You may have had a good idea this was the case already, but new research from the University of Leeds has found that e-bikes have the capability to slash emissions from transport - and in the context of the current coronavirus pandemic, they could also offer commuters a safe and sustainable route back to work without resorting to taking the car.
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The study from CREDS researchers - titled 'e-bike carbon savings – how much and where?' - looked at how much C02 emission savings could be made by replacing car commutes with e-bike journeys, and recommended that workers "replaced as much of their car travel as they are able with e-bikes."
Interestingly they also found that the greatest opportunities are in rural and suburban areas, saying that city slickers already have access to numerous low-carbon transport options: "the greatest impact would be on encouraging use outside urban areas", the paper says.
There is also a scope for e-bikes to provide a more affordable alternative for those affected by the rising cost of public transport, with rail fares going up at an above-inflation rate almost every year in the last decade. All in all, it's claimed in the paper that e-bikes, if used to replace car travel, have the capability to cut car CO2 emissions in England by up to 50%, which equates to around 30 million tonnes per year. It's also claimed that replacing just 20% of car travel with e-biking would mean a reduction in C02 emissions of between 4-8 million tonnes.
As a cost-efficient way to travel to and from homes that are outside urban centres, the researchers point to Denmark who have already began building specific e-bike routes to help people make longer journeys than they would on conventional pedal cycles. They say that in post-coronavirus recovery this could be a safer and more sustainable way to travel, and would also help cut the cost of commuting in neighbourhoods characterised by low incomes.
Dr Ian Philips, who led the research, commented: “The strategic potential of e-bikes as a mass-transport option has been overlooked by policymakers so far. The research began as a way to measure the potential carbon savings that e-bikes can offer, but as we emerge from the lockdown, e-bikes can be part of the solution to getting people safely mobile once again.
“We’re recommending that governments across the UK should find ways to incentivise e-bike use to replace car journeys. As well as lowering carbon emissions from transport, e-bikes have the potential to improve the mobility options for people and communities at risk of transport poverty.”