E-bike can mean more than just “electric bicycle.”
The “Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment” — or E-BIKE — Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate last month. A companion bill, also called the E-BIKE Act, was brought to the U.S. House of Representatives back in February.
They share the same goal: Get more people on electric bikes and out of cars.
To make that more likely, both pieces of legislation propose offering a tax credit worth up to 30 percent off (with a $1,500 cap) different types of e-bikes that can run as high as $8,000.
Electric vehicles, including plug-in battery and hybrid cars, are eligible for federal tax credits worth up to $7,500. Tesla and General Motors have both hit the cap of 200,000 EVs sold and are no longer offering a federal discount. But the pressure is on President Biden to extend the cap, especially as he targets half of new car sales as zero-emission vehicles by 2030.
The E-BIKE incentive has a similar goal: to lure people away from gas-powered vehicles.
For e-bike makers, who are eager to get more battery-boosted rides on the streets, the move could open up access to their expensive two-wheelers. E-bike shopping website Ridepanda connects riders to e-bikes that cost up to $6,000. The company, which says that their average e-bike is about $1,100, offers 27 e-bikes priced at under $2,000. (That’s down from 34 when including higher-end options.)
But there’s a slight catch to the E-BIKE Act. If it passes, qualifying bikes can only use up 750 watts of power, much lower than the power in most of the priciest options. For the lower price range, different brands list power from about 250 to 500 watts.
For Serial 1, the e-bike company from Harley-Davidson, the main reason to support the bill is so more consumers can afford their bikes. Its instant name recognition and lightweight, high-speed and range options means its e-bikes reach up to nearly $5,600. Its cheapest commuter bike is about $3,800. With the discounts, those bikes become more affordable.
Jason Huntsman, president of Serial 1, wrote in an email, “EVs, like [e-bikes], are a crucial tool for giving Americans access to vital, sustainable transportation options. We support tax credits for all EVs including [e-bikes], which will help make electric vehicle options more affordable for all Americans.”
Credit: Sasha Lekach / Mashable
Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes specializes in commuter- and budget-friendly bikes with a power boost. Its newest bike, the RadRover 6 Plus, starts at just under $2,000. With its fat tires for stability, 75 kWh battery, and custom motor for faster hill climbs, “people who are used to cars will be comfortable making that migration to e-bikes,” Redwood Stephens, Rad Power Bikes chief product officer, told me before a demo ride at a San Francisco park.
That’s what Zachary Schieffelin, founder of Civilized Cycles, is thinking, too. He is launching the startup’s first auto-adjusting, 30-mile range e-bike, the Model 1, later this year for $5,499. He wants to get riders out of cars and onto bikes, especially for shorter trips. He hopes that an e-bike with storage space on the back, a comfortable seat and room for a passenger, and a powerful suspension system, will make it an easy switch.
“Anything we can do to shift those short trips to clean, quiet, efficient solutions like e-bikes is a good thing,” he wrote in an email. “Obviously, this legislation will be good for our industry, but for the planet it would be great to see corresponding cuts in the huge subsidies that oil and gas companies have been receiving for years.”
Credit: Civilized cycles
Another bike maker, Specialized, which recently released the lightweight Turbo Como SL, an electric pedal assist e-bike starting at $3,300, has been championing an e-bike equivalent to the EV tax credit.
Back in February when the House version of the E-BIKE Act was introduced, Specialized CEO Mike Sinyard wrote in a statement, “Whichever e-bike riders choose, we believe that encouraging more bike trips is a critical part of fighting the climate crisis.”
It’s not just economic concerns, these companies claim, but environmental.
In California, adjusted e-bike prices are already approved for next year’s budget. Now, $10 million in funding is slated to go toward establishing more programs to reduce the costs to buy one of the bikes in the state. San Mateo County’s Peninsula Clean Energy rebate already offers up to $800 in discounts. Other counties also offer up to $1,000 for e-bike purchases, among other smaller discounts. Some incentive programs factor in income level to determine if you qualify for discounts or credits.
Testing out several e-rides in a congested, hilly, pothole-filled San Francisco neighborhood in recent months (on the Serial 1, Rad Power Bike’s RadRover 6 Plus, and Civilized Cycles’ auto-adjusting suspension bike), I’ve seen how the bikes can keep up with cars. It doesn’t feel like you’re on an inferior vehicle. I felt stable on the road, in control, and as powerful as any motorist with my finger ready on the throttle for an energy boost.
E-bikes aren’t just traditional bicycles with an electric motor slapped on. They can make it up hills (and down), keep you from breaking too much of a sweat, and tempt you to replace short trips you’d normally make with a car.
But even if riders are convinced, there’s still the upfront price — all of these bikes start at over $2,000. It’s reminiscent of when Tesla’s Model 3 was priced at nearly $40,000 before the end of 2019; electric tax credits brought it down to the more palatable $30,000 price range. It’s a similar situation with e-bikes: A $3,000 bike with E-BIKE Act credits drops down to $2,000. That’s slightly more affordable for those with cash to spare, but it’s certainly not going to make e-bikes available to all.