25 Sep Make an Environmental Impact with Electric Biking
The current condition of the environment shouldn’t be news to you – it’s currently in dire straights thanks to overconsumption, overpopulation, and overreliance on the burning of fossil fuels. If the human race doesn’t change its ways, we could be in serious trouble.
It’s never too late to make a change in your life. If you care about the planet and want to do your part to help preserve it, there are ways to do so that don’t require you to sell all your worldly positions and join a commune of freedom fighters.
Riding an electric bike can have a massive impact on the environment, for the better. They have zero emissions in use, have a drastically smaller carbon footprint, and are a join to ride.
Making a difference doesn’t require a herculean amount of effort – it just requires a few life changes and an (even minor) desire to make the world a better place.
Are you ready to be that change? Read on to find out more about electric bikes can benefit the environment and how much better they really are than other forms of transportation.
The current situation
Call it whatever you want: climate change, global warming, God turning the heaters up, doesn’t matter to us.
Regardless, there is one thing that is undeniable: climate change exists.
Experts state that the future of mankind is about to change radically. Some projections estimate that the average temperature of the Earth will rise 4.5 degrees Celsius in the next 40 years. That may not sound like a lot at first, but those handfuls of degrees entail HUGE ramifications. Rising ocean levels, increasingly extreme weather, and hotter temps translate to drought, famine, collapsing power grids, and uninhabitable environments.
But it is not within the scope of this article to prove the validity of climate change or to discuss every single detail. This is an enormous subject and (we’re guessing) you’re here because you already understand the seriousness of the situation to some degree.
Rather than get bogged down in the nitty-gritty, we’re instead going to discuss what we can do to help to mitigate climate change right now.
What causes climate change?
Of all the things that contribute to climate change, transportation is unequivocally the worst.
According to Our World in Data, over 20% of all CO2 emissions come from this sector. It includes air travel, constant shipping, and, most serious of all, driving cars too much.
If you want to limit your impact on climate change, you need to reassess how you get around and how much you use your car. Simply put: drive less.
But that’s easier said than done: cars, after all, are so convenient and, sometimes, so ingrained in society.
So what do you do instead? What is the best alternative to driving?
Why you should use an electric bike to curb climate change
Electric bikes are creating a revolution. Thanks to the inclusion of a motor and battery – referred to collectively as the ‘drive system’ – obstacles that once challenged riders are now becoming much less difficult. With an electric bike, people are able to go further, for longer, and with much less effort.
The benefits of using an electric bike are numerous. They’ve already made riding to work much more practical. Living in the city too has also become more comfortable as ebikes are cheaper to own and maintain, not to mention more convenient to use (DAMN YOU TO HELL STREET PARKING) than owning a car.
For the first time in the history of modern transportation, the car is being challenged as a means of personal transport. Ebikes offer enough now to make them a serious contender.
10 environmental impacts of electric bikes
But what are the environmental impacts of electric bikes, especially when compared to automobiles and regular bikes? How will riding an electric bike help to limit climate change?
Let’s go over a list of reasons why electric bikes are better for than environment. Here are ten:
1. Zero emissions
Since electric bikes don’t use ANY kind of fuel while being used – rather relying on a battery – they create ZERO emissions. This leads to less overall air pollution, fewer greenhouse gases, and fewer particulates in the air. Your immune system will be happier and so will the atmosphere. Everyone wins.
If you’d like to know the difference in emissions between cars vs electric bikes, we provide some numbers in a later section.
2. Less reliance on transport that uses fossil fuels
With the rise of electric bikes, so too comes the decline of motorized vehicles. More people are opting to ride rather than drive and, in doing so, less fossil fuel is being consumed. This goes beyond commuting or running errands with your ebike as well – traveling with an ebike means you don’t have to rent a car or use taxis elsewhere either.
3. Tough, long-lasting batteries
Electric bikes can last a long time if you treat them right. The one thing that usually goes first, which also happens to be the thing with the largest carbon footprint, is the battery. By choosing an ebike with a robust battery and taking care of it, you can reduce your carbon footprint further.
Remember: the key to a sustainable lifestyle is to cut down on consumption and that includes replacing your bike battery too frequently.
4. Off-peak charging
Many people prefer charging at off-peak hours because it’s cheaper. But charging your electric bike during off-peak hours can also impact the environment in a positive way as well.
As electric-based transportation increases, so to will the demand for electricity. If everyone wants to charge at once, more electricity will need to be generated as well.
Rather than straining the system, why not charge your bike at off-peak times when renewables energy sources are most active? At these times, there’s plenty of energy to be had and extra production isn’t required to meet demands.
