E-bikes are quickly becoming a popular alternative to other methods of transport. Compared with some alternatives, they offer a great selection of benefits, primarily cutting down on fuel costs as well as the impact their carbon dioxide emissions have on the natural environment. However, some have argued that the overall effect of having more electric bikes around is likely to be negative on the environment and people’s health and fitness in general. Here we consider both viewpoints.
Firstly, it comes down to what an e-bike is being used as a substitute for. If you regularly drive your own car to work or throughout the rest of the day, switching to a fast ebike might be an obvious way to reduce your carbon footprint. These bikes, with manual peddling assisted by a battery-charged motor when required, can really make the difference for some people who would find it highly impractical to cycle to work purely because the journey is slightly too long or difficult. Perhaps the only thing stopping you taking your bike is that steep hill just before you get to the office?
In this case, an electric bike can really improve the energy efficiency of your journey. You will only need to charge up the battery on an electric bike every so often, which means your fuel bills will drop considerably compared to the cost of filling up your vehicle with petrol on a regular basis. There are also notable health benefits to switching to this method, which can really be an added incentive. On average, people with e-bikes use them up to 50% more than people with standard bikes, and travel up to twice as far when they do. By having the backup option of the motorised assistance, people are actually happier and more confident to travel further under their own steam and get a great workout while conserving fuel.
On the other hand, people who criticise e-bikes and their promotion as a beneficial thing for the environment have pointed out a potential problem. If people who previously used a traditional bicycle as their primary method of transport decide to switch to an electrically assisted option, their carbon footprint is actually increasing. Cycling without any help is of course the best way to travel longer distances if you want absolutely zero emissions, so reducing people’s inclination to do this could be seen as problematic.
The focus needs to be on those people who are actually switching to e-bikes from other forms of transport with higher average rates of carbon dioxide emissions. This is what will potentially make a huge difference to the total levels of pollution, especially in our crowded cities, over time if we continue to see these bikes increase in popularity.