Ministers should consider subsidizing e-bikes as they do e-cars, campaigners have urged, after a study found massive use of these bikes could create more than £2billion in benefits for health and reduce one million tonnes of emissions per year.
While grants of up to £1,500 are available for low-emission cars, vans and motorbikes, there is no such assistance for e-bikes, which help propel cyclists up at a maximum speed of 15 mph when the bike is pedaled.
According to a review of the evidence by academics at the University of Westminster, commissioned by the campaign group Bike is Best, increased e-bike use would bring other benefits not created by electric cars, including a reduction traffic congestion and fewer potentially dangerous particles from tire and brake wear.
E-bikes have become increasingly common in the UK, but sales are still well below levels seen in many other European countries, where studies have shown they are particularly popular with older riders and older riders. women.
The study included a poll which shows that 67% of Britons who might be interested in buying an e-bike are put off by the price. But of those, according to the poll, 53% would be likely to buy one if there was a hypothetical £250 subsidy on a £1,000 model.
The study used the Department of Transport’s so-called cycling propensity tool, which is based on detailed business travel data and used to inform decisions on cycling programmes, to calculate that mass cycling infrastructure and access to electric bicycles could encourage up to 25% of commuting to work by bicycle.
Such a change would produce overall economic health benefits in England and Wales of £2.2 billion a year, most of it coming from better health through e-bike use, but also due lower levels of staff absence due to illness.
Although e-bikes provide fewer health benefits per mile than non-motorized bikes, studies have shown that users tend to end up with similar overall levels of physical activity as e-bike riders travel on average longer distances.
The latest study found that promoting e-bike use would lead to a particular increase in people living in more rural or hilly areas.
The £2.2bn health dividend and estimated one million tonne-a-year carbon emissions savings are based on travel alone, as that is the data on which the propensity to do tool is based biking. The overall savings could therefore be significantly greater, according to the authors. The statistics only relate to England and Wales, as they are the source of the propensity to cycle data.
While fully electric cars produce zero carbon emissions when in motion, the million tonne saving was calculated from the lower power required to charge an e-bike – studies have estimated this at 2% of what is needed for an electric car – and significantly lower emissions related to their construction.
In addition to commuting, the study notes, the development of e-cargo bikes could create even more emission reductions through the use of urban freight, a significant contributor to road transport emissions. Studies have suggested that e-cargo bikes could replace up to a quarter of all so-called last-mile deliveries currently made using vans. Consumer models can be used to transport children and heavy purchases.
Scott Purchas of Bike is Best said the UK was in danger of falling behind other European countries in e-bike use. “The future is electric but not in the way people might think. All the subsidies have been given to electric cars, but this new report demonstrates the substantial benefits of e-bikes and how essential they are to rapidly decarbonize transport, improve our health and clean the air at the same time,” he said.
A Department for Transport spokesman said the government was investing £2billion in cycling and walking, and e-bikes for commuting were already subsidized under the Cycle to tax savings scheme Work.