Electric Bikes and Water Resistance: How Waterproof Are They Really?

As electric bikes gain momentum as a greener and cost-effective alternative to traditional transportation, it’s vital to understand their capabilities and limitations in various conditions. One critical aspect to consider is their performance in wet environments. So, are electric bikes waterproof? To answer this question, let’s first examine what manufacturers have to say about their products’ resilience against water.

Most manufacturers explicitly state that their electric bikes are not waterproof. Unfortunately, if you submerge your electric bike or ride through a deep stream, there is a strong likelihood that it will experience a malfunction and sustain damage. However, many electric bikes are designed to be water-resistant, offering a certain level of protection in wet conditions.

This naturally raises further questions: what is the difference between “waterproof” and “water-resistant”? Are electric bikes rated according to a waterproof scale? How much water can they withstand, and why don’t manufacturers make them completely waterproof? To better understand these concerns or aspects, let’s delve deeper into the nuances that characterize electric bikes in terms of their resistance to water.

Electric Bikes: Waterproof Vs. Water Resistant/Weatherproof

Although electric bikes (e-bikes) are constructed with protective covers over their batteries and other electronics (motors and wiring), manufacturers do not make them 100% waterproof.

Instead, most e-bikes are weatherproof, meaning they can resist smaller volumes of water, especially light rain, or splashes from puddles.

How waterproof (and dust and contact proof) an e-bike is related to its Ingress Protection (IP) rating, as instituted by the International Electrotechnical Commission.

IP Ratings For E-Bikes

IP ratings usually come in two digits; both work with a chart. The first number relates to the e-bike’s resistance against solid objects, while the second is to liquids.

Focusing on the liquid value:

  • 0 – no protection rating.
  • 1 – protection against vertical droplets and condensation.
  • 2 – protection against directly sprayed droplets up to 15° from the vertical.
  • 3 – protection against directly sprayed droplets up to 60° from the vertical.
  • 4 – protection from water splashing from all directions.
  • 5 – protection from low-pressure water jets from all directions.
  • 6 – protection from higher-pressure water jets in all directions.
  • 7 – protection while immersed in water at depths of 5.9 to 39.37 in. for a short duration.
  • 8 – protection while submerged under pressure for extended periods.

When purchasing an e-bike, please pay careful attention to its IP rating, indicating how water-resistant the bike is.

Several e-bikes have a rating of IP-65, meaning they are a 5 on the chart and are resistant to water up to low-pressure jets from all directions (riding through a puddle and using a hose pipe to wash it down should be ok). Most models are between 4 and 5 (like the popular Aventon e-bikes).

While many better models are tested and rated according to their weather-resistant potential, some e-bikes are not. Some bikes are not made for any amount of water (or around 1 on the IP ratings), so ensure you purchase one that fits your needs.

When in doubt about the IP rating of your electric bike, consult your user’s manual (if you’ve already purchased the bike). Alternatively, you can either inquire at the physical store, contact the online retailer, or check the bike’s official website to learn more about its water resistance capabilities.

Why Can’t Manufactures Make 100% Waterproof Electric Bikes?

It would not be cost-effective for manufacturers to make a 100% waterproof e-bike. Aside from the production cost, making a completely waterproof bike is unnecessary.

These bikes are (mostly) designed for riding along the road or bike tracks. While you might experience rain conditions and occasionally puddles, you should not need to cross a stream or submerge your e-bike at any point.

Most manufacturers produce products that function within the expected range of exposure.

Many manufacturers offer aftermarket add-ons, which improve various aspects of your e-bike.

Installing mudguards/fenders is a fantastic method of limiting the amount of water, mud, and other road debris from splashing onto the battery and other electronic components. Although e-bikes are generally water-resistant, providing them with additional resilience benefits you in the long run.

If you live or ride in areas with lots of water (rain or other), look for an e-bike with a higher IP rating. These bikes usually have sealed battery compartments, rust-resistant materials, and watertight connectors.

Is The Battery On An E-Bike Waterproof?

Most e-bikes operate on sealed lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are usually waterproof; however, the cables, connections, and other wiring points are not waterproof, only water resistant.

If you ride in areas with lots of water, look for a sealed battery compartment that excludes water.

The wiring connecting the battery to the rest of the bike is usually located in a sealed head unit to protect it from rain and splashes.

Are E-Bike Motors Waterproof?

Aside from the battery, the motor is another critical component covered in wiring. While most e-bikes have water-resistant casings covering their motor, they are not completely waterproof. I.e., if you fall into a river while riding, your motor will be damaged, given enough time submerged.

What Are The Water Tolerance Levels Of Electric Bikes?

Not all e-bikes are equal in their water-resistant capabilities.

