Could Electric Bikes Replace Cars on Work Commutes?


A challenge that started and is taking place in a small French town.

Easy E-Biking - city electric bicycle rider, helping to make electric biking practical and fun

Everything started with a simple calculation. It could also be like one of those math problems that made me dizzy in the fourth grade. I live in the city center of Portel, I work in Grande-Rue Boulogne, and I often go home for lunch. Taking into account the distance from the garage where I park in Boulogne, this represents a journey of 4.3 km, or 344 km per month.

Knowing that my car consumes on average 6.5 liters per 100 km on this hilly course, how much does it cost me each year? A calculator quickly gives the answer: 400 €. Not to mention obviously the wear of the car, it’s washing, and maintenance, bank loan, etc.. All of this will make the total bill jump further. In the end, it is the wallet that heats, and also the planet!

Not so crazy idea

However, there is now a solution to eradicate the car on small trips: a little gem of technology named electric bike. When I talk about an electric bike with those around me, I am often called “little old man”. But those who have already tried riding an e-bike know that it is not a moped and that to move forward, it is necessary to pedal well. But to climb the Portel coast twice a day, this boost changes your life!

I have tested an e-bike for the first time a few months ago on the occasion of Cycleco’s “open house”. And the experience was amazing! From that day, the idea of ​​using the “little gem” for my everyday journeys never stopped tickling me.

Shopping around

The only thing that was left to be done – is to find a good model for my taste and needs. Decathlon, Intersport, Giant Store, Cycles Berquez … There is no lack of offers in the area. So I went shopping around, and my choice was finally a “B’Twin” proposed by Decathlon.

So, now I am ready to take up the first “Green Challenge”. My objective: to get on the bike as often as possible to for commute to work. Preparing myself, I invested in rain pants, gloves, bag, and waterproof jacket. No more excuses!

To meet this “green challenge”, we gave ourselves three months … knowing that we have already tried our e-bike for a few weeks. We will check in once more early June, and in mid-July for the final assessment.

With the “green challenge”, we are ready to act!

Faced with the climate emergency, we decided to take action and help the environment. Several journalists from the Boulogne editorial team have set themselves on the “green challenge”, which they will try to meet in the coming months: use an electric bike for their commute to work, organize an eco-friendly run, engage in the “zero waste”, try to reduce waste in local restaurants and more.

Each of us will give between three and six months to achieve the set goal, regularly sharing the experience with our readers. Are we going to succeed? See you in the coming weeks and let’s find out!

An investment amortized in less than four years

To buy my “B’Twin” electric bike in Decathlon, I had to pay 1,500 €. I got a deal to pay in three payments without additional fees. I also negotiated a free helmet and a bike lock. I then added another € 100 as insurance of covering potential problems and breakdowns for the coming two years. Including my new accessories (bag, rain pants, jacket, gloves …), all have cost me about € 2,000.

Not a cheap investment, this is true, unless you are then sure that you will use your bike (almost) every day. A quick calculation tells me that, if compared with equivalent car costs, this investment could be amortized in less than four years. This is especially true, since I have chosen an e-bike alternative rather than replacing my aging car, which would have cost me much more.

According to the manager of the Giant Store brand in Outreau, more and more Boulonnais are buying an electric bike in the same spirit. Could this be the beginning of a new trend?

Cargo E-bikes Favor Alternative Mobility

Traveling on two wheels while carrying two or three children has become possible thanks to cargo e-bikes. The practice is still not very widespread in the French-speaking parts of the world, but it seduces more and more families tired of traffic jams.

While the famous electric scooters never stop to make headlines, another alternative mode of travel is gradually finding its place among a certain category of consumers: the cargo e-bike.

“The market is really developing in French-speaking Belgium,” says Stéphane Pêtre, founder of Velobac. Between 2017 and 2018, I would say that we sold 40% more cargo bikes. It follows the same progression as the electric bike. This increase is very high and Belgium’s share of Velobac’s turnover has increased from 5 to over 80% in 8 years.

Cycling with children

Caroline and Cédric Legrand took the plunge 3 years ago. Since then, every morning, the routine is the same, everyone gets on his bike. He, his racing bike, towards Central Station, and she, her cargo bike, go to the school of their two daughters, then her workplace. “Kids love it, although it’s obviously easier and more enjoyable when the weather is good,” says Caroline.

The cargo e-bike is still a niche sector. For the moment anyway, hopes the creator of the brand Walloon: “the clientele, it is mostly thirty-something with children who used to go to work by bike and see a way to continue to do so with their children. “

An alternative to the car

The cargo e-bike makes family journeys more aligned with ecological vision. This is obvious for Caroline and Cedric. And, in their case, another argument that has tipped the balance: traffic jams! “With my cargo e-bike, I never have an unpleasant surprise. I know that if we leave at 8 o’clock, we will be at school at 8:20 the latest, explains Caroline. There is no stress and girls can sleep an extra half hour. “

And according to Stéphane Pêtre, the couple is not alone in thinking this way: “when we started the business, the first customers were mostly rural, who no longer had access to public transport. But since then, of course, with the congestion in the cities, the city inhabitants are interested in cargo e-bikes more and more. Yes, ecology plays a role, but this more a choice of a bike vs a car. The cargo e-bike appears more practical. “

Pros and cons

Some conditions still apply to take advantage of this practical side: first, one needs to have a nice parking space, ideally covered, and one needs to live in an area where it is easy to travel safely on two wheels. “It’s out of the question to slalom between the cars with the children’s noses at the level of the exhausts,” insists Caroline.

Another imperative is to know your needs in order to better assess the necessary budget. 1,000 to 2,000 euros may be enough for a new cargo bike, but you can only count on your legs to move forward. If you want electric assistance, the bill will rise to around 4,000 euros. One has to clearly understand costs and benefits!

This post was translated from French and adapted. The original versions were published on La Voix du Nord and Generation Le Soir. Photo credit – La Voix du Nord.

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