learn more.

Gotrax Alpha XL – $700

Gotrax Alpha XL Product Image

$1000 e-bike

When you move up to $1000 you will get a frame integrated battery. The battery will mount inside the frame so it looks like a part of the bike and not a bolt on extra. You will get a larger capacity battery and more powerful 500-750 watt motor. You may get components upgraded to Shimano Altus or Shimano Acera. Almost all bikes in this range have cable pull disc brakes. A lot of bikes at this price point have built in lights, racks, and fenders.

See our guide to the best under $1000 e-bikes to learn more.

Ride1Up Core 5 – $1200

Ride1Up Core 5 Product Image

$2000 e-bike

Going over $2000 will get you a more powerful motor and bigger battery. You will get much longer range. These bikes almost all have Shimano Altus or Acera components. They have 500-750 watt motors and 48 volt batteries. You get more nice things like hydraulic disc brakes and suspension forks with air-springs and damping. You will find a few bikes with mid-drive motors starting around this price point as well. This is where you start to see e-mountain bikes setup for real trail riding.

See our guide to the best under $2000 e-bikes to learn more.

Aventon Aventure – $1900

Aventon Aventure Product Image

$3000 and up e-bike

Going over $3000 almost all bikes will have mid-drive motors with bigger battery packs. You get better wheels, better components, better brakes, and more range. You get torque sensors instead of cadence sensors for pedal assist. You can easily go up over $10,000 from here by throwing in things like carbon frames and wheels.

Charge XC $2700

Charge XC Product Image

Electric bikes vs electric scooters

Electric bikes and Electric scooters can both get really expensive. The entry point for an electric scooter is lower than an electric bike. You can get a decent e-scooter for $300-$500. Let’s look at some advantages and disadvantages of an e-bike vs e-scooter.

Electric Bike

Gotrax Alpha XL Product Image
  • Longer range (entry level 20-50 miles)
  • More comfortable to ride since you can sit
  • Better at climbing hills since you can help it
  • Can ride like a regular bike after battery dies
  • Higher cost ($600-700)
  • More difficult to store and transport

Electric Scooter

GoTrax Apex product image
  • More portable and easier to store
  • Lower cost ($300-$500)
  • You have to stand to ride. Most do not have seats
  • Shorter range (entry level 15-20mile range)
  • You have to walk once the battery dies
  • Not as good at climbing hills

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Biking author

Brian Thompson
Staff Writer | Biking

Brian grew up in Germany and came to the US after finishing University. He is an mountain and road biker and loves hitting up the trails. He is a big fan of e-bikes and uses them for his daily commute and running errands. Why ride a car when you can have that much more fun riding a bike. He spent time growing up as a bike shop mechanic at his local shop as a way to pay for his biking obsession.

brian@endlessrushoutdoors.com