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Earth Day and eBikes: what impact can eBikes have?

Earth Day and eBikes: what impact can eBikes have?

April 19, 2022 | Benjamin Beddow

Each year on Earth Day it is estimated that over one billion people take part in clean ups, meetups, protests, and other activities that are geared toward promoting and maintaining a cleaner environment, on both a local and global scale.

For decades “Do your part” has been one of the slogans of the environmental movement and this mantra, along with “every little helps”, has helped us collectively build toward a healthier planet for the future. With all the different facts thrown out in conversations and on platforms across the internet it can sometimes be hard to discern what may be the best choice to help you feel like you are doing your part.

EBikes have gained traction in recent years with a global pandemic and, more recently, skyrocketing fuel prices turning more people toward considering how they can get outdoors more and reduce their personal dependence on fossil fuels.

But, before we begin talking about how eBikes can help you play your part, what is Earth Day? And where did Earth Day come from?

What is Earth Day? 

Earth Day is an internationally recognized day, occurring every year on the 22nd of April, aimed at supporting and promoting environmental protection. Each year has a particular theme, this year’s theme is Invest in Our Planet. The main goal is to raise awareness and to get people, governments, and businesses to break down the fossil fuel focused economy we’ve lived with for so long and to create a 21st Century economy that brings the focus onto the healing and health of our planet. Each year more than 1 billion people take part in Earth Day.

The Origins of Earth Day

The first Earth Day was held on April 22nd 1970 and it was first proposed by John McConnell. In October 1969, at the UNESCO conference, John proposed that we hold a day to honor the earth, to celebrate the life on it, and to bring attention to the need to preserve and renew the ecological life and balance of the planet. John created an Earth Day Proclamation that was signed by 36 world leaders at that same conference. John proposed that we hold Earth Day on the Northern hemisphere’s spring equinox, 20th or 21st of March, each year. This is still practiced today, and many cities ring peace bells to recognize this, but it is not the global day of action that we call Earth Day. 

The United States Senator, Gaylord Nelson, supposedly after seeing the aftermath of the Santa Barbara oil spill from the air, proposed that the United States should hold a nationwide teach-in (an open-to-all, action orientated discussion) to discuss environmental issues on April 22nd 1970. Gaylord hired a young activist, Denis Haye, to help him organize this and it is Haye who renamed it Earth Day.

The event, before it even happened, turned from a nationwide teach-in in colleges and schools into an event that included almost every household in the United States. It is estimated that over 20 million people turned out in what is often called the largest single day of protest in human history. It took a while to gain a global reach and it was only in 1990 that Haye took the event international, organizing events in 141 nations.

Nugget of Knowledge: The Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 countries around the world, was signed on Earth Day in 2016.

Earth Day and eBikes

Earth Day might just be a day, and you’re not about to rush out and buy an eBike just for Earth Day. However, eBikes are one of many tools that people can use to change the way that they personally impact the environment throughout the year. Earth Day, or the weekend after, is the perfect time to get out there and test ride an eBike to see if riding an electric bicycle is something you enjoy and if it is something that can fit into your lifestyle. 

They might be touted as an alternative to regular bicycles, but an eBike is much more than just an electrified alternative. Many will tell you that eBikes bridge the gap between bicycling and riding in the car, allowing users to travel at a car’s speed, on a mode of transportation that costs just a fraction of the price to own and maintain, without breaking a sweat!

In 2017 it was found that 60% of all vehicle trips were less than 6 miles. Such trips include the school run, runs to the post office or the grocery store, trips to the park, and other trips in the local area that, when you think about it, can definitely be made on a bicycle if you wanted to. You maybe wouldn’t want to think about getting on a bicycle to complete many of these trips, but when your bicycle is super charger by electricity and can carry the kids to school and the groceries back from the store, still without you breaking a sweat, then maybe an ebike is an alternative to the car that is worth looking into?

The cherry on top of the cake of benefits that eBikes can offer the average person or household is that eBikes also align with the environmental consciousness that is the focus of Earth Day. But just how environmentally friendly are eBikes when compared to vehicles powered by fossil fuels?

Cars vs eBikes

The EPA estimates that the typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, about 404 grams of CO2 per mile (that’s on top of all the other greenhouse gasses it will emit in the same mile).

As you might be able to guess, eBikes emit little to no CO2 per mile and any they do emit is based on what is used to provide the electricity that charges them. One of the places that eBikes really have the ability to replace the car as a vehicle is on the commute. So how much can you save by commuting via eBike instead of by car?

