States, metro areas, towns, and utility districts are taking action in the absence of federal e-bike incentives in the US.
In 2023, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Vermont, and Washington announced new e-bike incentive programs. This means that there are now 61 active US e-bike incentive programs. Another 17 programs have been approved.
Researchers at Portland State University’s Transportation Research and Education Center are tracking the increasing prevalence of e-bike incentive programs in both Canada and the United States. You can check out their insightful interactive map here.
While the national E-BIKE Act is being considered at the federal level, state legislators and urban metro areas are moving forward with their own programs.
Connecticut and Denver—The two greatest success stories
Connecticut enacted e-bike legislation in 2022 and launched an incentive program in July 2023. The program received an overwhelming response with 6,344 applications in just 10 days. This is in spite of the fact that funding was initially only available for 500 vouchers, according to Anthony Cherolis.
The majority of applications came from residents in cities with high air pollution levels. In addition, most applications came from households with income below 300% of the federal poverty level.
Due to the high demand, the Connecticut program will prioritize applications from underprivileged individuals. It’ll provide up to $1,500 toward the purchase of an e-bike priced below $3,000 from a local bike shop.
In Denver, the e-bike rebates for city residents were fully claimed within 20 minutes of the application window opening in 2023. The success of the Denver rebate program led Colorado to introduce a $450 statewide rebate earlier this year.
Why e-bike incentives are necessary
To combat greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, e-bikes offer advantages over electric cars, SUVs, and trucks.
The most significant reduction in emissions comes from lifecycle emissions. With their lightweight design and smaller battery size, e-bikes emit over 100 times less greenhouse gases during the mining of raw materials and the manufacturing process.
The demand for battery raw materials will be less critical in a future with more e-bikes and fewer cars. E-bike batteries weigh around seven pounds, whereas the Tesla Model S battery weighs 170 times more.
The US e-bike industry has already implemented a nationwide battery recycling program in collaboration with Call 2 Recycle and local bike shops.
Unlike electric cars, e-bikes do not require a custom charging network and can be charged using standard wall outlets. In urban areas where parking is limited, e-bikes seamlessly integrate into the neighborhood environment.
Urban residents without garages find it easy to plug in their e-bikes at home or work, especially with the option of removable batteries. In addition, charging an e-bike costs less than a dollar thanks to the small battery size.
Eliminating cars, not electrifying them, is the key
As more metropolitan areas address the negative impacts caused by highways, e-bike incentives become a transformative tool.
Instead of simply replacing fossil fuel vehicles with electric cars, forward-thinking communities are planning for a future with reduced dependence on driving. For instance, Connecticut’s Department of Transportation has set a goal to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 5% by 2030.
Similarly, Colorado and California are investing in infrastructure to decrease driving distances while promoting public transit, walking, and biking.
Will the rest of the nation follow this trend? Will e-bikes become more prevalent than SUVs and pickup trucks by 2030?
If you’re a local policymaker seeking to increase the adoption of e-bikes in your state’s transportation system, you can take advantage of the e-Bike Incentive Toolkit. This toolkit is based on the experiences and successful strategies of current local and state-level initiatives.