Policy Brief: Electric Assisted Bikes (e-bikes) Show Promise in Getting People Out of Cars

Research Lead: Dillion Fitch

UC Campus(es): UC Davis

Problem Statement: For over a decade, California has offered incentives towards the purchase of zero-emission vehicles as part of the state’s broader effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Expanding California’s incentive program for zero-emission vehicles to include electric assisted bikes (e-bikes) has been a point of recent discussion.

Project Description: This project reviewed and summarized existing studies on the effects e-bicycling has on car travel, characteristics of e-bike incentive programs, and opportunities for increasing e-bicycling in California. The project found evidence from a variety of research studies indicating that e-bicycling, more so than conventional bicycling, substitutes for car travel. For example, several studies document approximately 35-50% of e-bike trips would have been made by car if an e-bike had been unavailable. In addition, e-bike incentive programs are rare in the U.S. but widespread in Europe with many lessons to offer California. For example, a California e-bicycling incentive program could be implemented in many forms such as a rebate to the buyer or a subsidy to e-bike dealers. Evaluating participants’ vehicle miles traveled reductions will be challenging but can be done with before-and-after travel surveys including data from passive GPS recording and odometer readings. The incentive amount in Europe (20-33% of purchase price) may be a good starting point for California; however, incentive caps may need to be different from those in Europe given the recent rise in e-bike retail prices. Also, e-bikes have numerous co-benefits (e.g., improving access to jobs and increasing physical activity) and should be considered in any cost-benefit analysis of an e-bike incentive program.

Status: Completed

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