How E-bikes can help drastically reduce carbon emissions

In July 2020 the UK government published Gear Change, their strategy to promote active travel. This document mentions establishing a national e-bike support programme. Since then e-bike schemes have been introduced in a variety of locations. These schemes provide the opportunity to try out an e-bike for a few hours or even a few weeks.

A new study, out this month, looks at the impact e-bikes could have on reducing carbon emissions. It compares different kinds of places across the UK, and considers which ones have the highest potential in terms of carbon savings. Thus far e-bike schemes have primarily been introduced in urban areas. This research shows that encouraging e-bike use in rural areas as well could have a significant impact.

In our new paper we try to understand how much carbon we could save if we switched all the car use we physically can to e-bike use. It isn’t a prediction of behaviour change under current policies. However, it explains what carbon savings e-bikes are capable of producing, and where those savings could be made. We want to show policy makers and communities what is possible. Then they can decide what is practical as they try to rapidly reduce transport carbon emissions.          

We found that rural areas and places on the rural urban fringe could deliver the biggest carbon savings per person. In these places people make a lot of car journeys that they would struggle to replace with walking or cycling. However, many of these journeys are in e-bike range. We also found that e-bikes could be particularly helpful in neighbourhoods where car dependence creates a financial burden. Here, helping people get and use e-bikes might help us decarbonise transport in an equitable way. 

E-bikes can’t solve the problem alone, but they can make a big difference in some places. 

Dr Ian Philips

Read the full paper here:

E-bikes and their capability to reduce car CO2 emissions

Reference as: ‘Ian Philips, Jillian Anable, Tim Chatterton. 2022. E-bikes and their capability to reduce car CO2 emissions. Transport Policy, 116: 11-23. DOI: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2021.11.019