The executive director of the Bicycle Association believes that framing e-bikes as ‘enhanced bicycles’ is a mistake. Steve Garidis says that framing them this way merely encourages policy makers to treat them as a niche within a niche, with a level of priority and funding to match.
“If an e-bike is not an enhanced bicycle, what is it?” asks Garidis on the Green Alliance blog. “In the context of transport and climate change policy, they should instead be treated as central to the electrification of transport. E-bikes are already delivering the electric revolution, so they should be seen on a par with other electric vehicles (EVs).”
Garidis argues that cycling is a niche, marginalised policy area in the UK and not therefore something to be exploited by vehicles that potentially hold broader appeal.
“Relative to cycling, the EV sector has vastly higher profile, priority and investment,” he points out before going on to highlight some of the strengths of e-bikes over electric cars, such as their relatively cost and the fact they don’t require new charging infrastructure.
He cites the reliability and efficiency of e-bike technology as another major strength with one medium range electric car requiring similar battery capacity to 100 e-bikes. “Battery production is one of the key limiting factors in transport system electrification, so it makes sense to use them in the most efficient EVs,” he says.
A common argument is that e-bikes don’t serve the same purpose as larger electric vehicles, but 70 per cent of UK trips are under five miles and e-cargo bikes have also been shown to deliver faster than vans in urban areas.
“Sales figures show that e-bikes are ready for mass adoption,” writes Garidis. “Across Europe over five million were sold in 2021, more than double the 2.3 million electric cars sold in the same period (nearly half of which were plug in-hybrids, not fully electric).
“In the same year, in the US, 790,000 e-bikes were sold, compared to just 650,000 electric cars (including plug-in hybrid models). Across the developed world, e-bikes are already moving more people over to EVs than electric cars.”