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Climate Impact of E-Bikes: How They Affect the Environment

Initially dismissed as a “bike for the unathletic” or “lazy”, the bike with switchable electronic support is becoming increasingly popular. In this article, we explain the climate impact of e-bikes, as a result of their increased usage.

Cycling as part of a healthy lifestyle

Cycling, electronically assisted or not, is an environmentally friendly alternative to a car, especially in densely populated cities where excessive car use leads to heavy traffic.

Often, traffic jams and road works prevent motorists from reaching their destination quickly. So, it is not uncommon for a bike to cover the same distance, but in less time, than a car.

In addition to saving time getting from A to B, regular cycling keeps you fit and healthy. Your metabolism is stimulated, your cholesterol level is reduced and depending on your speed, the route and your weight, you can burn around 420 calories per hour. Therefore, swapping your car for a bike is a great way to prevent obesity and associated health problems.¹

With an e-bike, however, you can cover even more distance in even less time. High quality e-bikes can cover a distance of approximately 50-60 kilometres per battery charge.²

Improve the quality of life

Switching to cycling also has its benefits for life in the city, because lower CO2 emissions means better air.

Particularly in the summer, densely populated districts are often plagued by smog and stuffy air. Every day, cars wait at traffic lights with their engines running, which contributes immensely to poor air conditions.

In addition to the problems caused by flowing car traffic, stationary traffic is in many cases also a critical point for the environment. In order to accommodate the stationary and parked cars, additional parking facilities in the form of car parks must be created. In this respect, the amount of land used by bicycles is many times less, which helps to protect the environment and thus also improves the quality of life of people, especially in the larger cities.³

The battery as an environmental issue

A relevant counterargument for e-bikes is the batteries that they use. Throughout production, between 55 and 75 kilograms of CO2 is released per kilowatt-hour. These are normally lithium-ion batteries, which are also found in our mobile devices.

The decomposition of dry lithium concentrate for production has an extremely harmful effect on the environment. One of the countries where lithium is mined is Chile. There, the groundwater from the Atacama Desert is pumped into large basins and evaporates to produce lithium. This reduces the water reserves of the entire region and the groundwater level drops considerably. The consequences for the people living there are enormous.⁴

Improve the eco-balance of the e-bike through your own behaviour

To solve this problem, at least partially, it is recommended to buy a used e-bike. Not only are these usually cheaper, but their purchase also improves the environmental balance considerably.

Another option would be to use e-bikes according to the new so-called “sharing economy“. More and more suppliers are becoming part of this business model, with Car2Go, Uber and Airbnb being just a few of the companies that make use of this system.

With regards to improving battery use and storage itself, care should be taken to ensure that they have the longest life possible. To do this, it is essential that the batteries are stored correctly. This means not leaving the battery in the sun and storing it at a temperature between 0-20°C at 30-60% charge.⁵ In addition, the performance of the battery should not be strained too much, as this can also damage the battery.

Conclusion: Two wheels are better than four!

The behaviour of each and every individual influences our environment and climate change. However, using a bicycle instead of a car does not only have environmental benefits. It can improve your health and general well-being, and get you from A to B quickly and easily.

References:

¹ Cycling – health benefits, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/cycling-health-benefits

² How Far Can Electric Bikes Go? What is E-bike Range?, https://easyebiking.com/how-far-can-electric-bikes-go

³ Five Trends Influencing the Future of Our Cities, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/green-buildings/design-trends-sustainability-cities-wellness-climate-change/

⁴ The spiralling environmental cost of our lithium battery addiction, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/lithium-batteries-environment-impact

⁵ Like good wine – how to store your ebike battery, https://ebike-mtb.com/en/store-ebike-battery/

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