The bicycle might have been invented in the early 1800s, but it’s hardly the quaint contraption it started out as—continuously upgraded and updated, the bike is a thoroughly modern mode of transportation. That’s especially true of electric bikes, which have all the advantages of traditional models but let you go faster while exerting yourself less, all quietly and without burning any fossil fuels.
Electric bikes look and behave like ordinary bikes but rely on an electric motor and battery to provide a power assist. Some e-bikes are limited to boosting the power while you pedal, which makes it easier to go faster, go up hills easier and travel further without exerting more energy. But you can also find bikes that have throttles to power the bike while not pedaling at all.
And aside from that distinction, keep in mind that all bikes aren’t alike: There are commuter bikes, off-road and mountain bikes, models made to haul groceries and inexpensive starter models. Which do you need? Obviously there is no single best electric bike, so we rounded up the best models in a handful of popular categories.
Best Electric Bike Overall
VanMoof electric bikes have a dedicated fanbase, and it’s easy to see why. For about $2,000—not a bargain, per se, but pretty affordable as electric bikes go—the VanMoof S3 feels like one of the most advanced, innovative, and elegant bikes around. It features an automatic electronic gear shifter that’s remarkably smooth under almost all shifting conditions. The motor is very quiet, delivers a top speed of 20mph, and has a push-button turbo boost. It has a range of 37-93 miles, depending upon how you ride.
It’s also built around a very stylish frame with a completely enclosed chain. There’s a built-in headlight, hydraulic brakes and integrated battery (which is one major disadvantage—you can’t remove the battery for charging). A built-in security system immobilizes the rear wheel and activates an onboard alarm with the press of a button or from the mobile app. It even has a tracking system in case of theft. It’s not the single fastest, cheapest or most cargo-friendly option, but it does everything with enough charm to make it the best overall choice.
Best City Commuter Bike
With three Charge models to choose from, the Charge City is good at exactly what the name suggests—all-around town commuting. A 50-mile range is enough to get you through a full day of getting to work and errands, and the locking, removable battery is easy to disengage and carry to the office or your apartment for charging. That’s not its only concession to city living; the handlebars also fold easily for storage and there’s a small rack in back for a very modest amount of storage.
While the 250-watt motor can propel you up to 20mph with five levels of pedal assist, there’s a throttle for unpedaled propulsion as well. Don’t want to pedal? Just push the throttle (though that’ll run the battery down pretty quickly). New owners will be especially pleased with the way it arrives: mostly assembled so you can be riding about 15 minutes after hauling the box in off the porch.
Fastest Electric Bike
Delfast TOP 3.0
Not everyone needs a bike like the Delfast TOP 3.0, which is a good thing considering the price. The real appeal of Delfast’s formidable TOP 3.0 is that it looks, feels and performs more like an electric motorcycle than a traditional e-bike. It has a massive 200-mile range, which is the longest range we have seen in a bike and rivals that of most electric cars. But it also has a top speed of 50mph, well outside the norm for any e-bike.
For its part, Delfast says the bike is equally adept as an off-road and city commuter. It has built-in side mirrors, an LED headlamp, double-disc hydraulic brakes and an integrated color display for showing trip and performance data along with navigation thanks to then built-in GPS. It’s upgradeable with a number of options and accessories, including several different cargo options.
Best Electric Mountain Bike
Specialized Turbo Levo Comp
Here’s an electric bike that both looks and feels like a mountain bike; there’s no question it’s equipped for dirt trails and varying terrain. Perhaps one of the nicest compliments one can pay a bike like this is that it feels like an ordinary bike on the trail—you don’t sense the extra weight or the technology within. The fairly modest 250-watt motor assists the pedals smoothly, allowing you to pedal up to 20mph with assistance. If you hit the speed limit, the motor disengages smoothly, so you can keep pedaling without any abrupt shifts in power.
Specialized includes a cool feature it calls Smart Control. You can use smart control to regulate the motor so it reserves the desired battery capacity throughout the ride. Or there’s Shuttle Mode, which delivers max power to minimize the effort you have to put into pedaling. The battery can be removed for easy charging, and the top tube has a small display that indicates battery remaining. You can also use a mobile app that connects to the bike via Bluetooth and integrates with apps like Strava.
Best Value Electric Bike
There are at least two reasons to love the Sonders X. Not only is it one of the most affordable name-brand electric bikes available, but it’s a fat bike designed to handle off-roading with the same stability and performance as ordinary thin-tired bikes on pavement. The price is especially notable; by the time you get to about a thousand dollars, most electric bikes start to make serious compromises, but the Sondors X is a solidly built bike that rides great. This is a bike you can take anywhere, and it is rugged enough to take all the riding abuse you throw at it.
Under the hood you get a powerful 500-watt motor that can get you to 20mph and a removable battery that is good for a range of about 40-60 miles. You can cycle through seven levels of pedal assist, but there’s also a throttle that’ll drive the bike with no pedaling at all.
Best Folding Electric Bike
Blix Vika+ Electric Folding Bike
The Vika+ has an almost fancifully retro appearance, but its real claim to fame is the fact that it quickly and easily folds up—for carrying up stairs, storing in your cubicle at the office, or just to chain it up on the street. It only requires unlocking two parts: One lock lets the handlebar mast fold down and then another scissors the frame back on itself. It’s pretty compact unless you install the optional cargo basket in back—that won’t allow the frame to fully fold back.
Despite the minimalist frame, the bike is sturdy and the ride is comfortable. You get a 500-watt motor that offers a 45-mile range and five levels of pedal assist as well as a completely pedal-free power mode via the throttle. There is an integrated brake light, disc brakes and a small digital display on the handlebars that displays your battery level and other performance details. An integrated USB port lets you charge your phone while you ride.
Best Cargo Electric Bike
An electric bike might not let you sell the SUV, but you might be surprised by just how much cargo your e-bike can carry. Of course, to really bring home the groceries or make a run to the FedEx center, you’ll probably need more than a commuter bike with a basket hanging off the handlebars. There are some bikes that really lean into cargo, and the RadWagon 4 is one of the best. Not only is it on the cheaper end of the cargo bike spectrum, but it is powerful—the bike is built on a 750-watt motor—and has a range of about 45 miles. In addition to the usual pedal assist, there’s a throttle for unassisted power.
The frame is designed from the ground up for carrying capacity. The RadWagon can support 350 pounds and the back end modularly supports a pair of baby seats, a cargo pad, side saddles, delivery boxes and more. If you need to haul stuff, this bike is up to the challenge.