When running errands or taking children to school, it’s common to rely on cars for convenience. However, these short trips have environmental drawbacks in terms of emissions, pollution, and fuel expenses.

In the United States, a staggering 60% of car trips are for distances less than 10 km.

So, what’s the optimal solution? One might assume switching to an electric car would be the logical step.

However, for short trips, an e-bike or moped might be a better choice for individuals and the environment. Due to their significant adoption in China, e-bikes and mopeds are diverting 300% more oil demand than electric cars worldwide.

In the past year, there were over 20 million electric cars on the roads globally. By comparison, there were over 280 million electric mopeds, scooters, motorcycles, and three-wheelers on the road.

Electric two- and three-wheelers have already cut oil demand by one million barrels per day. This is approximately 1% of the world’s total oil demand, according to The Conversation.

According to US researchers, if e-bike trips accounted for 11% of all vehicle trips, transport emissions would decrease by approximately 7%.

Why electric cars aren’t the ideal

This data suggests that the public may be putting too much faith in electric cars. While electric cars are cleaner compared to traditional cars, they still contribute to road congestion and require substantial electricity to operate.

Electric car batteries rely heavily on the extraction of rare earth elements. Although electric cars are overall much greener than combustion engine cars, their battery manufacturing can undermine some of the environmental benefits.

Additionally, e-bikes and mopeds are more affordable to purchase and maintain compared to electric cars.

Statistics out of Australia vividly illustrate this point. An Australian who commutes on an e-bike for 20 km a day, five days a week, would pay around $20 annually for charging. By comparison, the average Australian electric car owner currently spends approximately $592 to $1036 a year for charging.

While e-bikes and mopeds are unlikely to be used for long-distance journeys, their true value lies in short-hop trips such as school runs, quick errands, or even commutes. In these situations, they can be as fast as or even faster than cars.

Environmental groups: missing in action

Ironically, some e-bike advocates have blamed the lack of emphasis on e-bikes on environmental groups. By emphasizing electric cars over e-bikes, environmental groups have avoided the difficult work of trying to change people’s behavior.

The Sierra Club, America’s most prominent environmental organization, made no public statement in support of the EBIKE ACT when it was introduced before Congress in 2021. The bill would have provided a subsidy of up to $1,500 for new e-bike purchases.

Image Source: @lloydalter