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Surprising Science

Making The Case For More E-Bikes On US Streets

As more communities include cyclists in their infrastructure decisions, American electric bike manufacturers are extolling the virtues of their products, including ease of use and eco-friendliness.

What’s the Latest Development?

Electric bikes — which can be pedaled with or without the help of an electric motor — outsold electric cars by a wide margin in 2012, with worldwide sales estimates of 29 million and 120,000 respectively. The vast majority of e-bikes were bought by customers in China and Europe, while Americans purchased about 53,000: a number approximately equal to the number of electric cars bought in the same timeframe. Now the e-bike industry is pushing to grow its profile in the US at a time when more cities and towns are becoming bicycle-friendly and more people are using bikes to commute to work.

What’s the Big Idea?

Besides being cheaper than electric cars, e-bikes are much easier to charge, and because riders aren’t dependent on the motor, there’s no fear of being stuck in the middle of nowhere. Also, for those who aren’t in the best physical shape, e-bikes make those hills and headwinds less of a challenge. Although they aren’t completely “green” in that they use the same electricity that comes from fossil fuels, their environmental impact is considerably smaller, which is why one manufacturer claims, “We don’t want to wean people from bicycles. We want to wean people from cars.”

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Read it at Yale Environment 360


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