Some bikes are only suitable for dry conditions, while others are “puddle-proof.” If you plan on using your e-bike in the rain, mud, or areas that experience snow, you must ensure that your bike is rated for the environmental conditions.

Is Riding An E-Bike Possible In The Rain?

While some e-bikes are limited to “dry” use, most brands and models are water resistant, and riding them in the rain is fine (aside from the other associated risks).

Some considerations include avoiding deep puddles/streams, etc., but light to medium rain is ok. However, torrential downpours are best avoided.

Is It ok To Leave An E-Bike In The Rain?

While leaving your e-bike in the rain should not have any immediate negative effects (depending on the model), exposure to water (rain) increases the likelihood of issues developing.

I.e., the more often you “play with fire,” the more likely you are to get burnt.

Rain exposure might damage the bike’s components if the cables are already compromised due to an accident, a fall, or general wear and tear. Make sure you park the e-bike under a cover as frequently as possible to protect it from rain and other weather conditions.

Can You Leave An Electric Bike Outside?

Like leaving your e-bike in the rain, leaving it outside is possible but not advisable. We (strongly) recommend storing your e-bike in a safe area under a cover (a roof is ideal, but even a tarp is better than nothing).

E-bikes that stand outside, exposed to the elements, deteriorate faster than those kept safely in a garage or shed.

The heat, cold (frost), sunlight, and rain cause the plastic to become brittle, protective coverings lose their integrity, rust begins forming, wires don’t connect properly, and eventually, the bike might malfunction. Store an e-bike indoors in a temperature-controlled garage or shed for the best results.

Aside from damages, e-bikes need to be recharged. An e-bike that stands outside while charging is subject to a greater risk of damage (if it rains or the cable hangs in a puddle, etc.).

Can E-bikes Go Through Water?

An e-bike can travel through water, provided the depth of said water is below the battery and other electronic components.

Although most e-bikes have an IP (Ingress Protection) rating that allows them to travel through puddles, manufacturers recommend avoiding riding through large puddles as far as possible.

While e-bikes are “puddle-proof,” you won’t be able to ride through streams or rivers. As soon as the battery or circuitry is immersed, the e-bike will malfunction as water seeps into the electronics. This malfunctioning can result in electric shock and serious injury to the rider.

Aside from electrocution, traction is another issue when riding through water.

The e-bike “Specialized Levo SL” has one of the highest IP ratings of 67. The 6 means they are almost completely dustproof (solids), while the 7 means that you could temporarily submerge the bike up to 3.28 ft of water.

Another e-bike with an IP67 rating is the ZuGo Rhino Step-Thru e-bike.

Although these bikes are rated to survive, it is well recommended not to put them to the test. E-bikes are expensive, and you may not be under warranty if a malfunction occurs while performing an unnecessary task. Rather use these bikes confidently in the rain.

Conversely, the MiRider One e-bike has a rating of IP65. While equally dustproof, these bikes are rated for low-pressure jets (but splashes are safer). These bikes are great for riding in the rain but not through streams on adventure courses.

Is Cleaning An E-Bike With Water ok?

Although taking your e-bike through rivers is not recommended, spraying it with the hose pipe is acceptable.

Thanks to the IP ratings, e-bikes survive water cleaning (if your bike is not rated for any amount of water, then rather use a damp towel to wipe your bike down).

If the IP is a 4 or 5 for liquids, a low-pressure hose pipe is perfect for rinsing off the mud and grime after a day’s ride. A wise option is disconnecting and removing the battery before washing the bike to prevent unfortunate accidents.

When in doubt, use less pressure (if you’re concerned about a low-pressure hose, use a bucket of water and a cloth/towel).

Can Electric Bikes Go In Snow?

Whether an e-bike can ride through snow depends on its IP rating, accessories, snow depth, and weather conditions.

For example, e-bikes with IP ratings of 4 or 5 can function in light snow coverings. However, if you ride through deep snow that reaches the level of the protective casings for the battery and motor, there is a higher risk of malfunction. This is because the melting snow could potentially seep into these critical components, causing damage or affecting their performance.

While riding in light snowfall is fine, a blizzard is a bad idea for several reasons.

It’s important to note that at 60° F and below, the battery will quickly lose its charge.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, no electric bikes are waterproof. However, many are water-resistant and are suitable for riding in the rain or splashing through shallow puddles. How much water an e-bike handles relates to its Ingress Protection rating; higher ratings mean more protection.

Author

  • Miles Baxter

    Miles Baxter is an engineer with a longstanding love for bicycles, sparked by winning a mountain bike in a childhood lottery. Balancing a keen interest in mechanics with the thrill of biking, his career is a testament to the art of turning wheels and gears into adventures.

    Baxter Miles