By Jenevra Wetmore
Heather Wolfe and daughter, Esther, enjoying their e-bike trial during Sustainable Woodstock’s first e-bike event in October 2021. Photo by Jenevra Wetmore.
This is the third year that Sustainable Woodstock will be hosting the travelling Upper Valley E-Bike library. The library, hosted by Vital Communities, is a chance for borrowers to “check out” an e-bike from the Norman Williams Public Library to find out how these bikes can replace car trips and transform their daily transportation needs. There will be four types of e-bikes to try with a variety of bikes at different price points. Bikes available include a cargo bike with a rear rack and several standard bikes, all with an electric assist that helps riders get around with less effort and scale hills that previously seemed impossible.
While you may picture an electric scooter or motorbike when you think of an e-bike, in reality they don’t look all that dissimilar from a regular bike. The difference is that e-bikes have components such as a battery, motor, and controls integrated into their design. You can ride an e-bike in the same way you would a regular bike, simply by pedaling—no electricity required. The resistance is typically the same as any other bike, and you will be able to shift gears depending on terrain and speed. You can also use electric-assist. Electric-assist allows you to combine human and electric power, which means that the motor will turn on to assist you as you pedal. This mode makes hills feel almost effortless.
The main difference between a regular bike and an e-bike is that e-bikes can provide an assist for hills and difficult riding conditions, where a regular bike depends completely on the rider. This difference makes e-bikes very attractive for commuters who do not want to arrive to work exhausted and sweaty and people who bike carrying the weight of a child or groceries. They are also an easier alternative for those who face challenges with their joints or with physical stamina.
E-bikes are much better for the environment than driving a vehicle. They use rechargeable batteries and can be plugged directly into an outlet at your home. Much like an electric car, they use energy from the grid. A 2016 European Cyclist Federation life cycle study found that e-bike CO2 emissions were almost identical to regular bikes, at 22 and 21 grams per passenger per kilometer respectively (This is in comparison to a bus at 101 grams and a passenger car at 271 grams for average short trips).
Typically, e-bikes can travel up to 20 mph, and can travel 22-50 miles on a single charge, depending on a number of factors. Some bikes have high ranges of 80+ miles per charge. To fully charge a depleted battery, it will typically take 3.5-6 hours, whereas batteries with a partial charge will take less time. Depending on the bike, it will usually take 500-800 watt hours (0.5 – 0.8 kilowatt hours) to charge the battery. Assuming 17 cents per kwh, you will be paying 6-13 cents for a charge that will last anywhere from 22-80 miles. Compared to a car, that’s a pretty great deal.
When considering which e-bike is right for you, you will want to factor in what the bike’s primary use will be. Cargo bikes allow the rider to carry a larger load of cargo, such as groceries, and many can be outfitted with a child’s seat for school pick-up. There are also commuter bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, and many more customizable features. You can also purchase e-bike conversion kits, which convert a regular bike to an e-bike for less cost than purchasing a new e-bike. Green Mountain Power offers a $200 rebate when you purchase an e-bike or conversion kit, and the state of Vermont now offers a $400-$800 incentive for income-qualifying purchasers who are buying new e-bikes.
Are you interested in using an e-bike but don’t know where to start? Come try one out for free! The Upper Valley E-Bike Lending Library will be in Woodstock at the Norman Williams Public Library from August 30th-September 2nd. Check a bike out from the library for a 24-hour period on Wednesday August 30th or Thursday August 31st. These check out slots are limited, so sign up as soon as possible. If you don’t want a bike for a full 24 hours, stop by the library on Saturday September 2nd from 9:30 AM-5 PM to take a bike for a spin around town. We hope to see you there!
To reserve an e-bike head to: https://vitalcommunities.org/transportation/upper-valley-e-bike-lending-library/ (registration opens August 17th)
Contact Sustainable Woodstock with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-457-2911