How European Cities are Pedalling Towards the Future of E-Bikes

Transportation has always been a key facet of measuring a particular city or area's advancement. Take the railways for example, which back during the frontier era of American history, was seen as a marker for progress in transporting goods across vast spreads of land with better speed and efficiency than ever before.

Today, we are looking at an era of transportation earmarked by the proliferation of new technologies in battery power. We’re well aware of the efforts of the automobile market in progressing their designs past their reliance on combustion engines, but there remains another area in which battery power is beginning to shape how its future will look: Bicycles.

The Impact of E-Bikes on Cities

Bicycle technology, despite looking unchanged for the past few decades, has received a major upgrade with the integration of electrical motors that either help you pedal (known as “pedal-assist” bikes) or have a fully functioning throttle that allows you to manage speeds up to a pre-determined legal limit.

Whereas bicycles were useful for people looking for an alternative commute in exchange for a little more physical exertion, e-bikes have opened the door to a host of other commuters looking to have a way to beat the city traffic without needing to rely either on private automobiles or archaic public transportation systems.

Why E-Bikes Pave the Way Forward for Other “Micro-mobility” Options

E-bikes have also had the knock-on effect of allowing other “micro-mobility” electric transportation systems to thrive in parallel. Already, with the US’s renewed focus and support for electric transportation, other smaller modes of transport have been entering the market as an alternative to efficient but cumbersome electric vehicles.

Horace Dediu, the founder of Micromobility Industries and a proponent for e-bikes and other personal electric transportation systems, critiques the lop-sided focus on electric vehicles as being solely electric-powered cars. “3,000 pounds to carry a 200-pound payload”, Dediu continues, whereas other options can run on a “battery the size of your arm and a motor the size of your fist” that is more than enough to transport a single person.

Already the proliferation of e-bikes and other similar technologies have caught the attention of not just cities but entire federal states, with the government of Colorado approving a $12 million rebate program for these e-bikes and California doing something similar with a $10 million investment.

How European Cities are Designing Their E-Bike System

Despite the efforts that the US is doing to further their adoption of e-bikes, they are still leagues behind of their European counterparts, which have long seen cycling as an integral part of commuting alongside standard modes of transportation.

For Seville, Spain, the city is continuing to improve and invest in their e-bike’s infrastructure system. From 7,000 trips daily in 2006, the city has seen almost a 1000% increase in bike usage over the next few years, reaching up to a high 72,000 daily trips in 2011. A large part of this was a complete overhaul of their city’s landscape, developing raised curbs and dedicated cycling routes that have a strong impact in influencing the people to adopt this mode of transportation as well as cement it as a feature of the city regardless of changes in political agenda.

Yet a big part of what built these come also in the form of data insights based on actual usage of cyclist as well as support from the government not just in the building of these path ways, but in enabling its people to access these transportation tools as well.

Real-Time Data Insights

What enabled European cities to understand their cyclist best wasn’t through a random assignment of routes, but an actual study of the best laid out paths that were being used on a daily basis. Regular GPS and other tracking systems have been used to better understand the different areas of travel that a cyclist might travel as well as other related insights such as traffic flow of cyclists on the field.

This goes beyond infrastructure management and towards the adoption aspect of e-bikes by the commuters themselves. Real-time data has enabled e-bike makers and cities to better promote its usage through health improvement tracking and average commute times to make the system much more attractive as an alternative.

Price Management

A large part of adoption’s woes have to do with the price of these e-bikes as well. Currently, most of the mid-market versions of popular e-bikes can range from EUR2,000 to 3,000. This is far cheaper than most actual electric vehicles but still presents itself as a barrier for those without the means.

But governments are now stepping in to glose that gap, with the government of Denver introducing rebates for e-bike purchases that resulted in almost 6,000 vouchers redeemed in a few days. Private industries have stepped up to, with some organiztions offering long-term leases on bikes that dramatically bring down the price of these bikes.

Ecosystem Development

Beyond a price and indstracture development that stand as foundational to the continued usage of e-bikes, an important dimension to acknowledge is the surrounding ecosystem around the usage of e-bikes to ensure future sustainability. This includes repair depots, recycling aspects, and other businesses that can support e-bikes.

The concept of recycling comes up a lot in the discussions for electric vehicles, and e-bikes are no stranger to that. Redwood Materials is one such company that is already looking ahead into the future to anticipate the likely need for proper e-battery recycling in the electric vehicle landscape.

Key Takeaways

E-bikes are part of a strong and growing trend towards deeper and more sustainable city transportation.

  • It helps cities realize other viable means of “micro mobility”, which can better change the landscape of electric vehicles.
  • European cities have long since adapted their towns for city use, utilizing strategies in real-time data insights, price management, and ecosystem development.
  • These three form necessary steps not just for e-bike usability within cities but also it’s broad adoption by the commuter base.

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Published on 

Feb 10, 2023


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