Electric Bikes (E-Bikes) are often confused with motorbikes, motorcycles, and/or motor scooters. When in reality, they don’t look or feel too different from a regular bicycle, until you start pedalling.

E-bikes have an integrated electric motor that can be used to assist a rider’s pedalling power. This kind of assistance helps riders to go up hills, travel great distances, and run errands with ease.

Providing electric assistance can be the key to more people making the switch from driving to cycling, which is essential in building a sustainable transportation system for the future.

What are E-Bikes?

E-Bikes are ‘electric assist’ bicycles, sometimes referred to as ‘pedelecs’. They are a bicycle with several electrical components, such as; a motor, a battery, and a controller, which are all seamlessly integrated into the overall design.

How do E-Bikes Work?

Riding an E-Bike is cycling with ‘power boosts’, enhancing the cyclist’s power without completely replacing it. When you push the pedals, a small motor engages to help propel you forward, whether you’re riding up a hill or crossing challenging terrain, you’re able to pedal easily.

The most common types of motors found on electric bikes are located in the mid-drive, front hub, or rear hub.

Batteries typically provide anywhere between 30 to 100 kilometres per charge, with their range depending on the rider’s speed and terrain.

Charging an e-bike is as simple as charging up your phone. Plug it into any wall outlet and a full charge will take 2 to 4 hours.

What are the Benefits?

Similar to the bike, e-bikes are a fun form of exercise, produce zero emissions, bypass traffic gridlock, have free parking, and are an efficient use of land in cities. In addition, they address a few of the concerns associated with typical bicycles; such as, lack of power, high energy exertion, and arriving at your destination in a sweat.

E-bikes allow users to ride as comfortably up a hill as they would riding down it, contributing to greater pedalling power and low energy exertion.

Easy riding is a benefit to many people with mobility issues, an ageing population, those travelling far distances, persons in hilly or mountainous terrain, and/or anyone who doesn’t want to have to put in a lot of effort to get around.

What makes E-Bikes a Solution for a Sustainable Transportation Future?

The key components to a sustainable future for transportation largely centre around efficiency. This includes; efficiency of space and efficiency of movement. Electric Vehicles (EVs) fall short on efficiency of space (still requiring wide roads and large parking stalls) whereas E-Bikes are incredibly efficient in both.

This is something bicycle and vehicle manufacturers (such as General Motors and Ford) alike are taking note of, investing significantly in new e-bike models. Vehicle manufacturers are realizing that cars in high-density urban areas (where half of the human population lives), just aren’t working for congestion, safety, efficiency, land-use, and the environment.

The exciting thing about E-Bikes is that people are buying them with the intention of reducing car trips, with 28% of survey respondents indicating this as the primary reason for their purchase. When we examine the number of car trips that are shorter than 5, and even 10 kilometres, an e-bike is a great option to cover those distances in a comparable amount of time with comparable effort.

Furthermore, a recent study has shown that purchasing an e-bike actually increases how often a person rides. Surveying nearly 1,800 e-bike owners across North America demonstrated that prior to their purchase, 55% of respondents said they rode daily or weekly, whereas, after purchasing an e-bike, that number rose to 91%.

So, not only are people buying e-bikes with the intention of replacing car trips, but they are really doing it (as indicated by the increase in cycling frequency)!

They are also in a position to enhance other sustainable forms of transportation, particularly public transit. Connecting cycling with public transportation helps to widen the catchment area of any station, with e-bikes expanding that area even further.

How can we Create Wider Adoption?

A recent study has indicated that the widespread adoption of e-bikes has the power to significantly reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions associated with transportation. The study finds that a 15% increase in e-bike mode share results in an 11% decrease in CO2 emissions.

Last year, e-bikes surpassed the sales of regular bicycles in The Netherlands, with sales growing on a steep trajectory year over year. When we examine trends of e-bike sales from across the world, it has been demonstrated that the necessary circumstances for wide adoption of the technology is, quite simple, infrastructure.

Where quality, comfortable, and safe cycling infrastructure exists, e-bikes are flourishing.

An option that complements quality infrastructure is to provide government subsidies for e-bike buyers, similar to the many subsidies and rebates provided to electric vehicle buyers. This is being implemented successfully in Paris, France where e-bike owners are able to get up to 500 euros paid for by the government as part of an effort to incentivise sustainable transportation modes.

We are excited about the potential of e-bikes and look forward to wider adoption in Manitoba and across Canada.

Do you have thoughts about e-bikes? Leave it in the comments below!