  • The average commute is around 41 miles a day, 20 miles each way
  • An average car in the USA manages around 22 MPG
  • Every gallon of gasoline burned creates around 8,887 grams of CO2

As such, the average US citizen could save around 17.774 kilograms of CO2 per day by commuting via ebike instead of using their personal vehicle. This also means that they’re saving about 2 gallons of gas per day. If we calculate that over a working year of 48 weeks, working 5 days per week, how much could the average commuter save by commuting via eBike:

  • 480 gallons of gas ($1,920 at today’s, $4 per gallon, price)
  • 53% of the energy used by a house
  • 4.6 Metric tons of CO2
  • 9.9 Barrels of oil
  • Over half a million smartphone charges
  • The same amount of carbon absorbed by 5 acres of forest over the same year

All statistics created using the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalency Calculator.

From a monetary standpoint there is also the fact that you bought that car, need to pay for insurance to drive that car, registered that car, and that your car will require at least some maintenance throughout the year as a result of driving it so far. An eBike? An average eBike will cost around $2000, with plenty of value-priced models available for even less. You’ll need around $200-300 worth of gear: lock, repair kit, bags, rain coat, helmet, etc; and will require around $200-$300 worth of maintenance a year. That is less than $3000 to get set up, and from then on it is all about charging and regular maintenance (much of which can be done yourself if you wish).

What About Electric Cars?

Some will quip that electric cars are just as good for the environment, and, yes, they are certainly much much better for the environment than a motor vehicle powered by fossil fuels. But they still pale in comparison to eBikes.

Research has shown that eBikes are 10-30 times more efficient than electric cars at fighting climate change. Another shocking statistic when comparing electric bikes to electric cars is that electric bikes get 30-100 more miles to the pound out of a battery than the average electric car. Seeing as lithium is a scarce resource and extracting it is highly unregulated and harmful to the planet, then efficiency is an important factor.

There are also the emissions created during the entire life cycle of the product. An electric car that is much larger, with many more parts than an electric bike, has a much larger environmental footprint than that of the much smaller electric bike, think: production of materials, manufacturing processes, shipping, and disposal.

What about charging?

It costs around $0.05 per charge for an eBike. If you use an eBike to replace a car, running an average of 13,500 miles per year, that’s a cost of $21.17 for the whole year! $21.17 to go 13,500 miles! It is estimated that the average electric car costs around $9 to fully charge. Given that an electric car has a range of up to 300 miles, we can calculate that (13,500 miles ÷ 300 mile range x $9) it costs $405 to charge an electric vehicle for the year. So an eBike works out to 0.05% of the cost of running an electric car.

Other eBike Benefits from the Commute

Besides saving on CO2 emissions eBikes have a positive impact on other factors of the commute that benefit more than just the plant and the rider.

No Noise Pollution - An electric bike is next to silent on the road, even when compared to an electric car. How nice would it be to walk down a city street and to not hear the noise of cars?

Less Congestion - Remove one car from the traffic and replace it with an eBiker and you’ve reduced congestion. Imagine what it would be like if everyone rode to work?

Less Road Damage - Electric bicycles have a much smaller footprint than cars, meaning that they damage the road much less, resulting in less frequent road repairs, allowing tax dollars to be spent elsewhere.

Less Air Pollution - No tailpipe means no CO2 and no CO2 means that there is less pollution in the air. This increases the local air quality. Just look at the change in air quality in China during the pandemic.

Final thoughts: eBikes go further than commuting

Riding an eBike every day to work might not suit everyone, it also might not be practical in certain areas of the country at particular times of the year. However, as well as being a day for action, Earth Day is also a day that can be used to catalyst thought and start conversations about how we can all “do our part” by making changes to our lives that benefit the environment. 

Over the past decade, through advertising and ebike sharing schemes in cities, the eBike has become a symbol of how we can all make changes that benefit the environment. But using an eBike is not just about commuting and cutting out those short car trips. eBikes can have a positive impact on so many other things in your life. They can positively impact your physical health, your mental health, allow you to explore farther and wider, and get you outside in to nature more.

So yes, an eBike can help you save 9.9 barrels of oil, 4.6 metric tons of CO2, and thousands of dollars, but an eBike isn’t just for the environment or for Earth Day, an eBike is for you to create your own story with and, in the process, you might just help the planet a little bit.