Calls are mounting to also offer discounts for e-bikes
Cash-back programs for electric cars, trucks and SUVs should be expanded to include e-bikes, say sustainability and mobility advocates.
E-bikes, or power-assisted bicycles, operate like traditional bicycles but feature a battery-powered electric motor to provide a boost when pedaling.
Ottawa’s Erin O’Neil is part of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and scoured the market for an electric-assist adult tricycle, which can easily retail for $2,500 or more.
“E-bikes make it easier to ride a bike, especially in a disabled body,” O’Neil said. “But it’s just not something on ODSP that I can afford.”
O’Neil adds that she has little patience for the idea that an e-bike is a luxury, because for her it means gaining independence.
“It’s not a toy,” she said. “I live in an urban area and this is something that could definitely help me get around.”
While the federal government recently expanded its electric car rebate program to include SUVs and pickup trucks, offering buyers up to $5,000 for cars under $55,000 and trucks under $60,000. $, e-bikes and e-cargo bikes were not included.
“It’s really unfair, especially in a climate emergency, to see people getting this kind of money to drive trucks and cars…and we’re just sitting on the sidelines,” O’Neil said. . “We would like to move as easily as you do, but we don’t. We are just left behind.”
The electric bike as a car replacement
With the birth of their second child, Jessica Barnes and her husband have been considering the pros and cons of buying a second vehicle.
“A lot of times people will upgrade to a larger vehicle to accommodate a larger family, but we really didn’t feel comfortable with that decision,” Barnes says.
Rather than add another car down the road, the Ottawa family decided last year to spend $8,000 on an electric cargo bike, complete with a front bucket to carry their two young children.
“If we wanted to make things easy for our family and functional for our family, it needed a little help,” she said.
While any future reimbursement would come too late for Barnes, she says governments need to focus more on replacing cars, not just the engines that power them.
“In order to get people to buy alternative means of transport, there has to be some sort of financial support,” she said.
WATCH | Getting around by electric bike in Ottawa
When it comes to her bike’s $8,000 price tag, Barnes points out that she’s still ahead of buying and owning a car.
“What’s your insurance? What’s the repair bill?” Barnes asked rhetorically. “I guarantee you we’re spending a lot less than a person with a car.”
Plus, Barnes adds, there are benefits for her and her children that go beyond the paperback.
“It’s so much fun, they’re really enjoying it and can’t wait to get going.”
Yukon and Nova Scotia lead the way in e-bike rebates
In response to questions from CBC about why it offers rebates for the purchase of new electric vehicles (EVs), but not e-bikes, Transport Canada responded that its zero-emission vehicle program helps the industry achieving price parity between internal combustion vehicles and more expensive electric vehicles, with the ultimate goal of increasing the share of electric vehicles on the road.
The department added that it would invest $400 million over five years to support active transportation infrastructure across Canada.
Although the federal government is not currently assisting e-bike buyers, several provinces, as well as the Yukon, have implemented their own rebates.
Nova Scotia e-bike buyers can receive a rebate of up to $500, while Yukon residents receive a rebate equal to 25% of the purchase price, with the amount capped at $750 for e-bikes and $1,500 for e-bikes. .
BC businesses can get up to $1,700 in assistance for an electric cargo bike.
Ontario offers no rebates for e-bikes, but the Liberals and Greens promise as part of their election platform to introduce rebates.
With e-bikes being the fastest growing segment of bicycle sales in Canada, the absence of a federal government incentive program is a glaring missed opportunity to improve sustainability, according to Brian Pincott, Group Executive Director. defence, Vélo Canada Bikes.
“E-bikes have a much better chance of replacing a car,” says Pincott. “Sustainability is not just about changing a traffic jam of gasoline cars into a traffic jam of electric cars. We actually have to give people the option to get out of cars.”
Pincott adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed stark inequalities when it comes to people’s travel options.
“Providing more transportation choice to everyone creates greater equity within our communities, and we need to expand transportation choice, not just change the engine of the car,” he said.