By Jenevra Wetmore
There are many ways to reduce your personal transportation emissions, including: carpooling, biking, taking public transportation, and driving a hybrid or electric vehicle. One way of reducing emissions that has become more popular in recent years are electric bicycles, or “e-bikes.” E-bikes are a great transportation option that is becoming more familiar as more people begin incorporating them into their everyday life. From commuting to work to picking up groceries and carrying kids to school, e-bikes provide an extra boost of power that makes miles feel shorter and cargo feel lighter.
This is the second 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 for time slots of 1 hour 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 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 $250-$400 rebate for income-qualifying purchasers.
Heather Wolfe and daughter, Esther, enjoying their e-Bike trial during Sustainable Woodstock’s first e-Bike event in October 2021. Photo: Jenevra Wetmore.
Are you interested in using an e-bike but don’t know where to start? Come try one out for free! Local Motion’s Upper Valley E-Bike Lending Library will be in Woodstock on Friday October 1st, Saturday the 2nd, and Sunday the 3rd. There will be four bikes for participants to try:
- The RadWagon 3 has a long frame and low center of gravity, and is a cargo bike meant to pick up the kids from school or load up on groceries. We also have a child’s seat that be strapped onto the bike to take your kid for a test ride too!
- The Turbo Como 3.0 has a stylish design with a battery that seamlessly fits into the frame. The bike intuitively picks up the strength of the rider’s pedaling and responds with more power to assist.
- RadMini Step-Thru 2 Electric Folding Fat Bike is the only bike in the library that folds to save space. The fat tires can tackle rough terrain, all with assistance from the battery.
- DIY Conversion Kit based on a Bianchi Cortina allows riders to try a regular bike that was converted to an e-bike using a conversion kit. This is an excellent option for riders who already have a bike they love and would like to convert, while saving money.