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In the News

Can e-bikes transform our cities?

Vicki Woolven

8th August 2022

Sales of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, as they’re better known, are booming. At the same time, innovations in battery technology have extended the range that an e-bike can travel, and in the process transforming the way our cities function. This fascinating video explores the impact they’re having on commuting, deliveries, and the cities we live in.

Sales of e-bikes have rocketed over the last few years and accounted for 12 billion euros across Europe last year alone. In particular there has been a huge increase in the growth of sales of e-mountain bikes - which increased by 60% in 2021. However, these hi-tech bikes are incredibly expensive - ranging from 3,500 to 12,000 euros, so they are a serious investment.

The last few years have seen massive improvements in technology - e-bikes are limited to 25kmph due to EU law, which has seen the range increase to 150km. As a result they have become a more attractive option for both leisure and commuting.

Across Germany, approximately one in six people own an e-bike. In certain areas they have had an enormous impact on cycling infrastructure, for example, in the city of Vechta (in Lower Saxony) around one quarter of residentials own an e-bike, so the local council has provided 300 parking places linked to the railway station alone, as well as hundreds more across the city.

This has been echoed in larger cities across the country, such as Breman (in northern Germany) - it has already been labelled as one of the most bike-friendly places in the world, but it has needed to adapt to e-bike technology, for example by introducing special wider cycle lanes that enable people to cycle faster more safely.

London has also seen a recent increase in the use of e-bikes, particularly with people wanting to reduce pollution and congestion, but also as a response to recent industrial action, with people making use of shared schemes such as those run by Lime and Tier, where people don't actually have to buy their own e-bike.

E-bikes have also been embraced by the rapid delivery market, and are helping to transform the way we shop. Customers are no longer satisfied with next day delivery offered by the likes of Amazon, and are demanding things instantly. E-bike manufacturer Zoomo is leasing its to gig workers working for companies such as Deliveroo and Gorillaz, meaning that customers can get their orders within 15 minutes! Larger courier companies such as UPS are trialling battery powered, ultra slim four-wheeled cycles that don't pollute or get parking tickets, and can speed past cars using cycle lanes.

E-bikes have gone from occupying a niche segment to becoming a mainstream mode of transport, and even a prestige status symbol in some cases as Porsche and Lamborghini developing their high-end models. Sales are predicted to hit 40 million next year, outstripping sales of electric cars in the UK, Europe and the USA. And in the process are transforming the way our cities function.

Vicki Woolven

Vicki Woolven is Subject Lead for Key Stage 4 Humanities at tutor2u. Vicki previously worked as a Head of Geography and Sociology for many years, leading her department to be one of the GA's first Centres of Excellent, and has been a content writer, senior examiner and local authority Key Practitioner for Humanities.

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