Consumers Increasingly Turn to E-Bikes for Affordable, Sustainable Mobility

Two people ride e-bikes on an urban street

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Feb 14, 2024

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Amidst reports of electric vehicle tax credits and new governmental legislation to build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure, a less-discussed electric mobility option has seen more quiet growth in the United States — e-bikes.

Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have become an increasingly popular emissions-free mode of transportation, and the nearly $2 billion U.S. industry is expected to grow by over 15% each year from 2023 to 2030. Bill Klehm, CEO of e-bike company eBliss Global, expects demand to continue to shift towards e-bikes as an increasing number of consumers look to more affordable, clean alternatives to cars.

“When the average vehicle price has gone from $29,000 to over $43,000, the affordability index for consumers is pivoting,” said Klehm in a recent interview with Environment+Energy Leader.

Klehm also attributes industry growth to the 15-minute lifestyle trend, an urban planning model that allows people to access work, food, and the majority of their needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from where they live. Younger generations in particular seem to indicate a preference to move away from car-dependent living.

In 2023, a research report from Hedges & Company found that just 39.5% of 16- to 19-year-olds in the U.S. have driver’s licenses, many claiming they prefer to use public transportation, rideshare, or other transport options like bikes or scooters.

E-bikes may also serve as a solution for those who are interested in sustainable mobility but maintain concerns over purchasing electric vehicles, such as trouble locating charging infrastructure, sensitivity to temperature extremes, and cost of battery replacement.

Issues Arise Over Battery Regulation, E-Bike Infrastructure

With consumer demand indicating a rising preference for e-bikes, the industry still faces a host of challenges. For one, U.S. infrastructure was built to serve automobiles. While many cities have begun to introduce more bike lanes and improve cycling infrastructure, the large majority of the U.S. remains without.

Similar to the country’s adoption of cars decades ago, however, infrastructure has begun to follow demand — even without adequate infrastructure, consumers are choosing to purchase and ride e-bikes. While building out of cycling infrastructure is expected to take time, many major U.S. cities have begun to adopt safe, connected lanes and bike pathways in response to the increased use of e-bikes and other, similar emissions-free vehicles.

Some have indicated concern over fires caused by e-bike batteries, particularly in areas where e-bikes are becoming especially prevalent, like New York City. Klehm asserts that this issue may be easily avoided with quality control, especially of imported battery materials, and ensuring that users don’t attempt to fix batteries on their own.

“There are no fundamental quality standards over what is being delivered,” Klehm says. “Very inexpensive, low-quality batteries flooded the market and caused fires.”

New York City Attempts to Regulate Rising E-bike Use

In New York City, the increased use of e-bikes, mopeds, cargo bikes, and other car alternatives, specifically those used for food deliveries, has led to crowded bike lanes and safety concerns. New York Mayor Eric Adams recently announced the establishment of the Department of Sustainable Delivery, made as an attempt to regulate the increasingly common mode of transport.

“Public safety is also about safer streets for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and delivery workers,” Adams said in his third State of the City Address. “New Yorkers welcome the future of transit and new electronic technologies — but we cannot have mopeds speeding down our sidewalks and forcing people to jump out of the way. We must also protect the drivers and delivery workers who show up for New Yorkers at all times of day and in all kinds of weather.”

While the full scope of the department is yet to be revealed, its development may lead to increased regulatory measures for the growing e-bike industry in cities across the U.S.

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