Is an electric bike a sensible, green investment?
Like any revolutionary, zeitgeist changing mode of wonder-transport, the Electric Bike is subject to its fair share of stigma.
Electric bike riders have to contend with the accusation that their preferred mode of transport is cheating, their electric powered bicycle isn't really saving energy and the implication can be that the ebike rider is self-righteous for even bothering. But how do these myths hold up under scrutiny? Is it wise to invest? Read on:
THE MYTH: Riding an electric bike is ‘cheating’.
Cycling is the battle between human, gravity and friction (with just sprockets and kinetic energy on board to help). Right? This most common complaint, usually heard from from the cycling old-guard, is understandable - and total guff.
An electric bike lets you cheat only in so far as your car does, or a train, or a hang-glider. It is simply one more mode of transport with its own role. If you view cycling as a sport (or hobby, or religion), then accusations of cheating make sense - but not everyone is chasing the same ideal of conquering hills purely under their own steam. Some folks just want to get to work in comfort. And a bit of fresh air and exercise is a welcome extra (that is, only if you want it).
MYTH: They’re not really green.
One complaint that’s regularly levelled against the electric bike is that it’s ‘not really’ green. The argument is that the battery of an e-bike uses energy generated elsewhere and therefore it’s wrong to self righteously preach about using an emission-free vehicle when those emissions are simply pushed to an earlier point in the process.
As usual, these arguments ignore the reality of how vehicles are used, by whom, and how regularly. Electric bikes consume fuel at an average rate of 100 to 150 watts of electrical energy, compared to the 15,000 or so of a car. So, considering that the average speed of an a car in rush hour traffic is a mere 16mph, and that your car is at its least efficient when used for local journeys (a staggering 80% of all car journeys are under 5 miles), it becomes clear that the green credentials of electric bikes are well founded. Save the car for carpooling.
THE MYTH: They’re overpriced.
A decent electric bike will set you back at least £800, and there doesn’t seem to be an upper-limit on cost when it comes to the more ‘prestigious’ brands. And that’s without factoring in the cost of electricity and maintenance. Just how long will it take before you make back your investment in savings?
Let’s look at the numbers: a full charge of a 10ah Juicy Bike battery costs under 10p, and will take you 30 miles or more. That’s the equivalent of at least 1,500 to 2,000 miles per gallon. And as anyone with a car will know, fuel costs are just the start of it.
Take into account the time and stress of finding that vacant space for parking your four wheels, hopefully near the working ticket machine (or at least out of sight from the prying traffic wardens), plundering coins from pockets or between seats (no change given), it’s enough to turn what could be a pleasure into a pilava.
Stepping up to start riding to work will save hundreds in parking fees, fines and chocolate consumption related to driver stress (excused by needing the right change for the meter? Or overcoming anger?). Is it wise to mention wear and tear on your combustion car heating up and cooling down between trips that should take 10 mins, yet in reality turn into another stress induced hour deducted from YOUR expected lifespan? Never mind the car - you can always get that serviced (for yet another fee)!
Make a full-time switch over to electric commuting and save even more on tax and insurance to top-up on the health and well-being experienced by your average two wheeled traveller. Soon you’ll be swapping the anger management group for a poetry class.
In part two:
Aren’t electric bikes just for older riders? Aren’t they a hassle to maintain? Will an electric bike make me extremely popular with the opposite sex? (Just kidding on that last question, although the answer is yes.) All this and more, in Part 2.