Update: Should I buy an electric bicycle? Here's everything you need to know to get started!
There's a bevy of reasons North American consumers haven't yet warmed up to electric bikes.
Price sensitivity is a big one. The very nascent e-bike industry also still hasn't produced a 'killer app' electric bike that we all want to own.
In addition, many people think an e-bike is cheating. Or befouling the bike lanes. Or just unnecessary.
The biggest reason we all haven't bought e-bikes, however, is that we are so immersed in car culture that we find it hard to see how an e-bike can do everything for us that a personal automobile can.
While it's true an e-bike will never get you 150 miles to a snow vacation, or take you on a long road trip to visit Auntie M, the $2,000 you might spend on an electric bike can buy you a lot of transportation and fun.
E-bikes are a way to get some of the benefits - including health benefits - of biking without some of the drawbacks. So here are five reasons you might want to consider an e-bike in the future:
1. E-bikes are getting lighter.
Many e-bikes, including my first generation clunker, weigh a lot, so if/when your electric power dies you'll be struggling to get the behemoth up hills, and have a hard time carrying it up the stairs. But e-bikes are getting lighter, like this Kickstarter e-bike from Riide
, which weighs in at 35 pounds.
2. E-bikes are getting cheaper.
We've documented that very inexpensive electric bikes from companies such as Currie are available. There are also very expensive souped-up e-bikes on the market. What's starting to be more prevalent is a middle ground of not-too-expensive e-bikes that combine solid feature sets with good performance, like the Prodeco
3. E-bikes are getting better looking.
Early electric bikes - can you believe they debuted in the 1970's? - had and still have unwieldy big batteries. A number of innovators have been working on making the battery more powerful and less visible. One of the most highly anticipated e-bikes, the Farraday Porteur
was a result of designing a bike to win the Oregon Manifest
challenge. The Porteur's first production run is sold out with buyers expected to receive their e-bikes in a few months from now.
4. E-bikes are getting good environmental reviews.
Charging an e-bike generally costs a few cents - if you buy green power even better - and when an e-bike replaces a car, the e-bike offsets 1,550 grams of globe-warming hydrocarbons; 1,460 grams of carbon monoxide; and 770 grams of nitrogen oxides for every 500 miles ridden.
5. E-bikes are getting more families out riding bicycles.
As the cargo bike revolution continues, more families seem to be finding the lovely boost that comes from a pedal-assist electric motor attached to the family bike. Splendid Cycles
in Portland is one cargo-specific bike shop that has had to move to larger quarters partly due to their market segment of family e-bike riders.
Sales of electric bikes - the pedal-assist variety - are growing much faster in Europe than the U.S. What's our reluctance? Car-culture hangover.