While electric vehicles (EVs) are set to play an important role in decarbonising the transport industry, it’s clear that they aren’t the only solution, and should instead be used in conjunction with other innovations, such as e-bikes. Replacing petrol-powered cars for EVs will help to reduce the industry’s emissions, but ultimately it still means there are just as many cars on the road, and this congestion still raises environmental and social issues.
In the US, studies have shown that up to 69% of car journeys are two miles or less – this presents an obvious opportunity for e-bikes to be used instead. Often, these shorter trips are more polluting per mile than the longer journeys, as it takes time for cars to warm up and run at optimal efficiency. Research reveals that choosing to cycle instead of drive on just one trip per day could reduce your carbon footprint by 0.5 tonnes across a year.
But how do the wider environmental impacts of each mode compare, and what makes e-bikes stand out as a viable solution?
Lithium-ion cells are the most common type of battery that’s used in both e-bikes and EVs. Before the bikes and cars have even been assembled, the use of lithium poses potential environmental challenges, as the mining process for this component can have serious impacts on local ecosystems. Not only is it resource-intensive, but the process uses approximately 500,000 gallons of water per tonne of lithium mined, which can put a strain on local water supplies.
However, in comparison to fossil fuel burning cars, a lithium battery is much more eco-friendly. And whilst lithium batteries aren’t ideal for the environment, there are companies looking to improve the lifespan of their batteries, as well as recycling components where possible. Using an e-bike also means that there are less cars on the road, reducing traffic, and thus harmful fumes. Additionally, the batteries in e-bikes are smaller than in EVs, making them the better option of the two. We have some easy tips to conserve your battery life, so you have to charge it even less.
As the Bike Storage Company reports, the lifetime footprint of e-bikes is estimated to be 21-25g CO2e/km, whereas the lifetime analysis of a typical electric car measures in at 160g CO2e/km. This is chiefly due to the greater amount of raw materials required during the manufacturing process. It’s also worth noting that owning an e-bike will be the more financially viable option for most users, since both the upfront cost and maintenance costs will be far lower than with an EV. Speaking of maintenance costs... we even offer our customers extra discounts on tune-ups and services.
End of life treatment
When e-bikes and EVs reach the end of their life cycle and are no longer fit for purpose, there is a chance they could cause damage to the environment if their parts are not properly disposed of. However, there have been positive strides made in the e-bike recycling industry of late, and it’s becoming easier than ever to recycle their parts. For example, PeopleForBikes have teamed up with Call2Recycle to launch the first industry-wide recycling program for e-bike batteries in the U.S. The scheme will encourage retailers to invest more money towards consumer battery recycling, which will hopefully go a long way towards bolstering the industry’s eco credentials.
We also recycle by selling used e-bikes! It's a good way to save some extra money too, but there are some tips you should keep in mind before purchasing a used e-bike from a private seller.
It’s estimated that over the next decade, 24 to 36 million batteries will be required to fuel the country’s e-bike appetite. Promisingly, recycling company Redwood Materials claim that they’re able to recover 95-98% of the materials in an e-bike battery, which can then be sent back to manufacturers to create new batteries. By keeping batteries out of landfills at the end of their life, and processing their raw materials to make new ones, e-bikes could be positioned as a key player in the transportation industry’s fight against climate change.
Go green. Get riding.