It can be tricky to figure when off-peak hours are because there are a bunch of factors to consider, such as the local climate. Here’s a handy guide to get you started though.
5. Energy efficient
Engines that use fossil fuels are notoriously bad at harnessing energy – only 20-30% is actually used to move the wheels. Electric motors, which include electric cars and bikes, are much better at using energy – they harness around 80-90% of the stored energy.
Electric bikes only use on average 1.02 kWh per 100 driving miles (source), which is around 150 watts/hour for the average biker. To put that into perspective, that’s less power used by a washing machine or LCD TV per hour. Yes, your electric bike is more efficient than a household appliance, and you ride that thing to work for god’s sake.
In short, electric bikes are very energy efficient, much more so than regular cars.
6. Easily transportable
The fact that you can travel with your ebike unlocks so many doors. Rather than flying somewhere and then promptly renting a car, take the train or carpool and bring your ebike with you. Lots of gorgeous tourists destinations, such as America’s national parks or most European cities, are best experienced by bike.
Do you want the most portable bike possible? Buy a foldable one!
7. Easier on the roads
Cars, especially larger ones, can really mess up the roads. Constant traffic and assholes who forget to remove their winter chains result in torn, rutted, and overall ruined streets. These obviously need to be repaired, which requires construction work and a team of repairmen. All this extra work creates extra emissions. We could avoid doing this if we took better care of the roads.
Thanks to their drastically lighter weight, ebikes are much easier on the roads and hardly ever damage it. They create a lot less congestion as well.
Who knows too: in the not-so-distant future where cars are finally the minority, the surface area of roads might be reduced as well, and (fun fact) paved roads might be just as polluting as the cars themselves.
8. Healthier humans
Riding an electric bike is not only better for the roads, but also for ourselves. Riding increases cardiovascular output, reduces the chance of fatal disease, and leads to an overall increase in the quality of life. That means more time living your life and less time in the doctor’s office, whose own carbon footprint can be enormous sometimes. Fewer people at the hospital result in fewer resources consumed.
Seriously, if the positive environmental impacts of electric bike riding weren’t already enough, the health benefits should be convincing enough.
9. More sustainable
Because electric bicycles run mostly on the power grid, they can tap into clean energy sources. This includes wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy production. Some people can even cut out the middleman and charge their ebike using their own solar panels or other green energy sources. All of this leads to a much more sustainable mode of transportation and only enhances the potential environmental impacts of ebikes.
10. Smaller carbon footprint
Choosing to bike rather than drive reduces your carbon footprint (total CO2 emissions) by 84% according to Science Daily. That’s a drastic difference! Granted, there could be some unavoidable carbon emissions when using an ebike, but with a little extra knowledge and good habits, you can reduce this even further.
Ebikes vs cars vs regular bikes
Every form of transport has its pros and cons. Cars can still be convincingly useful sometimes (drive electric cars at least) and even electric bike production can have a (slightly) negative impact on the environment.
To better understand the topic of carbon footprints in relation to personal transport, let’s dive into each one more deeply. Here are the differences between electric bikes, regular bikes, and cars in regards to their effect on the environment.
E-bikes vs cars – Emissions and the gory details
I’ve been ranting and raving this entire time about how riding an electric bike is so much better for the environment than driving a car.
But let’s talk numbers and cold, hard facts.
For starters, electric bikes don’t require any sort of fossil fuel to run* – just good old human power.
Meanwhile, passenger traffic accounts for 45% of all transportation emissions, which translates to 15% of global CO2 emissions.
We can’t forget about the manufacturing process either. Making a car is an intensive process that requires a lot of time and effort. A host of materials need to be collected, shipped, fabricated, and assembled before a car even starts to look like a real car, and all that consumes energy. To be more specific, that energy comes from the burning of fossil fuels. The carbon footprint left by the manufacture of certain cars can actually rival the footprint left from driving.
Driving as well as making cars results in a huge amount of emitted greenhouse gases.
The carbon footprint of an electric bike is not nearly as large because they require fewer materials, are less intensive to construct, and don’t burn fossil fuels while being used.
Ultimately, riding an electric bike produces about 20 kg of carbon every 1000 miles ridden while a car produces almost 470 kg. That’s a whopping 2200% difference. Talk about a real game-changer.
*In calculating the carbon footprint for electric bikes, we still need to consider the fossil fuel used to create electricity as well as the energy we need to function i.e. calories. These do increase the overall footprint of ebikes but we’ll get into these more in a moment.
