So you’ve got a fun trip planned to a great biking destination and you want to ride your eBike there. But can you take your electric bike on the plane?
Well the answer to that, is "it's complicated." You can transport your electric bike itself on the plane but the battery is generally not allowed.
But there are solutions for that if you are up to the challenge. In this article we will go over the logistics of taking your electric bike on a plane and also cover some alternatives to still enjoy riding an eBike on your trip.
Different airlines have their own policies and restrictions regarding the transportation of electric bikes, so it's essential to check with the airline you plan to fly with before your trip. With that in mind, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
Battery restrictions in carry-on and checked baggage
The most crucial aspect to consider is the electric bike's battery. Lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly used in e-bikes, are subject to specific rules. Most airlines allow you to bring batteries with a capacity of 100 to 160 watt hours (Wh) as carry-on items: think digital cameras, GoPro action sports cameras, and so on.
Batteries with a higher capacity (up to around 300Wh) may be allowed, but you will need to obtain permission from the airline in advance. Batteries with a capacity exceeding the airline's limit will not be allowed and unfortunately that includes almost all electric bike batteries.
Most eBike batteries are 400 watt hours or greater. Your eBike battery may have the watt hours list on it along with the volts and amp hours, making it easy to check your specific eBike against this limit.
If your eBike only lists volts and amp hours on the battery, you can calculate the watt hours yourself - simply multiply the volts x amps, example: a 48 volt, 10A battery = 480 watt hours (such a battery would be over the limits for air travel.)
You'll find that almost every eBike battery exceeds the watt hour limitation, making them impossible to bring along via air. But there are some other options:
Option #1: Ship the Battery Separately
The idea with this approach is that you remove the battery from your electric bike, and send it via UPS or FedEx ground shipping to your destination. Then your electric bike (minus battery) can be transported with you on the plane. This is probably the best option if you really want to travel with your electric bike.
The shipping of the battery can be expensive because the battery is considered hazardous materials and there are are extra fees that go with that. Plus, you need to find a shipper that will be able to properly package the battery with the appropriate labels and forms that go with it.
Finally, keep in mind that you will need to find a similar shipper in the place you visit for the return trip and battery shipment.
And of course don't forget that you'd need to ship your battery well in advance of your trip so it can arrive in time.
Option #2: Rent a battery
Some shops will rent a battery for common battery types but this is still a pretty rare situation, so don't count on this scenario. Still, it can be a viable solution, especially if your eBike uses a popular battery.
Check with electric bike rental shops in the place where you will visit to see if this is an option. For example, if you're a Denago owner, you could contact Denago dealers near your vacation destination to check if they rent batteries for your model.
Be aware of bike weight and size
Even with the battery removed an electric bike is pretty heavy. It's even heavier when you add in all the packing material and bike box or bag that it is transported in. The weight and size of the box or bag is certainly a consideration for transporting it through the airport, because you may need some help lifting it and maneuvering it around.
Also, be aware that each airline has restrictions and sometimes added fees for oversized and heavy boxes/bags. So it's important to do your research of the airline's rules/fees well in advance of your trip. If you expect to fly with your eBike - even without the battery - you should expect to pay an extra fee to the airline for this service, which can be substantial.
Some people separate the frame and wheels into their own boxes or bags to try to save on fees but you should check with the specific airline you are flying to see if it will save you any money. Two smaller boxes or bags could potentially be easier to maneuver in the airport as well.
Obviously, one of the best options for traveling is a folding electric bike with its compact size and lighter weight. It will be much easier to maneuver around the airport and will probably have less airline baggage fees. For instance the Denago Folding 1 eBike is just 20" wide, 35" long, and 30" tall when folded and it weighs approximately 55 pounds without the battery. That means you can pack it into a smaller package, which might allow you to dodge the airline heavy/oversize fees.
Pack it well
It's a good idea to pack your electric bike in a strong bike box or bike bag designed for the size of your eBike. You will definitely want to pack it with substantial padding because the airline baggage handling can be a bit rough!
It's a good idea to focus on padding the derailleur, shifter, brake levers, brake calipers & rotors, display, and any other items that stick out and could be easily damaged. A bike shop experienced with packing bikes for travel can help provide additional guidance or even pack the bike for you for a fee.
You can also purchase hard cases specifically designed for bicycle air travel for an extra measure of protection. These are useful for all types of bikes if you travel by air frequently.
As mentioned before but it should be stated again, be prepared for additional fees for transporting your electric bike (without the battery). Most airlines charge extra for oversized, overweight, and/or sporting equipment, and most electric bikes fall into these categories.
Special notes for international travel
If you are traveling internationally, you must be aware of the specific regulations and customs requirements of the countries you are flying to and from. Some countries may have restrictions on bringing in lithium-ion batteries, and others may have specific rules for the transportation of electric bikes.
In some cases traveling internationally may require your battery to be shipped via cargo plane which has additional requirements and fees, which could be more of a hassle when compared to ground shipping. It's probably not worth it.
Renting an eBike is a good alternative to bringing your own
As you can see it is not easy to travel with your electric bike on a plane but there are other options to enjoy riding an electric bike during your trip. When you add up all the hassles and expenses of trying to take your own eBike on a plane it can make more sense to rent an eBike at your destination.
When you rent, you don’t have to deal with the hassle and cost of shipping the battery separately, disassembling & packaging your eBike, transporting your eBike through the airports, paying the airline fees, unboxing and building your eBike, and storing the bike box or bag where you are visiting. Then on the flight back you have almost all the same hassles and fees plus finding a shipper that will package and label your battery properly.
In many ways the cost of renting an electric bike could be much less expensive than the shipping costs and hassle of transporting your own eBike. Plus, renting an electric bike gives you the opportunity to try another type of eBike that you may be interested in. Maybe try an eMTB, a fat eBike, a folding eBike, a beach cruiser eBike, etc.
Buy an eBike at your destination
If you will be taking a longer trip and you could really use an eBike for daily transportation and fun then maybe buying an eBike with the plan to sell it at the end of your stay can make sense. You could certainly buy a new electric bike but there may be options to buy a used eBike on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, local classified ads, etc.
You can never have too many bikes……
Electric bikes are very popular in most places so at the right price it should be fairly easy to sell it when you are preparing for your return trip. Some bike shops take bikes on consignment, which could simplify the resale process.
Double check, then check again
Again, it's crucial to check with the airline directly before your flight to understand their specific rules and requirements regarding the transportation of electric bikes. Policies can change, so it's always best to get the most up-to-date information directly from the airline.
Enjoy Your Trip!
Traveling is a great way to see new places or revisit places you have enjoyed over the years. Riding an electric bike is a great way to take in new areas by riding the biking routes.
Sometimes driving by in a car you will miss some cool off the beaten path places because you are going too fast or it's just not along the regular route. Now that you have more info and ideas on how to transport your electric bike or rent/buy one where you travel you should have the tools to build out a good trip!
Enjoy your trip and electric bike rides!