Should I Use an Electric Bike to Commute? The Benefits of E Bike Commuting
Times are changing in the world of commuting. As pollution increases and getting to work becomes more frustrating and expensive, the need for a cheaper, cleaner, and more sustainable travel solution gets more important every day – and a strong contender for this is the electric bike. Hugely popular in Asia and the Netherlands, the electric bike is a unique and active mode of transport. It’s had a much slower uptake in the UK but momentum is starting to build. Below, we take a look at how the electric bike – also known as the e bike – transforms the commuting experience along with other aspects of everyday life, making it a viable alternative to personal and company cars.
It’s a faster way to commute
Train and bus delays, traffic jams, accidents, and the general hectic nature of cities are a concern of the past. Electric bike commuting allows you to zip around traffic with ease and avoid build ups of congestion, although you will still need to obey the rules of the road and stop at traffic lights and zebra crossings. Stop-start cycling won’t be an issue, however, as the electric assist helps to get you back up to speed nice and quickly. No more worrying about struggling to pull away from traffic lights surrounded by impatient drivers.
You can push yourself that little bit harder if you want more of a workout during your journey, however, the beauty of that extra helping hand from the motor assist is that you arrive at office feeling energised yet fresh. No sweatiness, no need for showering – convenient if your office doesn’t have shower facilities – and an added touch of endorphin boosting to put you in a positive mindset for the day. Most e bikes come with mudguards to protect your clothes from mud and dirt splatters, a chain guard to prevent clothes from snagging in the chain or getting covered in oil, and a rear pannier rack to safely secure your belongings as you ride.
It makes easy work of challenging journeys
Living far away from the office or having to deal with steep hills – particularly with limited stamina or fitness levels – are major obstacles for many people when it comes to travelling to work on a normal push. Electric bikes overcome these natural obstacles issues with ease thanks to the extra boost of power from the motor, helping to make easy work of long distances, arduous inclines, and strong headwinds. This holds great appeal for cities such as Sheffield and Bristol where hills are abound and there are quite a few steep streets with which to contend.
It’s better for your health and fitness
You may be using your e bike specifically to travel to work and back everyday but guess what… you’re still exercising! Regular exercise is incredibly important for your health and can help to lower the risk of developing serious illnesses such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Using an electric bike to travel to and from work during the week contributes to greater fitness, lower body fat, and better blood sugar control – you could burn up to 400 calories per hour if you really push yourself. Best of all, an electric bike is great fun to ride, doesn’t put too much strain on the body, and is a fantastic way to incorporate exercise into daily life, especially if you often struggle to set aside time specifically to exercise.
Cycling purists often argue that using an electric bike is “cheating” but we wholeheartedly disagree. An e bike is not a motorbike and still needs the user to pedal for the motor to kick into gear. Electric assist augments the pedaling power put in by the rider and it is exactly this function that allows everyone – no matter their age or physical capabilities – to get back in the saddle once more. Many people who have not been able to cycle for years due to illness or lack of fitness describe using an electric bike as having a fresh set of legs. You’ll find yourself cycling more often because it’s so much more accessible and this means more opportunity to get fit.
It’s cheaper to run than a car and better for the environment
A car is a carbon-intensive machine which has serious repercussions for the environment, especially when we consider how many cars there are on UK roads each day. One of the biggest issues with this is that many people rely on their cars to make short trips and most of these journeys are less than three miles. What’s more, heavily congested cities are dealing with the very real and serious issue of poor air quality, a major cause of premature death in urban areas.
A study on CO2 emissions by the European Cyclist Federation (ECF) in 2011 found that electric bikes produced around 22 grams of CO2 emissions for each kilometre cycled. This figure includes around 7g/km for the production process and maintenance along with approximately 10g/km to produce the electricity which powers the bike. These figures are in stark contrast to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions linked to the production and operation of a car. The ECF estimates that a passenger car emits around 271g of CO2 per passenger-kilometre which includes 42g/km released during the production process. When you put all of these figures side by side, it’s very evident how much of a difference using an e bike makes to your carbon footprint.
These days, you’ll struggle to get an annual train ticket from the Midlands to London for less than £5000. The cost of automotive commuting also soon adds up, particularly when you factor in all of the elements of running a car. Using an electric bike to fulfill your travel needs means that you’ll be saving on:
- Road tax
- MOT and service
- Parking fees
- Toll fees
- Congestion charges
- Wear and tear
Of course, you will still need to factor in – after the initial purchase cost – the cost of an annual service for your electric bike as well as replacement parts when needed, although taking good care of your bike’s components will help with their longevity. The cost of recharging an electric bike for the day is normally around 10p or less whereas the average petrol car uses costs around 14p per mile to fuel.
It’s an opportunity to breathe
Just imagine it – no more packed crowds in tight spaces, no more noise and commotion from frazzled commuters, no more frantic glances at your watch as you wait for the bus or train. Travelling via electric bike means getting out into the fresh air, feeling invigorating, and having more room for thought. You’ll have the chance to see more of your local area on your journey and even discover new places along the way. You can depend on your bike to get you to the office on time and not have to stress about potential delays or setting aside a significant proportion of your monthly wages for travel expenses.