Electric bikes vs electric cars
Some diehard drivers, clinging to their steering wheels until the bitter end, might go so far as to say that electric cars emit fewer enough emissions to be justifiably “good” for the environment.
But studies show that even lowered emissions offered by these electric vehicles pale in comparison to those of electric bikes. This is because, despite the fact that electric cars rely more on electricity to run, the materials and means needed to make them still results in an unreasonably large carbon footprint.
Truly, the way to achieve net-zero emissions and true sustainability is via cycling.
Ebikes vs regular bikes – The key is in the calories
There is a serious argument to be had against electric bikes when we compare them to regular bikes and it’s worth bringing up.
The question is: since electronic bikes use more electronics, which generally require more energy to produce, shouldn’t they have a larger carbon footprint?
The answer seems obvious: regular bikes should result in fewer emissions and thus have a greater environmental impact than electric bikes, right?
But in reality, it’s not so much the case. Sure, electric bikes have more complex parts that require more energy to produce but they make up for this in other places.
The important thing to take note of is calories. Yes, those calories make all the difference when it comes to assessing the carbon footprints of regular bikes and electric bikes.
Since regular bikes offer little if anything in the way of assistance, they require more physical exertion. More exertion in turn requires more calories – calories that need to be consumed in order to be burned first. Those calories don’t just come from anywhere either (would be great if we humans recharged via photosynthesis): they come from eating food.
Along with transportation, the food industry is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gases. As you eat more to have the energy to ride, your carbon footprint expands, so much that it actually rivals that of an electric bike. This study says as much.
Thanks to the extra assistance provided, ebike riders require fewer calories than regular riders and in doing so both have very similar carbon footprints. Remember that the next time your hipster friend gloats about how his fixie is better for the environment than your hi-tech ebike.
Limiting the carbon footprint of your electric bike even more
Want to make an even BIGGER environmental impact with your electric bike? Here are some ways to reduce your carbon footprint even more:
- Ride your ebike correctly – Doing so will help to conserve energy and not waste it unnecessarily. That goes for not just the battery, but yourself as well.
- Take care of your bike battery – Improper care can lead to bike batteries failing earlier and what they call “vampire energy”, which is basically when the charger sucks energy from the outlet even when not in use. Conserve the battery by storing it in a temperate place, don’t leave it plugged when it isn’t necessary, and unplug the charger when you don’t need it.
- Dispose of your ebike battery in the proper way – Most ebikes use lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly found in other electronics like laptops and phones. Don’t throw them in the common garbage, rather use a proper battery disposal service. They’ll process them in an environmentally friendly way.
- Use your own renewable energy source – Don’t trust where your local electricity is coming from? (A lot of it could be generated from coal in fact.) Start making your own then! Install some solar panels or even a wind turbine and be your own green energy producer. You can sell the excess energy back to the city even.
- Charge at off-peak hours – Charge during these periods of the day to avoid over-taxing the power grid and you’ll save some money in the process as well.
- Plan your route – Doing so will ensure that you’re not wasting energy on pointless riding. You might also be able to skip unnecessary hills, which require more work from the drive system and aren’t very nice to climb anyway.
- Choose a lighter bike – This plays a major part in the amount of energy consumed. The heavier the bike, the harder the engine needs to work. Try and buy an ebike that is as light as possible (without compromising safety or functionality).
- Be aware of your caloric intake – This isn’t tied so much to cycling but reducing your caloric intake and eating less overall can reduce your personal carbon footprint.
Are you ready to make a change?
The writing’s on the wall: if we as a species don’t shape up and change our ways, our consumptive behavior is going to end up causing irreparable damage to the planet. Unless we suddenly crack Einstein’s theories and can travel faster than the speed of light, we’ve only got one planet to live on. And I highly doubt that the first option is going to happen anytime soon.
We HAVE to make a change and start cutting back on our emissions. Drive less, use fewer fossil fuels, consume less energy in general.
But that doesn’t mean we have to return to some primitive state and start riding horses again (how cool would that be though). We’re living in a technological society and we ought to use that technology as best we can.
Electric bikes are the answer to many of the dilemmas caused by climate change. They are efficient, sustainable, and a legitimate mode of transportation that can seriously benefit not only society but the planet. Switching to a predominant ebike lifestyle can reduce one’s carbon footprint by up to 85% and could reduce CO2 emissions by literal tons every year.
If you’re looking to make a serious impact on the environment, electric bikes are where you need to be looking. They’re the future of transportation and the future is now.
Bike more. Drive less. Save the environment.