Review: Thinking of an electric car? An e-bike may make more sense (and save you more money)
A year ago, my husband and I capitalized on staying home during COVID to do a DIY kitchen remodel project. I rode my electric cargo bike, which looks like a wheelbarrow and a bike had a baby, to local Ace Hardware to pick up supplies almost daily.
Inevitably, a trucker would approach me in the parking lot and stare at my Urban Arrow bike and the supplies in my cart, like eight-foot-long Pex pipe, thin bags for tile, and drywall mud. “Are you going to bring this load on your bike? »
I let him know that the pedaling would be effortless as my bike had a motor.
Record gasoline prices have Americans talking. Thinking of the men who approached me at the hardware store, I say this in an enthusiastic voice: e-bikes are a solution – and a much cheaper solution than that electric vehicle you’re thinking of now.
Electric bikes are the most addictive, fun, and transformative products on the market today, making them incredibly effective car replacements. Just try one on, and you’ll want to ride it for the most mundane errands, like picking up postage stamps. If you ride one to work, your co-workers will wonder why you’re so happy and want to test your bike in the parking lot.
What is an electric bike? A bicycle with a motor. Some only offer this electric assist while pedaling, while others have a throttle that provides a moped feel. Don’t confuse them with electric motorcycles; you are still pedaling. Depending on the model and the level of assist you want, you can go up to 28 mph and travel up to 100 miles on a single charge.
“ Electric bikes are the most addictive, fun, and transformative products on the market today, making them incredibly effective car replacements. ”
An e-bike is not for everyone or for every trip. But if school, work, or errands are within 15 miles, it can replace your car for at least some of those trips.
This is not an all or nothing proposition. Here’s how Mary Pustejovsky, a mom from Madison, Wisconsin, puts it: “The electric cargo bike has replaced all of our trips under 5 miles. We still use the car for trips to grandma’s house 90 miles away or on very cold days.”
How much does it cost?
I know you have a lot of questions. Let’s start with the cost.
The current e-bike palace ranges from around $1,100 for the cheapest e-bikes that aren’t pure junk to $5,000 for well-made cargo e-bikes to $10,000 for high-end cargo e-bikes. range with all the accessories – still a fraction of a high-end electric vehicle.
Yes, there are e-bikes under $1,000. You shouldn’t buy them. These are terribly made bikes with terribly made electronics, and they will be in a landfill just a few months after purchase.
So if you’re considering an e-bike as a standalone purchase on top of your other bills each month, it probably sounds expensive. But compare it to the cost of your family’s car — or, more likely, cars.
The median annual all-inclusive cost for someone driving 15,000 miles per year (gas, insurance, repairs, depreciation and more) was $9,366 in 2021 for a midsize sedan, $9,968 for a midsize SUV, and $11,588 for a half-ton truck, according to AAA. Even the annual cost of an EV is $9,293. And that’s when gas prices averaged $2.36 a gallon.
On average, an American household owns 1.9 carsso the cost of running a car doesn’t tell the whole story.
If you replaced a car with an electric cargo bike and did most of your trips around town with it, you would quickly pay for a $6,000 bike. This simple equation largely explains why e-bike sales have exploded. Some bike shops, like Clever Cycles in Portland, even offers 0% financing.
Will I be safe?
Another big concern is vulnerability due to traffic. If you think the roads in your area are unsafe, contact your local cycling community, ideally women, for advice on the route.
Decide which streets seem safe to you. These may not be the roads you are used to driving. But the electric boost means a slight detour is no effort. And you can always stop and walk your bike if you come across an intersection or a hairy street. (So reach out to your local elected officials and demand safe infrastructure.)
Again, you don’t have to use the bike for every trip.
What about transporting children? Or is it raining?
Instead of seeing parenthood as an e-bike obstacle, see your kids as everyday partners in crime, shouting “woo hoo” instead of whining from the back seat. The right bikes accommodate all sports, diaper or school stuffand the great bikes will entice your kids for naps, letting you stop at an outdoor cafe while they sleep.
Last summer I loaded my 12 year old daughter and an inflatable paddle board onto the Urban Arrow and rode 15 minutes to the beach. We could “wheelbarrow” straight to our picnic spot while other parents clung to the parking lot and hauled sweaty gear a few blocks away.
If you don’t have a cargo bike, adding a trailer bike to an e-bike allows you to transport your kids for less.
Of course, you can carry more than children. Last year, for example, I noticed a pile of freshly cut wood in my neighbor’s yard. I used my Urban Arrow to transport it home. I have dozens of “carrysh*tolympics” moments like this.
The weather? When it is cold or wet, dress warmly with waterproof layers. Finland has a very cold winter and 20% of its inhabitants cycle every day to get around. When it’s hot, remember you don’t need to sweat on an e-bike – use the assist.
Do you care about maintenance? Be sure to buy an e-bike that your local store will fix. Since purchasing the Urban Arrow in 2016, we’ve spent about $500 on brake pads and tubes, shift cable bleeds, and minor tune-ups—in total. Think about how much you spend each year on your car.
For theft issues, check your homeowner’s or renter’s policy coverage, buy a reputable lock or two, park the e-bike on a rack and, if possible, bring it inside during the night.
For people with limited mobility, there is just about an e-bike or e-trike design for every type of challenge.
And I can’t stress enough the personal benefits! I feel strong, healthy, mentally clear, never worried about finding a parking space or getting stuck in traffic. I have random conversations with strangers or meet friends on the street. E-bikes are a source of happiness instead of the friction I feel while driving.
No, e-bikes don’t cheat. And they can have amazing passive weight loss benefits. “I never thought I would weigh what I did in high school again. Now I do,” Jon Treffert said in his interview with Selene Yeager of “Bicycling” magazine about losing 100 pounds and battling diabetes.
So what are you waiting for? Go test drive an electric bike. It may be life changing, but at least it will save you money in the short term and pay for itself in the long run.
Last October, I took my mayor for her first e-bike ride, and she had so much fun she bought one the next day.
Megan Ramey is the owner of Bikabout.com, who creates bike travel guides, is an active transportation representative for Oregon DOT, the regional transportation commission for Region 1, and coordinates the bike train and walking bus program for the school in Hood River. Follow her on Twitter @BIKABOUT.
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