The research says it all
Back in 2011, the University of Brighton led the ‘smart e-bikes’ research project with the aim of ‘understanding how commuters and communities engage with electrically-assisted cycling’. The project was carried out over 3 years with a fleet of 35 bikes and over 100 participants. Trials were run with commuters as well as those not necessarily likely to commute – including older participants – and each person used their electric bike for around 6 to 8 weeks at a time. A specially designed monitoring system on the bikes collected detailed data and participants were interviewed about their experience at the end of the trial.
The positive results spoke for themselves:
- 58% of trial participants noted an increase in physical activity
- Car mileage dropped 20% over the period of the trial
- 75% of participants during the commuter trial used their electric bike at least once a week with 70% stating that they would cycle more if an e bike was available in the future
- E bikes increased the appeal of cycling to those who would be a lot less likely to cycle, including non-cyclists, seniors, people living over 3 miles away from their place of work, and those who are relatively inactive
- People felt more confident cycling in hilly areas as inclines were easier
- Many people enjoyed their experience and had great fun riding their e bike
- ‘Reintroduced me to cycling… encouraged me to get back into the saddle’
- ‘Gave me the confidence to attempt longer journeys than I’d ever cycled before’
- ‘Assist allows me to travel further… try a few more hills, try a few more climbs’
Perhaps the greatest challenge brought to light by the project was the issue of affordability; the initial cost of purchasing an e bike was a major disincentive for many of the participants, particularly as some of the more premium models on the market can cost several thousand pounds.
How can I afford an electric bike?
A major concern for many people is how expensive it can be to invest in an electric bike; however, the great news is that there are several options available which make owning this green mode of transport far more accessible:
Cycle to Work Scheme
The Cycle to Work scheme was introduced to encourage people to find greener and healthier ways of getting to work. A government led initiative from the Green Transport Plan, the Cycle to Work scheme gives employers the opportunity to purchase up to £1000 of cycles and cyclist safety equipment tax-free and then loan these to their employees as a tax-free benefit.
There are several stipulations to this:
- You must be at least 18 years of age
- Employees on National Minimum Wage are ineligible
- If your employer wishes to recuperate the costs of loaning the equipment to you, this will be done via a gross salary sacrifice agreement on the PAYE system
- During the ‘hire period’, you do not own the equipment – it is on loan from your employer
- At the end of the arrangement, your employer can choose to take back the equipment or allow you to purchase it at ‘fair market value’ – a percentage of the original value
- The equipment must be used as part of a qualifying journey, i.e. between the home and workplace, part of the journey between the home and workplace, or from one workplace to another
- Failure to use the equipment as part of a qualifying journey could invalidate the tax-free benefit
These are just a few of the key things to note; it’s best to discuss the full details with your employer if they have enrolled in the scheme and you are considering participating. Do not sign yourself up to the scheme without first fully understanding the arrangement. It is also worth considering insuring your electric bike as you will be responsible for your equipment during the loan period.
There are numerous scheme providers across the UK, including:
Authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, the Green Commute Initiative is similar to the Cycle to Work scheme but is not restricted by a £1000 spend limit on cycle equipment. Their website has comprehensive info for both employers and employees interested in the scheme.
Although signing up to a cycle scheme is a viable option for many people, it’s important to keep in mind that your employer is perfectly within their rights to claim back your electric bike at the end of the loan period. Furthermore, if you leave your job whilst still in the loan period, you may need to pay a lump sum termination fee to cover any outstanding hire payments.
Another option is to buy an electric bike outright but at a budget-friendly price. This gives you the freedom to also use your bike for leisure and exercise, not just commuting. Whilst some e bike models can fetch around £2,000 – £3,000 – we’ve even seen one for an eye-watering £13,500 – there are plenty of more affordable choices which offer great performance and durability at a fraction of the aforementioned prices.
Superb quality and great value for money, the popular Pro Rider Leisure electric bike range starts from just £579.00 and includes stunning folding, step through, hybrid, and electric mountain bike options such as:
Pro Rider Ion – £598.99
- Folding electric bike
- Lightweight and collapsible frame – perfect if part of your commute involves taking a bus or train
- 50-60km range ensures plenty of electrical assist throughout your journey
- Front and rear mudguards and full length chain guard to protect your clothing during your commute
Pro Rider Lux – £699
- Step through hybrid electric bike
- Lightweight step through frame for easy mounting and dismounting – ideal for ladies and senior riders
- 45-55km range ensures there is ample electrical assist to cover your journey
- Mudguards and a chain guard prevent unwanted splatters on the move
Don’t forget that you will soon more than recuperate your upfront bike cost by saving money on the expense of running a car or taking public transport!
It’s time to take a new approach to commuting
We hope you’ll agree that there are plenty of benefits to switching to an electric bike for your daily commute. If you’re ready to invest in an electric bike but don’t know where to start, why not take a look at our blog post on ‘Which Electric Bike is Best’ for your needs? Alternatively, please get in touch with the knowledgeable Pro Rider Leisure team who will be happy to offer some friendly guidance on our e bike range.