Electric bikes (e-bikes) and electric scooters (e-scooters) are generally good for the environment. They offer a pollution-free, sustainable mode of transportation, that does not rely on fossil fuels, so they reduce air pollution, and help reduce carbon emissions.
But HOW green are they really?
E-bikes – pros and cons for the environment
The first thing to consider is what you’re comparing e-bikes with. Electric bicycles, just like traditional models, are far better for the environment than cars and other road vehicles.
Much of the harmful carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in the atmosphere come from fuelled vehicles, with many of our road trips being short ones.
A report in the United States found that if everyone who lived within five miles of their home would use a bike instead of a car to get to work, a million cars would be taken off the road.
Across the world, up to 80% of all car journeys are less than six miles. Incredibly almost a third of journeys are of only one mile.
These facts are made worse when we learn that 75% of a car’s exhaust emissions are made during this first mile, when the car is colder and least efficient.
While most people would not want to replace their car for long journeys, these short journeys are ideal for bikes and e-bikes.
Not only for environmental reasons, including the fact that emissions in our towns and cities can be choking, but also because of the time and cost of using a car.
Congestion means that it’s often quicker to go on two wheels, while fuel and parking costs are always on the rise.
There’s a gap that e-bikes can fill, between the point where a journey becomes too long to walk, and the point where it’s so long, you’d rather travel by train or bus, or car.
This also makes e-bikes a viable replacement for a second car.
Electric bikes use a battery to power the motor to help push you along. But how environmentally friendly are they?
To extract lithium to make lithium-ion batteries, the process involves a lot of mining and an awful lot of water to be used. We also also require the mining of cobalt, nickel and graphite.
Then the batteries have to be manufactured and distributed, giving them their own carbon footprint (not even mentioning that of the frame and the rest of the bike).
Oh, and batteries can also contaminate the environment if they aren’t recycled properly.
But there is a bright side.
Batteries are coming onto the market that are far more environmentally friendly. The batteries also last a long time – and many are capable of being recycled.
Of course you’ll have to charge the battery, often using electricity powered by fossil fuels – but you can opt for green power, including solar, to make charging eco-friendly, too.
Electric bicycles – just like traditional bikes – do impact the environment through the process of making them. Obviously, anything in this world that is manufactured will have some negative effect.
But looking at the bigger picture, when you compare e-bikes to petrol cars as a mode of transport, the environmental benefits are huge with zero emissions helping to tackle air pollution.
And you do still get exercise with e-bikes – the rider can usually set a level where pedal power can kick in, and you get aerobic exercise, of course.
If you want to take up cycling but don’t fancy the physical effort involved, you can rest easy knowing that you’re doing your bit to help the environment by riding an electric bicycle.