If you’re constantly out on the go, finding places to charge your electric bike battery can be tricky. While finding a power source isn’t that difficult, finding a power source with permission and that is safe is harder. You don’t want to be using outlets without permission and you don’t want your bike or battery getting stolen.
While you can carry a spare battery, it’s not always an option all the time. So, where are some good places to charge your ebike on the go?
Where to Charge Your eBike
There are a few things to consider when charging your bike in public or private spaces. If it looks like you’re doing anything out of the ordinary, like charging at a gas station, it’s a good idea to ask permission first. Places like coffee shops, where outlet use is common, it probably isn’t worth asking since charging is so common.
The cost of charging ebikes are pretty cheap, so electrical use shouldn’t be an issue. Still, it’s a good idea to be courteous when charging at various places. You can imagine how weird it would be if a stranger was charging their bike on your own property. After all, stealing is still stealing even if it’s a few cents.
1. YOUR OFFICE OR WORK
Your work or office is one of the safest places to charge your battery. This is because while there is an outlet, you can often bring your bike inside. Bringing your bike inside while charging is one of the best ways to prevent ebike theft. Some people even leave a spare battery at their workplace in case of a drained battery.
2. Friend or relative’s Home
Another safe place to charge your bike is inside a friend or relative’s home. Again, the benefit here is that you can bring your bike inside. The downside to this is, the person might not always be home. Still, decks and porches often have outlets too where you can charge outside.
3. Coffee Shops
Coffee shops are probably the best place to charge your ebike battery. Many coffee shops allow and even encourage patrons to plug their laptops into nearby outlets. This creates a place for people to work while spending money on food and drink.
Since so many people are charging devices already, it doesn’t hurt to grab a drink and start charging your bike battery.
4. Public Libraries
This is another great choice to charge your battery. Often libraries have some type of bike rack to lock your bike while you head inside. Many libraries have designated areas with outlets for people who want to work on their laptops or for reading. While you are at it, you could pick up a book on how to build your own electric bike.
Universities are usually quite accomodating for bikers. Bike racks are a given and you can expect lots of outlets. Everyone on campus is now carrying around phones, tablets, and laptops and outlets are plentiful.
Of course, it helps that you actually go to the university, but I’ve stayed at some even though I wasn’t a student.
6. Bike Shops
Charging your battery at bike shops makes sense. Lots of bike shops are friendly and support biking. If you actually shop there, it’s also a bonus. Some bike shop owners might be not too fond of electric bikes, but chances are they will be supportive.
7. Campgrounds and Parks
Campgrounds are hard to find in the city, but depending on where you live, they might be close by. Campgrounds often have RV hookups with regular power outlets, but taking up another campsite to charge your ebike is a little sketchy. The 2nd option is to look for shared outlets around buildings and bathrooms. The problem with this though is that those outlets are limited.
Some parks do have outlets for the public. Check for places around pavilions and bathrooms. Those are often good places for outlets.
8. Fast Food Restaurants
Fastfood joints are another option. These places also have outlets too. It might look a little weird sitting around without ordering anything, but it’s totally up to you. The worst that could happen is that they ask you to leave.
This one is probably one of the more less conventional places to charge your bike. You’ll want to be a little sneaky about this and charging your bike at Walmart isn’t for everyone. I have heard of riders charging their bikes by using the electrical outlets for vending machines.
10. Grocery Stores
Bigger grocery stores like Hannadords and others often have sit-down spots. You can order some food, eat, and read a book while your battery is charging. Outlets won’t be much of an option at smaller grocers.
11. Gas Stations
This is a place you probably want to ask about first. Sitting around outside with some strange device plugged into the outlet might not go over well. Gas stations might not mind at all if you simply ask, but others might. It helps if you buy a little something first before asking. If they say no, you can always try across the street.
Charging From Your Car
Charging an ebike from your car is a possible option. Fair warning, while people have charged their batteries successfully from their car, this article is not a technical how-to. In short, charge at your own risk.
A 36 volt, 2 amp ebike battery draws about 90 watts of power. Compare that to a 12volt cigarette outlet on your car, which is limited to about 150 watts of power. With these numbers, you could use an inverter like Bestek which is rated for 150 watts
If your charger draws more power, the other option is to get an inverter directly hooked up to the car battery.
Be warned, even small inverters can suck a car battery dry. Make sure your engine is running when charging.
It can take a few hours to charge your battery, but an hour-long charge might just be enough to get you where you want to go.
Quick chargers do exist and charge much faster. However, quick charging does reduce the lifespan of your battery. Some aren’t as bad as others. Typically, the quicker the charge, the harder it is on the battery.
Two of the most popular chargers on the market are the Luna Charger and Cycle Satiator. Both of these chargers are programable. This means they can work with a variety of different batteries, voltages, and amps.
The Luna Charger is the more affordable option. It has adjustable current to charge fast or slow from 1A to 3A and has an automatic shut off features to protect your battery.
The Cycle Satiator, while more expensive, is more advanced. It can charge four times as fast as your normal 2 amp charger. And as a very nice feature, it’s also water and vibration resistant so you can bring it with you.
Carry a Spare Battery
Carrying a spare battery is the quickest option. You will, of course, need a way to carry the battery which is additional weight. We put together a full guide on how to carry a spare ebike battery, which includes carry bags and backpacks.
The Evoc FR Trail E-Ride backpack is designed specifically for electric bikes. It has a spot to carry a variety of battery sizes and comes with a built-in back protector.
If you prefer to carry the battery on your bike instead, there are lots of other options too. Rear racks, rear seat packs, and frame-mounted bags are all practicable. When looking for a bag, always consider the battery size in relation to the bag. Smaller batteries should be fine, but larger batteries may not fit.
Most wall outlets are rated for 15 Amps at 120V. This means they should be able to provide 1800 Watts of power. However, other devices may be drawing from the same circuit.
What you don’t want happening is overloading the circuit that it flips. To be on the safe side, you should be charging in the 600-700W range. Karl from ElectricBike-Blog has an excellent write up on Guerilla Ebike Charging where he goes more in-depth about charging from outlets.