The rising costs of petrol, insurance, and car maintenance have prompted an increasing number of Australians to abandon petrol-powered cars. And many of these Australians are shunning EVs in favour of e-bikes.

According to research conducted by the Australian Automobile Association, transportation expenses for car owners have outpaced general inflation rates. Auto transport expenses grew 8.8% in capital cities and 10.1% in regional areas in the most recent financial year. Persistently high petrol prices, exceeding $2 per litre across the country, have contributed to this trend.

Why e-bikes trump EVs

While EVs offer relief from rising petrol costs, they remain relatively expensive. Most models cost over $40,000, and there are few EVs in the secondhand market.

In contrast, electric bikes have emerged as a cost-effective alternative to traditional cars, attracting the attention of consumers seeking a more affordable and eco-friendly commuting option. It only costs a few cents to charge an e-bike for an individual trip. The emergence of kerbside e-bike rental companies in major cities further reinforces this trend.

Since the adoption of uniform e-bike laws in 2017, the Australian market has witnessed significant growth in sales. Approximately 9,000 e-bikes were sold that year, a number that has doubled annually. With over 100,000 e-bikes sold in Australia in 2022, e-bike sales grew over 1,000% in just five years.

Families with children and inner-city delivery workers are the two demographic groups embracing e-bikes the most.

Starting at around $2,000 for entry-level models, e-bikes are available in various options. For parents, sturdy cargo e-bikes designed for transporting children typically cost around $5,000. Premium e-bike models can go up to $20,000 in price.

Some Australians have been concerned about the dangers of e-bike battery fires. However, e-bike battery fires can be prevented fairly easily. They mostly occur due to the use of cheaper third-party chargers or unaccredited replacement batteries.

As such, battery fire incidents have not affected e-bikes’ popularity.

Additionally, when one factors in the absence of parking fees, the ability to conveniently reach one’s destination, and the added health benefits from pedaling, e-bikes become even more appealing.

Bicycling advocates’ take

According to Alison McCormack, the CEO of the Bicycle Network, both regular bikes and e-bikes have gained popularity. However, e-bikes are especially appealing to new riders, as the motor compensates for any lack of fitness and makes uphill rides easier. Moreover, e-bikes make commutes feel short while still allowing for physical activity.

Bicycle Network’s surveys indicate that health is the main motivation for taking up cycling. However, financial and environmental concerns are also becoming significant factors.

McCormack told The Guardian that the operating costs of any bike, whether it’s a standard bicycle or an electric one, are considerably lower compared to motoring or public transport expenses. As a result, the cost of owning a bike is quickly recouped.

Australian political figures are increasingly recognizing the advantages of e-bikes. In June, the Tasmanian government announced that it would be distributing $1.2 million in grants to encourage residents to buy e-bikes. If programs like this spread throughout the country, e-bikes will soon become even more affordable.