Electric bikes could get much cheaper under a new proposal from two House Democrats

July 16, 2021
In The News

There are plenty of reasons to buy an e-bike. They offer all the benefits of a normal human-powered bike, but with considerably less sweating and much more utility. Plus, for certain people, they can replace car trips, cutting down on congestion and curbing harmful emissions.


But one major hurdle to widespread e-bike adoption remains: cost. 


Although some manufacturers are taking it upon themselves to sell low-cost e-bikes — Rad Power Bikes' new $1,099 RadMission 1 is an example — by and large, high-quality e-bikes are out of reach for the average consumer. A new proposal from two House Democrats aims to change that. 


This month, Reps. Jimmy Panetta and Earl Blumenauer — of California and Oregon, respectively — introduced the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act, a tax-credit program that aims to spur e-bike sales.


The act would cover 30% of the cost of a new e-bike up to $1,500 and would apply to new bikes that cost $8,000 or less. The idea, they said, is to encourage people to take fewer car trips and ultimately reduce their carbon footprint. 


"E-bikes are not just a fad for a select few, they are a legitimate and practical form of transportation that can help reduce our carbon emissions," said Rep. Panetta in a statement. "My legislation will make it easier for more people from all socio-economic levels to own e-bikes and contribute to cutting our carbon output." 


According to the lawmakers, the environmental impact of such a program could be huge. If 15% of car trips were replaced by an e-bike — an ambitious goal — carbon emissions could drop by 12%, they said in a press release, citing an October study out of Portland State University. That makes sense, given that the transportation sector is the single largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the US, and passenger cars are the biggest polluter within that category. 


The proposal isn't without precedent. It resembles a federal tax credit program that gives buyers of certain low- and zero-emission cars a rebate worth up to $7,500. Some politicians and advocates have long argued that a similar incentive should be extended to electric bikes. 


In 2019, California passed a bill that provides residents of low-income and disadvantaged communities up to $7,500 toward the purchase of an e-bike or bike-share membership if they trade in their car. And multiple European countries including France, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have introduced some form of e-bike subsidy. 


Bicycling and sustainability groups welcome the policy. 


"Incentivizing electric bicycles makes them a competitive transportation option for more Americans and supports a national effort to lower carbon emissions," Jenn Dice, CEO of advocacy organization PeopleForBikes, said in a statement. "The E-BIKE Act positions rightfully electric bicycles as a critical part of a larger solution to climate change and equitable mobility."


President Joe Biden's sweeping plans to transition the US away from fossil fuels — and the fact that Democrats control both chambers of congress — mean that the E-BIKE Act may not be such a stretch. Biden also aims to electrify the federal government fleet, establish half a million new charging stations, and support EV research.