As an electric bike dealer, we frequently talk with customers who refer to our bikes as electronic bikes. Electric bike, electronic bike, what is the real difference? Is it just semantics? We asked our highly trained staff of linguistic historians what they thought about the matter.
The term "electric" refers to anything related or having to do with electricity. From a lightbulb to a microwave to wiring, if it has electricity running through it, it's electric. Therefore, an electric bike is by definition a bicycle that uses electric power. This is the correct terminology. The electric motor draws its electricity from the battery. The Battery Management System (BMS), on the other hand, is made up of electronic components. Basically, the circuitry that works under the surface make up the electronics of an electrical device.
Referring to an electronic bike isn't necessarily wrong. There's a gray area between Electric Bicycle and Electronic Bicycle, and they can be used interchangeably to an extent. The term "electronic" usually refers to the flow of electrons, or the electrical current between circuitry. You may be familiar with things like resistors and capacitors, the building blocks of electrical circuits. Inside an electric bike, these tiny parts control the voltage, current, and power of the electric motor and battery. They make up the electronics of the bike.
Over the past few years, the term "electronics" has been used to refer to mobile devices like cell phones, iPods, and cameras. While this can be applied at a department store (Electronics Department) as a blanket term, it's not necessarily accurate. An electric camera is made up of electronics, but it is hardly ever referred to that way. So the next time you hear of an Electronic Bike, make sure it's not a store that is grouping an electric bike in with cameras and computers.