Electric bikes place #69 on Drawdown’s list of climate solutions. They can eliminate 0.96 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 at a cost of $US106.8 billion, with net savings of $226.1 billion.
The first electric bike is believed to have been invented in 1895 by American Ogden Bolton. But the technology first took off in China, and not until the mid-1990s, when cities began introducing policies to address air pollution. At the moment, that one country accounts for 95% of electric bike sales. But their popularity is on the rise around the globe, as people look for cheaper alternatives to driving in urban areas.
Electric bikes are similar to a regular bicycle, with one crucial addition that gives riders a boost: The basic, familiar design is “accompanied by a small battery-powered motor that can add speed, typically capped at 20 miles per hour, or assist legs when they tire,” Drawdown notes. The battery can be charged at any electrical outlet. The extra support makes electric bikes a better choice for riders who cannot easily use a regular bicycle, or whose commute isn’t bicycle-friendly.
The battery gives the electric bike its “oomph”, but it also poses some problems: The battery power makes the bike more expensive, and in China, most electric bikes use less costly lead-acid batteries that lead to problems with environmental contamination. Lithium-ion batteries are more environmentally friendly, but more costly. The chapter points out that with better battery technology, prices will drop, making electric bikes more widely accessible.
Electric bikes also face regulatory issues. Policy-makers are still not clear on where they should be allowed, or how the rules of the road should apply to them. Drawdown says e-bikes will become more common once these issues are sorted out.
While walking or using a non-electric bike is a better way to cut emissions, Drawdown says electric bikes are still better than cars, or even mass transit. And as policies and technology continue to improve, their popularity will continue to rise.