Electric bicycles could the key to green transportation, shows study

Credit: Besiki Kazaishvili, NREL.

Researchers say that small but powerful electric bicycles, also known as e-bikes, can make transportation much easier and greener!

These battery-powered bikes have been around for over a hundred years, and recently, they’re becoming more popular than ever, even outdoing electric cars in sales.

According to Andrew Duvall, who studies how people move around at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), lots of people’s first experience with an electric vehicle is with an e-bike, not an electric car.

He suggests we need more policies to encourage people to try out these bicycles.

The 2023 Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan is leading the way, and it has included e-bikes in its focus.

The Colorado Energy Office has even teamed up with the NREL to study how to increase the popularity of and access to e-bikes through the Can Do Colorado e-Bike Pilot.

They gave around 200 e-bikes and 50 e-bike memberships to low-income workers all over Colorado, helping to learn more about how these bikes are used and their benefits.

Results from this pilot program were promising. E-bikes proved to be super convenient and much cheaper to use and maintain than regular vehicles.

Not to mention, you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot and you can squeeze in some exercise while you’re at it!

The NREL found that people prefer to walk for distances up to one mile, and use e-bikes for distances between one and four miles.

With many daily trips in the US being less than three miles, it seems e-bikes could be the perfect solution for a majority of these trips. Longer trips of four to six miles saw people equally split between e-bikes, driving alone, and sharing rides.

An exciting fact from the pilot was that participants used e-bikes for 28% of all their trips, mainly to get to work.

This switch to e-bikes from cars helped save almost 40 megawatt-hours of energy, which is nearly equal to the energy used by 1,000 average homes in a day!

The NREL also created a handy smartphone app, NREL OpenPATH, to track travel habits and energy use. This valuable data is helping to shape how e-bike projects should be designed and prioritized for funding.

With e-bike programs popping up all around the nation, it’s clear that more people are becoming interested in this sustainable and convenient form of transportation. And the best part? E-bikes are a green transport option that’s affordable for people across the economic spectrum.

They’re also super versatile, with different models designed to accommodate various needs and terrains.

Later in 2023, more detailed analysis from the Colorado e-bike pilot will be published in a journal article and the data will be made available to the public.

Sarah Thorne, a senior program manager at the CEO, said they were the first in the US to run a program like this and collect data at the same time, helping to pave the way for e-bike programs nationwide.

So, the next time you need to go somewhere nearby, consider hopping on an e-bike. It’s a fun, eco-friendly, and healthy way to get around!

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