Are Ebikes worth it?


Fact Box

  • An ‘Ebike’ is short for “electronic bike,” which is a bicycle mounted with a small electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery designed to assist the rider while pedaling.
  • The bicycle, known at the time as ‘swiftwalker,’ was invented in 1817 by German inventor Karl von Drais.
  • The first Ebike was invented by Michael Kutter in Switzerland in the 1990s.
  • On average, ebikes take between 3.5 to 6 hours to go from no battery life to fully charged. Once fully charged, they can be expected to last “anywhere from a 25- to 70-mile ride.”
  • Ebike batteries are noted to last between 3-5 years, equivalent to 25,000 miles or a 500-800 charging cycle lifetime.
  • It is estimated that 42% of households own at least one bicycle globally. This means, about 580 million bicycles have been purchased.

Andrew (Yes)

According to the EPA, 27% of all US emissions come from transportation, with the vast majority resulting from personal cars and medium to heavy-duty trucks. To avoid climate catastrophe, we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and ebikes provide a realistic option for many people to ditch their cars. While it is true that any electric device is only as clean as the energy that charges it, the amount of energy ebikes use is minuscule compared to that of cars. This is especially true in the manufacturing process. Ebikes are also significantly less expensive to buy, maintain, and operate, especially when one considers additional charges like insurance, maintenance inspections, and parking. Further, the health benefits from cycling can help to reduce future illness and keep people fit.

While having many more people utilize cycling as a primary mode of transportation would be significantly better for the environment, for many communities, we must recognize that pedal-powered bicycles may not be the best option for all situations. This can be especially important in rural areas. We often think of cycling as a way to reduce congestion and air pollution in urban areas, but people living in more rural areas may find the assistance given by an electric motor useful for the longer distances they often have to travel. 

Finally, ebikes are better for communities. When people are out of their cars, speaking to each other at red lights, a sense of community can develop, which can be important in our increasingly atomized suburban lives. Many communities would benefit from having fewer cars lining streets and utilizing parking lots for other purposes. 

Rob (No)

Ebikes are becoming increasingly popular, even outselling electric and hybrid vehicles in the US. While this new technology is exciting and fun to some extent, there are also several reasons why ebikes are not worth the investment and why traditional bikes are more worthwhile.

Firstly, ebikes are significantly more expensive than traditional bikes, often priced over $1000. They also require routine maintenance, generating high upkeep costs, which adds to the initial cost of ownership. Replacing parts, such as a battery that degrades over time, resulting in less range and poor performance, can quickly become expensive. Ebikes are also more risky to own as they’re more likely to be stolen due to their high value. 

Regarding functionality, ebikes require charging, which is time-consuming and inconvenient. Charging the bikes' batteries can also cause fires, creating a dangerous hazard to riders and the environment. For those that lack regenerative charging technology (charging as you pedal), it's pretty heavy to pedal when the batteries die since the bikes are bulky and considerably heavier than regular bikes, also making them more difficult to store and transport. Its increase in parts also means ebikes are harder to handle on the road, often requiring additional knowledge, strength, and skill. 

Some trails and bike paths prohibit the use of ebikes, which limits their overall use and takes some fun out of owning one, as bikes are supposed to be simple and convenient. Most important are the missing health benefits when choosing to ride an ebike. Traditional bikes have proven to be a great source of heart-strengthening exercise and to burn calories. But ebikes allow the rider to choose not to pedal, which means fewer calories burned and fewer health benefits. Considering all of its drawbacks and risks, it's not worth the investment.

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