Can you really replace your car with an electric bike? The electric bicycle has evolved so much that it is now a potential replacement for the car. It offers definite advantages, is less expensive, more ecological, and requires neither license nor insurance. But what can you do without your car?
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In ten years, the electric bicycle has gone from being a visual monstrosity with a wart called a battery placed right in the middle of the frame to an attractive, optimized, particularly well-designed, and sometimes very powerful tool.
Take, for example, the prototype of Valeo, a car equipment manufacturer: 130 Nm of torque, which is as much as small petrol cars. A Herculean strength that allows us to consider the bicycle as a real Swiss Army knife, allowing us to transport both people and goods. But if the electric bicycle has evolved significantly, can it replace the car in our lives?
Let’s remember that 80% of daily trips in most large metropolises are made by motorized vehicles. Those cars, so cumbersome and polluting, make us feel good. But replacing all or part of this 80% remains a considerable challenge.
Three major problems for the electric bicycle
As a double-hatted motorist and cyclist, I understand the problems of both camps so much that it seems impossible today to replace a car with an electric bicycle.
You will certainly have examples of people who have sold their vehicles for an electrically assisted bicycle. Still, since the sample is not the norm, it is better to “zoom out” on these examples and take the population’s movements.
In addition, there are three significant problems with the democratization of the bicycle for these short daily trips. Here they are, in order of importance:
Electric bike safety
In many countries, real bicycle paths are rare. Too many city councils and cities still must correctly communicate their kilometers of bike lanes to look good on their communication supports.
What we see in many cases is that they only repaint a part of the road with bike logos. And this is called a “bike lane,” certainly not a track!
These forces bicycle to be in the flow of cars, with their share of risks and conflicts. Therefore, the need for really adapted infrastructures is blatantly necessary.
Moreover, contrary to popular belief, most fatal bicycle accidents occur not in cities but in rural areas when one is forced to ride in the middle of a stream of cars traveling at more than 70 km/h.
Read also: Are electric bikes dangerous? What are e-bike risks? And, How safe are electric bikes?
Electric bike theft
Every year, thousands of electric bicycles get stolen. A plague that does not encourage people to invest in a good electric bike for everyday use. And the problem of thefts is closely linked to the need for more storage space: you want to go into town by bike for a quick errand, but you don’t dare to leave it in the street, even with an anti-theft device?
Some have tried to overcome this lack by imagining a system where businesses would allow customers to store their bikes for a fee. Secured bicycle parking was democratized on a large scale, including in private homes. But for now, these initiatives remain rare and do not take off, and the secured bike boxes are too few.
Read also: How to protect your e-bike from theft? And, Does it make sense to buy specialized e-bike insurance?
The cost of a good e-bike
You can find electric bikes today at all prices. But don’t be mistaken: a good bike (in the sense of durability, comfort, stability, and quality of components) is expensive, mainly if it is used every day.
It is better today to invest in quality equipment with modern and comfortable geometry, reliable and proven equipment, and an accurate follow-up for the engine. There are subsidies for purchasing an electric bicycle, but this only sometimes compensates for a large amount of money involved.
Read also: Why are e-bikes so expensive? And, What is the difference between cheap and expensive e-bikes? And, Will e-bikes become cheaper?
There are other limiting factors. Cargo bikes, for example, are so large that they cannot easily be stored in an apartment or a village house. Also, parking for larger models (over 2.5 meters long) is a problem in the city.
These are all reasons why electric bicycles are not quickly taken up in most countries outside the hyper-centers for those who can store their bikes in secure spaces. The practice is progressing, but we still need to improve a lot.
Read also: How to maintain your e-bike when you know nothing about it – in this article and this article. And, How to store your electric bike.
However, the electric bicycle (and classic too, let’s not forget it!) would gladly replace the car in certain situations. Driving (the real thing) is an absolute pleasure for many of us, but taking your car to go to an appointment 3 or 4 kilometers away or to buy a loaf of bread… can we call that “pleasure”? It’s nothing more than a “practical” trip.
According to BMW: “56.3% of people travel between 1 and 2 km to work by car.” The car cannot meet all mobility needs, nor should it! I often stress that you don’t need your vehicle to get your bread or shop down the street.
That is one of the remaining blind spots in the debate on sustainable mobility, and it often comes as a surprise. There is no pleasure in driving around town and looking for parking.
And for the first two reasons mentioned above, the electric bicycle is not yet ready to easily replace the car.