Five reasons why e-bikes are good for business and good for the planet
The electric car has become the poster child for the future of sustainable transportation, and while any reduction in internal combustion engines is helpful, EVs won’t save us from building more roads, parking lots, infrastructure, and space for cars to roam.
But there is hope! There is another EV out there that has been flying off the shelves. It requires one tenth the space of a car (electric or otherwise); can be charged via a traditional power outlet; and makes users healthier, happier, and more productive.
Here are five reasons why planning for e-bikes doesn’t just make good sense for us and our planet—it makes good sense for our businesses too.
1. E-bikes are Big Business
In 2020 the worldwide e-bike market value was $16.86 billion, and is projected to reach $52.36 billion by 2028. This meteoric growth has been felt in the United States where it was estimated that 600,000 e-bikes were sold in the USA alone in 2020, outselling electric cars by nearly 2 to 1.
Major e-bike companies in the United States are also receiving funds to ramp up production, and cities across the country are investing in high quality bicycle infrastructure making all bike trips increasingly viable and attractive.
With e-bikes continuing to flood the market, businesses and TDM professionals should prepare for a major increase in employees commuting by e-bike.
2. E-bike Owners Use Them to Commute
People simply want to commute by bike. In a recent Mckinsey & Co survey, 32% of respondents in the US identified the bicycle (electric or traditional) as their preferred vehicle for commuting. This supports the even larger trend of more people commuting by bike in the United States, where the number of bike commuters nearly doubled between 2000 and 2019.
E-bikes are unique in that they are often purchased specifically for trips to work and school. Surveys of North American e-bike owners have found that between 45% and 58% of owners under the age of 55 use their e-bikes primarily for commute purposes. Extrapolate this across the hundreds of thousands of e-bikes that are being purchased annually, and throw in potential legislation that would further fuel the adoption of e-bikes, and it becomes clear that a new type of bike commuter needs to be planned for.
3. E-bikes Provide the Same Benefits as Pedal Powered Bikes (And Then Some)
The physical and mental health benefits of cycling are well known and documented. Employees who commute by bicycle take fewer sick days and are more productive compared to their colleagues who drive, an obvious benefit to employers. These are not new revelations. What is new is the growing body of evidence that e-bikes provide all of the same benefits, and then some.
Despite some purists’ early claims that e-bikes do not provide a legitimate workout, recent studies have found that even with battery powered assistance, e-bikes provide a metabolic and cardiovascular response only slightly less pronounced than that achieved riding a traditional bicycle. E-bike riders also tend to use their bikes more often, take longer trips, and are more likely to ride vs. drive for trips compared to their pedal-powered peers.
4. Building for E-bikes Means Building For All
Any rack, lane, or facility that can support the specific needs of an e-bike, works for traditional bikes as well. This hierarchy does not work in reverse, however. There are many rack types that, while fine for a non-motorized bicycle, are inconvenient or incompatible with the weight and charging needs of an e-bike. Additionally, personal e-scooters may play an increasingly large role in the future of transportation and commuting, so providing charging infrastructure allows businesses to support a growing range of electrified micro-mobility options.
Close up of electric charging cable at charging station
Regardless of the growth of e-bikes, it seems unlikely that we will see streets or workplaces completely devoid of traditional pedal powered bikes anytime in the near future. But planning for e-bikes supports all cyclists.
5. E-bikes Require Less Space and Fewer Resources and Funds to Accommodate Than Cars
Another key benefit that e-bikes provide is that they are vastly cheaper to accommodate than cars. In 2016, the average above-ground parking space in North America cost $24,000 to build, and the cost of an underground space jumped to $34,000. Want to provide EV charging capabilities? The cost can then range from $29,000 to a whopping $84,000 per space, depending on the location and type of charger. Whether a company provides parking for free, subsidizes it, or requires employees to cover these costs out of pocket, there is no getting around the fact that somebody has to pay for that slab of concrete that spends a significant portion of its useful life unoccupied.
Now consider that the average space required to park a car can accommodate ten bicycles, electric or otherwise, and that e-bikes can be charged using a typical 120-volt outlet. Even taking into account the costs of high-end racks and best-practice amenities, like storage lockers and bike repair stations, accommodating e-bike commuters is far less costly than providing for their car-driving colleagues, and it isn’t even close.
With all of this information as to why companies should plan to accommodate e-bikes, TDM professionals and decision makers may be wondering how to do so. Luckily, Bikes Make Life Better has been working on bike parking solutions for years. Check out our high-level concepts and considerations in ‘Make Room For E-Bikes At Your Worksite.’
While the future of transportation is undoubtedly multi-modal, taking concrete steps to accommodate e-bikes will pay real dividends for businesses moving forward.