Can e-bikes help fight climate change?

Research suggests that using an electric bike could have a positive impact on the environment

Studies commissioned by cycling specialists, Cycle Republic, have found that if sustainably produced electricity is used for the manufacturing of E-bikes, they will emit almost zero CO2 and produce very little noise when they're on the road. Such findings will surely come as welcome news to those who have made the switch to electric bikes, but may also go some way to convincing others to join the latest transport trend that’s become to be known in the UK as the ‘E-bike revolution’.

Using data from Sustrans, The Department for Transport, Cycle Republic have published an infographic which takes a look at the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by standard modes of transport and drawn a comparison with that produced by E-bikes.

The Rise of Electric Bikes in the UK

According to global research group Mintel, over 70,000 E-bikes were sold in the UK during 2018, with that number set to rise, with the same study finding that around 14% of cyclists are considering joining the E-bike revolution within the next 12 months.

But why are so many people in the UK turning to battery-powered bikes in order to get them from A to B? Does an E-bike really hold a significant advantage over the standard bike?

The Benefits of E-bikes

To really get an idea of how big the E-bike market could become in the UK, it’s worth taking a look at just how ingrained electric bikes are on the continent. In the cycling-mad Netherlands for example, an enormous 400,000 E-bikes were sold in 2018 – a figure that has more than doubled in the last five years. So, just how have these two-wheeled titans of the road become so popular so quickly? Some additional benefits of the E-bike include:

Pedal Assist

E-bikes come with a special battery boost in order to assist your pedalling. So, if you’re starting to struggle up a hill, then your motor can kick in to help you reach the top. In doing so, you can really reduce the amount of stress on your knees and joints.

Stops the sweat

Fed up of having to change into your work clothes from your cycling gear in the morning? Riding an E-bike means you can save your energy and put an end to turning up to the office covered in sweat.

Can be easy on your wallet

Not only can using an E-bike save you energy, but in the long run, you might also save yourself some money. According to Cyclescheme, If you were to hop on an E-bike instead of taking the car for a 50-mile a week commute, then you could end up saving yourself a substantial sum of money.

The study, from Spring of 2019, also found that 32% of ‘potential cyclists’ – that is, people who don’t currently cycle but are interested in doing so – are contemplating trying out an E-bike. Could we really see motorists switching over to E-bikes?

Can Electric Bikes be used for commuting?

If businesses are considering ways to do their bit in helping the environment and people are looking for ways to improve their fitness, then E-bikes could be a serious option for commuters. But is hopping on an E-bike a realistic alternative to taking the car? One pioneering butcher in London decided that he’d tackle the meaty question himself.

The research from Cycle Republic highlighted an example of the biking butcher, who traded in his usual van for an e-bike to make the same day-to-day delivery journey which resulted in a 99% reduction in CO2 emissions. In fact, the emissions from the E-bike were so low that the butcher would’ve had to complete his delivery over 153 times on it before he emitted as much CO2 as the van after just one delivery.

Additionally, according to the sustainability statement from the Accell Annual Report 2018, then the emissions from an E-bike compares favourably with other modes of commuter transport. If you travelled approximately 40 miles every day for a year – a total distance of just under 15,000 miles – by either car, bus or moped, then the levels of CO2 you would expect to emit would be:

E-Bike vs Scooter or Moped

A moped or a scooter would emit approximately 2,500kg of CO2 per passenger, compared to an E-bike which would be responsible for less than 300kg of CO2.

E-Bike vs Bus or Car-pool

A bus or a three-person car-pool are often viewed as ‘greener’ ways to get to work, as commuters look to cut down on individual journeys. However, the findings show that buses and car-pools would also emit around 2,500kg of CO2 per passenger, almost 10 times that of a single E-bike user.

E-Bike vs Car

Someone travelling 40 miles by themselves in a car every day has been found to be accountable for over 7,000kg of CO2. An individual riding an electric bike would be emitting just 300kg of CO2.

E-Bike vs Scooter vs Car

How long does an E-bike battery last?

But just how long will an E-bike battery last for? You might be surprised to discover that built-in battery packs on modern E-bikes can take you the same length as 257 laps of an Olympic-sized Velodrome track! On a full charge, that’s over 40 miles.

How long the battery on your E-bike lasts for will depend on both the type of battery your bike uses and how you maintain it. Keeping your E-bike battery somewhere that’s dry and protected from sudden changes in temperature can help prolong its battery life.

The Power of E-Bike Batteries

E-bike batteries can last over 40 miles.

Can riding an E-bike benefit your health?

So, what are the benefits of owning an electric bike? Are they really able to have an impact on the environment as well as your own health?

One of the best things about the introduction of E-bikes is that they have made cycling accessible for those who have previously struggled using a bike. While using a standard, traditional bike may be more beneficial in terms of exercise than an electric bike, not everyone has the energy to set off on miles-long trail rides or to haul their bike up steep climbs.

But is using an E-bike cheating?

The pedal assist or throttle that comes with an E-bike means that older cyclists or those with health issues aren’t excluded from joining in on the enjoyment that cycling brings. In a recent feature, the BBC spoke to three E-bike users about the effect that the switch to electric has had on their mental and physical well-being.

One cyclist, Tim Gregory, who suffers from a lung condition, spoke of how getting an E-bike after previously giving up cycling had “changed his life”.

The inclusiveness that comes with riding an E-bike and their ease of access to those who may not have previously considered hopping into the saddle, or those who can’t cycle as often as they would have liked may mean that we see E-bikes becoming even more popular in the UK. As Colin Williams, an ex-environmental consultant and Owner of FLi Distribution, points out: “E-bikes can also be viewed as a gateway to traditional bikes, allowing users who couldn’t previously travel by bike to do so. In turn, this will eventually lead to more people commuting by bike, which will undoubtedly positively impact the environment.”

What do the Experts Say about E-Bikes?

So, whether you want to make a conscious effort to help the environment, want to try out a way of beating the morning traffic or even if you’d like to re-introduce yourself to the world of cycling, then maybe an E-bike is for you!