The Climate Benefits of eBikes
As people increasingly seek to reduce their carbon footprint and transition to more sustainable modes of transportation, eBikes are becoming an attractive alternative to traditional cars and even regular bikes. Learn more about how carbon emissions could be reduced if more people switched to eBikes for their daily commutes. Then, come see us and try out an eBike for yourself! We have bikes for rent and for sale — and you can get all your questions answered in person, by an expert.
eBikes could take the place of enough car trips to cut transportation emissions in England by as much as 24.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to a new study. What’s more, the greatest per capita benefits of e-bikes—with the potential to shave more than 750 kilograms of carbon dioxide off a person’s annual carbon footprint—are seen in rural and exburban areas.
Most schemes to decarbonize transport focus on electrifying passenger cars and light trucks. But studies have begun to show that this can’t be accomplished on the scale needed in time to meet decarbonization goals. In other words, we need to reduce car use, not just electrify cars.
eBikes, bicycles equipped with a small electric motor to boost pedaling power, are of growing interest as an alternative to cars because they enable more people to cycle farther in more challenging terrain than would be possible with a conventional bicycle.
In the new study, researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK set out to calculate the maximum potential for e-bikes to replace car use throughout the whole of England. Their analysis takes into account car trip habits, demographic variables such as age and fitness levels, and hilliness of terrain for more than 32,000 neighborhoods in England, each with a population of 1,000 to 3,000 people.
The researchers calculated the proportion of people’s car travel in each neighborhood that could be substituted by e-bike travel, then calculated the carbon emissions savings that would be associated with the e-bike switch.
Maximizing e-bike use could save a total of 24.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year with an average savings of 580 kilograms per person, the researchers report in the journal Transport Policy.
In contrast, maximizing conventional bicycle use would save just 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, they calculated. “Because bicycles do not have the power assistance of the eBike motor, the distance a person can travel on a bicycle is less than the distance they can travel on an eBike,” the researchers write. That is, eBikes can take the place of more car trips than bicycles can.
In rural and exurban areas, eBike use could save a total of 7.1 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year. That’s greater than the 6.5 million metric tons that could be saved in major metropolitan areas—despite rural areas having only half the total population of major metros.
The findings echo those of studies elsewhere in Europe showing that eBikes have the greatest carbon-cutting potential in relatively sparsely populated areas. But the new study is the first to provide such a fine-grained assessment of e-bike potential over such a wide geographic area.
Per-capita reductions from e-bike use are greatest for rural residents because people in rural areas drive more kilometers per year than those in urban areas, have less access to public transport, and make longer trips—many of which are too long to be made by conventional bicycle or walking.
The results suggest “that eBike promotion policies would be more effective in rural areas to achieve the goal of carbon reduction,” the researchers write. Yet micro mobility service providers, eBike promotion schemes, and funding for active transport have tended to focus on big cities. “The implication is that there is a large untapped potential for eBike use in rural and periurban areas,” they add.
The researchers also identified more than 3,400 neighborhoods where people are vulnerable to economic stress from the financial pressure of car ownership and that simultaneously have high eBike potential. Focusing eBike promotion policies on these areas could reduce carbon emissions and economic stress at the same time.
While the researchers set out to calculate the maximum reduction in carbon emissions that e-bikes could achieve in theory, actually bringing those savings about in practice will require a major policy push, including construction of long-distance cycling paths that link together cities, towns, and suburbs, eBike charging stations at workplaces, and other cycling infrastructure.
Looking to reduce your carbon footprint while enjoying the great outdoors? Try an eBike from Synaptic Cycles! Our rental fleet includes top-quality electric bikes that are perfect for exploring Dana Point without emitting harmful pollutants. Call us today at 949.484.6409 and visit our Facebook page.