The future of transportation is here – Are you ready to have more fun getting where you need to go?
Fill-in-the-blank: More than half of all trips made daily in the U.S., taking all modes of transportation into account, are less than ___ miles long.
Did you guess 30 miles? 25? 10? Nope. More than half of all daily trips in the U.S. are less than three miles, according to the Dept. of Energy. So, if you don’t mind our saying, why are you piling into a car for that pint of oat milk?
As it turns out, more and more of you are not. You’re hopping on an e-bike.
“The future transportation revolution is already here—and she arrived on an e-bike,” Janette Sadik-Khan, chair of the National Assn. of City Transportation Officials tells the Daily Beast. “They’re a great alternative to driving. They don’t require parking. They’re less expensive. They’re really changing how people are getting around….”
Indeed, e-bike sales outpaced electric vehicle and hybrid car sales in 2021 and 2022, a trend expected to grow in 2023, thanks in part to governmental incentives and a reckoning with climate change. Just ponder the cost- and carbon-saving notion of making an e-bike your second car. Also, did we mention they flatten hills? And provide a less sweaty option to “acoustic” bikes?
What exactly is an e-bike?
Basically, they’re regular bikes with battery-powered motors and, thus, pedaling assistance. Thanks to all that, many can carry extra cargo, hence the idea of an e-bike as a second car. In fact, cargo e-bikes can accommodate groceries and/or kids. Also, e-bikes can easily be charged while the battery’s on the bike (though some batteries are removeable) at a common wall outlet.
There are three classes of e-bikes:
- Class 1: The most common e-bikes, these are pedal-assist models with motors that work only while you’re pedaling. Top speed – 20 mph.
- Class 2: These feature a throttle, so the motor powers the bike even if you don’t pedal.
- Class 3: The most powerful. These pedal-assist bikes can reach 28 mph before the motor stops.
How to choose the e-bike that’s right for you.
With e-bikes’ explosive popularity, a myriad of types and models continue to flood the market. So we’ve turned to a trusty source, Consumer Reports, which maintains an updated Electric Bike Buying Guide. Here you’ll find a range of models, ratings based on electric range, performance and other factors, and recommendations. The guide includes tips on how to buy an e-bike and breaks it all down into the following e-bike types, listing pros and cons for each:
- Commuter bikes
- Performance road bikes
- Mountain bikes
- Cargo bikes
- Folding bikes
With e-bikes’ explosive popularity Top-notch e-bikes are now on the market for a base of about $800. Prices go up from there, reflecting increased speed and power, range, bells and whistles.
- Folding e-bikes, which are lightweight, compact, more affordable and good for first-timers, says Carlos Morales, owner of Stan’s Bike Shop in Azusa, CA. Commuters can take them on a bus or train to complete the trip to work and store them under a desk; recreational users can pack them into a trunk on the way to the mountains or beach. The smallest models Morales carries have a range of 25 to 80 miles on a single charge. Top speed for these class 2 bikes is 20 mph. Cost ranges from about $1,000 to $2,500.
- Cargo bikes are also selling well, Morales reports. With the $3,000 School Bus model he likes, mom or dad can peddle two kids to school or the market. Think of it as equivalent to having a car trunk without paying for insurance or gas. The range on these hovers around 25-30 on a single charge. Speed tops out at 25 mph.
- Got more disposable cash? Try a $9,000 all-terrain mountain bike, which can go as fast as 28 mph and offers a range of up to 100 miles on a charge. These are particularly popular with the off-roading crowd. If your pocketbook won’t allow for any purchase, bike rental and bike sharing programs have popped up across the country. Just google those terms and you’re likely to find local options.
e-bikes are often heavier than regular commuter bikes, can reach higher top speeds and make usually manageable corners and obstacles more dangerous. So, read this for six e-bike safety tips or watch this video about safely riding any kind of bike.
Other reasons to ride an e-bike
Because studies indeed do show that riding an e-bike tends to make us use vehicles less, something we need in the U.S., where transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. Likewise, the data demonstrate that riding an e-bike is good exercise, even using peddle assist. So, dump the pump and take to the hills while building muscle and protecting our one previous Earth.
- People for Bikes, an industry trade group with a wealth of information about all kinds of bikes.
- The Wheel-E podcast, produced by Electrek, a leading electric vehicle news outlet which also writes about and reviews e-bikes.
- The Better Bike Share Partnership, a collaboration to increase access to and use of shared micromobility systems like e-bikes in low-income and BIPOC communities.
- How Much Are Electric Bike Rentals, cost and rental guidance from ElectricBiking.com.
- Bike Sharing, a group advocating for public bike-share systems.
By Zan Dubin-Scott, Public Relations, Marketing & Social Impact at ZDS Communications, Co-Founder National Drive Electric Week.
Photo credit: Virtue Schoolbus Cargo eBike