John MacArthur at the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) has publish an interesting presentation on electric bicycles (aka e-bikes), which I found thanks to Michael Andersen at BikePortland. It highlights many interesting facts about this hyper-green human-electric hybrid mode of transportation, and I'd like to share the highlights with you below (but you can check out the whole thing here).
1) Converting a bike to an e-bike is slightly more common than buying an e-bike from scratch. 48 percent of e-bike users purchased an e-bike, whereas 52 percent converted a standard bike (most commonly a mountain bike, but 13 percent of them a cargo bike or Xtracycle) by adding a battery and motor.
That's an interesting stats. I expected conversions to be a lower ratio. This might be a sign that e-bikes are still in the early adopter phase in the US, as these tend to be a bit more dedicated and ready to make a project out of things than mainstream buyers. My guess is that over time, the ratio will go lower for conversions, but that's not necessarily bad; what matters is that people are riding their bikes more.
2) E-Bike conversions are usually cheaper than purchases, but not always. 70 percent of e-bike conversions and 46 percent of e-bike purchases were done for $1500 or less.
3) E-bike trips seem especially good at replacing car trips. The most common reason to go electric was to replace some car trips, though health, ability and comfort were also common reasons people took up e-bikes.
Obviously, replacing car trips is the greenest way to use a bike. It might not always be possible in more rural areas, but in dense cities, it should definitely be encouraged, and e-bikes make that easier.
4) E-bikes turn people into daily riders. 55 percent of e-bikers rode their standard bike weekly or daily before the purchase. After the purchase, weekly or daily biking rose to 93 percent. Even the few (6%) who had never ridden bikes as an adult were now riding weekly or daily.
Another great benefit of e-bikes! If you like biking, but don't ride as much as you feel you should, make you just need the little extra help that an e-bike could provide. Give it a try!
5) The biggest complaint with e-bikes is their weight. About 26 percent of respondents called it the main downside. (Another 8 percent, meanwhile, said there was no downside to riding an e-bike.) Fewer than 5 percent cited fear of theft or battery charging time.
This should get better over time as battery technology improves. But some e-bikes are definitely lighter than others, so if that's important to you, make sure to look at the specs of each model.
Here's a Fully Charged episode from last year looking at a few electric bikes: