of the Fastest Electric Bikes in 2020
First of all, just what do we mean by the “fastest” e-bike? Are we talking about a bike with the max top speed, the most acceleration, or simply the most versatile and maneuverable while maintaining speed? In this article, we include a little for everyone.
We will start by focusing on the fastest bikes on the market, the true speed racers that have the most speed the industry has to offer. But, let’s be honest, these aren’t the most practical of choices. So, we then shift our FOCUS to the fastest street-legal e-bikes. These are the ones that you can actually look forward to on your daily commute, the ones whose speed will actually be manageable by the average rider.
So, let’s get right into it, and check out the fastest electric bikes in 2020.
Fastest Electric Bikes
First up, we’re checking out the bikes with the fastest raw speed on the market! They might not be practical for your daily commute. But if you’re in the market for the fastest e-bike, or even just curious, then check out these technological feats:
Hi Power Cycles Revolution X
This one tops our list. A true machine when it comes to e-bike technology, Revolution X boasts a top speed of over 60mph! Its acceleration is also massively impressive, as it goes from 0-30mph in 4.57 seconds! When it comes to pure speed, you can’t really beat this one.
This is also a very capable mountain bike. It has a carbon fiber frame, full-suspension, quad piston brakes, and an 86V 2400Wh lithium ion battery with a range up to 100 miles! If you’re looking for the fastest electric bike on the market that handles well and hits the trails with ease, then this might be exactly what you are looking for.
Stealth Electric Bike
Next up is the Stealth Electric Bike. This one is a true beast, and perhaps the most popular of the high-speed electric bikes on the market. The electric hub motor technology allows you to reach speeds you wouldn’t think possible on an electric bike. This thing caps out at about 50mph with a 60-mile range.
They keep improving it, too. The 2020 model had its power upped by 20%, and motor weight was reduced by 20%. This offers not only a fast ride, but a maneuverable and comfortable ride. This is also a full suspension bike with powerful brakes.
When it comes to high-performance electric bikes, this one tops many lists, and it’s not difficult to see why. If you want some speed and some off-roading capabilities, this might be for you.
The Swind is another great, high-performance option that can really fly. A top speed of 60mph! The electric motor boasts 15kW of power, which is the reason for this bike’s next-level performance. The battery pack is quick to charge (only 90 minutes) and lasts up to 80 miles.
The bike itself is quite impressive as well. There is full suspension, and hydraulic brakes on both wheels, ensuring that it can adequately handle whatever you throw at it. It even has three motor settings – street, cross, and MTB. This one is a true feat of engineering, but at 20,000, this is not a very affordable electric bike.
Hi Power Cycles Scout Pro
Another one from Hi Power Cycles, the Scout Pro is another marvel. This is a very fast electric bike with a more reasonable price range. This has power up to 3000W, which means it can reach a top speed of up to 45mph! Not quite as fast as the other electric bikes on our list so far, but still much faster than your typical electric bike. It also offers both pedal assist and full throttle options.
This is another solid mountain bike as well, and Made in the USA! A hardtail design, with 150mm front suspension and 27.5-inch wheels.
Fastest Street-Legal Commuters
So far, we’ve covered some of the fastest, most high-performing e-bikes on the market. But let’s face it, those e-bikes aren’t necessarily practical for daily use. They are very specialized bikes. Great for off-roading and for expert riders, but your average e-bike rider will probably want something a regular bike that’s more accessible as a road bike.
Not to mention, there are currently only three classes of street-legal e-bikes (country dependent). In the USA, Class 3 bikes (the fastest ones) can reach a speed of up to 28mph. In this section, we’re focusing on fast, powerful e-bikes that are also street legal.
First up is the Trek Allant. Made by Trek, one of the most trusted names in biking, the Allant offers pretty much everything you’d want in a speedy electric road bike that can hit the streets. It can hit speeds up to 28mph, which makes it among the fastest street-legal bikes on the market.
This thing is pretty much built to get around. The FOCUS was almost exclusively on durability and functionality. The carbon fiber frame is sleek, lightweight, durable, and very aerodynamic. It has a 625Wh battery, which is among the longest lasting out there. It also has powerful hydraulic disc brakes for stopping power at all speed and in all conditions.
The Allant is built like a cruiser bike that was designed purely for speed. If your primary goal is to get places fast, this is the bike for you.
Propel Gazelle Ultimate
The Gazelle Ultimate is another excellent all-around bike, which also reaches speeds of 28mph. Its speed is thanks to its Bosch Performance Line motor, which offers 75 Nm of torque, and weighs only 2.9 kg.
This bike is designed to go fast, but also for maneuverability and control. It has a strong, aluminum frame, front suspension, and powerful hydraulic disc brakes. It is also designed to be a comfortable ride, with ergonomic grips and a high-quality bike seat.
Fastest Specialty Bikes
We round out our list with a few e-bikes that didn’t fit comfortably into other categories. E-bike technology is pretty exciting, and there are many different types of bikes as a result. Here are a few really cool designs that also go fast!
Best Speed Trike: Outrider Trike
How about a speed trike? This one allows you to achieve big-time speed. If you’ve ridden one of these trikes, this one will probably be the most powerful you’ve experienced. It tops out at 20mph, which is quite the formidable speed for a trike like this!
This is a strong and durable trike and is even suitable for off-road riding. There are front and rear air-shock suspension, and an electronic drive system. The base battery gets about 15-35 miles per charge, but there is the option to upgrade to about 60-140 miles per charge.
Overall, this is a very specific type of bike, but if you’re in the market for a fast, off-road e-trike, then this might be exactly what you are looking for.
Foldable Speed E-Bike: Voltaire Magnum Premium
Foldable bikes are a popular sub-category of bikes, especially for commuters. The benefit of a foldable bike is that it can be folded into a compact size, and brought with you almost anywhere. Gone are the worries of leaving your bike outside all day with the looming potential of bike thieves.
The Voltaire Magnum Premium is a highly capable folding bike. It reaches 28mph, making it among the fastest street-legal bikes on the market. Pretty impressive for a folding bike, with a 48V battery power, 500W motor. The battery is capable but not incredible, at about 25 to 55 miles per charge.
The Magnum Premium is built for portability, but also for comfort and maneuverability. This one doesn’t sacrifice rideability for portability. It weighs in at only 55 pounds, thanks to its aluminum alloy frame. It also boasts front suspension, and adjustable seat and handlebar height.
Overall, if you’re in the market for a foldable bike, this one is tough to beat. One wouldn’t expect a portable e-bike to pack this much power, but this one proves the doubters wrong.
Best Budget Speed Bike: Aventon Pace 500
We cap off our list with the best speed e-bike for riders on a budget. When it comes to getting a budget e-bike, the odds are pretty stacked against you. E-bikes, in general, are pricy, and the cost only goes up when you factor in a powerful motor.
The Aventon Pace 500 reverses this trend and offers you a powerful e-bike for an affordable price. While not as powerful or capable as the higher end bikes on our list, this one still tops out at an impressive 20 mph, thanks to its 750W brushless motor.
The bike itself is no slouch either. Strong and durable, and built as a quality cruiser bike. There are powerful hydraulic brakes, a cushioned saddle, and an LCD display. Pretty impressive package for such an affordable price.
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Best electric bikes | 15 top-rated ebikes for every type of rider
The best electric bike for you will depend on the type of riding you want to do, so in this guide we’ll cover the whole range of different electric bike types and recommend some of the best we’ve tested.
Electric bikes – or ebikes as they’re commonly known – are bicycles with an electric motor and battery that provides assistance as you pedal. There are many benefits to riding an electric bike. Electric bikes make riding up hills easier and will enable most riders to travel at a higher speed over longer distances without arriving at their destination covered in sweat.
Despite common misconceptions, you can still ride an electric bike for fitness. Electric bike laws limit the power of an ebike’s motor, so you still need to pedal – there’s no twist-and-go throttle here. There is an electric bike for every type of riding. Electric folding bikes and electric hybrid bikes are great choices for cycling to work, the best electric mountain bikes will help you get to the top of the next trail so you can enjoy more descending and the best electric road bikes and electric gravel bikes will enable you to take on longer adventures. Making sense of how an electric bike works and how to choose the right one for you is a daunting task. Luckily for you, BikeRadar’s team of expert testers have put in hundreds of hours riding more than 175 electric bikes across all categories. Our testing is 100 per cent editorially independent, so you can always trust our recommendations. In this in-depth buyer’s guide to choosing the best electric bike for any rider, we’ll talk you through the things you need to consider for each category of ebike. We also highlight the best bikes we have reviewed, as selected by BikeRadar’s expert team of tech editors, for each type of ebike, with links to our detailed buyer’s guide for each category. We also have a general buyer’s guide to electric bike tech at the bottom of this article that answers common questions. For even more information, take a look at our ebike FAQs. There’s a lot to cover here, so use the links below to skip to the section you need, or read on for every detail.
Best electric hybrid bikes
Like a non-assisted hybrid bike, electric hybrid bikes feature an upright riding position, flat bars and stable handling. They’re often the least expensive entry point into ebikes.
With lots of mounting points for accessories such as pannier bags and mudguards, electric hybrids are great if you’re planning to commute to work by bike, ride around town or want to go for leisurely rides on bike trails or through parks.
Electric hybrid bikes can be quite heavy because they tend to use less sophisticated motor systems and the bikes are built for robustness. This is worth bearing in mind if you need to carry them up stairs.
Below is a selection of four of the very best electric hybrid bikes as tested by our senior road technical editor, Warren Rossiter. For more recommendations, check out our full round-up of the best electric hybrid bikes.
Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0
- £2,600 / €2,999 / 3,500 as tested
- Pros: Well-tuned power delivery; low weight
- Cons: Lower-torque motor means you have to put in more work
Specialized makes two electric hybrid bike ranges. Whereas the standard Turbo Vado is a heavy-duty ebike, the Vado SL uses a less powerful motor with 35Nm of torque. This reduces the weight to under 15kg, but the flip side is that you have less assistance than with the Turbo Vado, which could be a problem on hills.
The other advantage of the lower output is clean looks, with the concealed battery giving a sporty appearance. Specialized fits lights to all models and includes mudguards and a luggage rack on pricier models.
Canyon Pathlite:ON 5
- £2,499 / €2,699, as tested
- Pros: Great handling and confident off-road
- Cons: Heavy versus its rivals
The Canyon Pathlite:ON 5 is a powerful electric hybrid bike that handles and rides commendably. Our testing found the Canyon’s 100km claimed range to be true, but there’s no denying the bike is heavy at 23.5kg.
Where the Pathlite:ON 5 truly stands out is off the tarmac, where it rivals electric mountain bikes with confidence-inspiring chunky tyres and a shock-absorbing suspension fork.
Tern Quick Haul P9
- £3,100 / 3,299 / AU4995 as tested
- Pros: Great fun to ride and versatile
- Cons: Official add-ons are fairly pricey
The Tern Quick Haul P9 looks like a cargo bike at first glance, but its compact design means it isn’t much longer than a typical electric hybrid.
With the option to fit a huge array of useful add-on accessories both front and back, our tester described the Quick Haul P9 as a “genuinely viable car replacement”.
Best electric folding bikes
Commuters who travel by public transport or are short on space are catered for too. Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media
If you want to cycle to work or are just pressed for space to store your ride, a compact electric folding bike could be the answer.
Folding ebikes often have the battery hidden in their frames, or they may come with a removable battery to make carrying them on and off public transport a bit easier.
A removable battery also means you can take it somewhere where it’s easier to charge (at your desk, for example, if you use the bike to ride to work).
But the extra weight of the motor and battery means carrying a folding ebike on and off public transport, and up and down stairs, will be harder. The available range can be quite limited in some models too.
For more product recommendations, check out our round-up of the best folding electric bikes.
The Brompton Electric adds a front-hub motor to the iconic folder. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
- £2,725 as tested
- Pros: Very compact fold; smooth power delivery
- Cons: Quite heavy; two pieces to carry
A front-hub motor adds electric power to the classic Brompton folding bike, giving you a range of around 40km. The battery sits in a separate pack, which can be removed from the bike for carrying.
Since we tested the Brompton Electric, the standard bike has been redesignated the C Line Explore. It’s been joined by the P Line, which uses lighter frame materials and components to chop almost 2kg off the C Line’s 17.4kg claimed weight.
- £3,999 as tested
- Pros: Larger wheels ride more smoothly; stylish design
- Cons: Expensive; doesn’t fold as small as some ebikes
While pricey, the GoCycle G4 is a folder, commuter and electric bike in one. The ride and handling are far more assured than most folding bikes on- and off-road, thanks to the meaty tyres and larger wheels.
The bike folds in half at its centre, making it easier to roll than to carry and the removable battery in the front of the frame is accessed via the fold. At over 17kg, it’s quite heavy though.
MiRider One GB3
The GB3 is an upgrade on the original MiRider One, with an accompanying price rise. David Caudery / Our Media
- £2,495 as tested
- Pros: Very compact
- Cons: Price has increased significantly from the original bike
The MiRider One GB3 is an upgrade from the original model we tested a few years ago. Unfortunately, that’s resulted in a significant price hike, but the ebike is still a compact, nippy city commuter.
The belt drive is cleaner and lower-maintenance than a chain, there’s good adjustability, and built-in rear suspension and wide tyres add comfort.
The GB3 design has three speeds, adding flexibility over the singlespeed predecessor, and you can change gear while stationary. We achieved a range of up to 50km.
Best electric mountain bikes
Electric mountain bikes can be great on the climbs, but handling on the descents can take a bit of getting used to. Ian Linton
An electric mountain bike will get you to the top quicker, particularly on technical, steeper climbs, and with more energy to enjoy the descents. Plus, getting up the ups more easily will give you extra range to explore further.
Recent improvements in eMTB performance mean handling is approaching that of the best mountain bikes without a motor, providing heaps of flat-out riding fun.
But, nevertheless, the extra weight can make handling more tricky on particularly technical sections, so it’s a good idea to ease off a bit until you’ve got the feel of the bike
This is a small selection of the best electric mountain bikes we have tested, as selected by our expert team of mountain bike tech editors, Alex Evans, Robin Weaver and Tom Marvin.
Vitus E-Sommet VRX
For the money, the E-Sommet has to be one of the best electric mountain bikes out there. Ian Linton / Our Media
- £5,499 as tested
- Pros: Quality spec; great geometry and suspension
- Cons: Awkward cable routing and bottle placement
The Vitus E-Sommet adds a powerful Shimano EP8 motor and large-capacity battery to Vitus’ enduro platform. It rolls on a 29in front and 27.5in rear wheel mullet build and is impressively specced for its price, with a 170mm RockShox ZEB Ultimate fork, a Super Deluxe Select RT shock and Shimano’s XT groupset.
The E-Sommet descends and climbs impressively, with both comfort and great grip, making it fun, engaging and highly capable.
Marin Rift Zone E2
- £5,895 / 6,299 / €6,899 as tested
- Pros: Lively; great spec
- Cons: Slightly over-geared; less powerful motor than its competitors
The Marin Rift Zone E2 is a classy, comfortable full-suspension electric mountain bike with 140mm travel. It can take you beyond its trail riding mandate, handling more technical descents well.
The Rift Zone ebike is well specced for its price, although the Shimano EP801 motor’s 85Nm torque is a little less than competitors. We’d have preferred a smaller chainring than the 38t fitted for easier climbing.
Whyte E-160 RSX
- £7,999 as tested
- Pros: Calm and composed handling; hides its weight well
- Cons: Some chain slap; seat tube too slack for optimal climbing
The Whyte E-160 RSX is a well-equipped enduro bike, with its battery mounted below the Bosch motor to lower its centre of gravity.
Whyte says the full down tube this allows improves torsional rigidity as well. Lower-spec E-160s are available in both 29in and ‘mullet’ form, so you can pick your preferred wheel configuration, although this top-spec model is 29in only.
Despite its 26kg-plus weight, we found the low centre of gravity made for impressive downhill performance, although we’d have liked to see a slightly steeper seat tube for better climbing.
Best electric road bikes
It’s often hard to tell many electric road bikes from their unassisted counterparts. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
If you enjoy road cycling, but want a bit of help to keep your speed up or to get you up hills, an electric road bike could be the right choice for you.
Most e-road bikes use lightweight motor systems that provide less power than the motors used on electric hybrid or mountain bikes. This means they’re typically a bit lighter too, with the very lightest models tipping the scales at around 11kg.
However, with many road riders achieving speeds on the flat of 15mph or above, you may feel you’re carrying dead weight around, with the motor cutting out at that top-assisted speed, although assistance can continue to 20mph, or even in some cases 28mph in much of the USA.
Below are three of the very best electric road bikes senior road technical editor Warren Rossiter has tested to date.
BMC Roadmachine AMP One
- £7,600 / €7,999 as tested
- Pros: Smooth ride; compact motor; impressive range
- Cons: Tyres may need a swap-out for colder, wetter conditions
The BMC Roadmachine AMP One doesn’t look much different from its non-assisted sibling; it’s only the slightly expanded down tube, hiding a 350Wh battery, that shows there’s extra assistance. The Mahle X20 motor is so compact it hides between the largest cassette sprocket and the disc rotor.
The ride feels like the non-assisted Roadmachine as well, despite the 12kg weight. Range is impressive, heading up to 160km, depending on the conditions. We’d swap out the tyres for winter use though.
Scott Addict eRide Premium
The Scott Addict eRide Premium looks and rides like a racy road bike. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
- £8,349 / 9,299 as tested
- Pros: Great looks; top-spec build; lovely handling
- Cons: Non-removable battery
The Scott Addict eRide Premium has similar geometry to the Scott Addict RC Disc and the same carbon frame. The result is a possible sub-11kg build powered by the consistent ebikemotion rear-hub motor.
Neatly concealed in the down tube, the battery managed 100km and 2,000m elevation in testing. The 2022 version of the bike has been renamed as the Scott Addict eRide Ultimate.
The Fastest Electric Bike
So, you’ve found yourself searching for the perfect electric mountain bike. You’re scrutinizing suspension and geometry. You’re making sure you have top-of-the-line brakes and a build kit that suits your riding style. Before you opt all the way in for speed, ask yourself: what do you sacrifice when you go all in on power that’s solely centered on speed? We’re here with a host of tips to help you make sure you choose and create the fastest electric fat tire bike possible.
The Fastest EBike
When we look at any bike that doesn’t utilize pedal assist and touts a motor power of over 5KW (that’s over five times our most powerful motor), we tread further away from the realm of electric bicycles. Truly, they fall into a class of their own that exists somewhere between e-bikes and motorbikes and mopeds. And, they’re not allowed on many bike trails or in National Parks. So before you make a decision, ensure you’re fully understanding what kicking up the speed might preclude you from accessing.
The Three E-Bike Classifications
As the technology of electric mountain bikes becomes more sophisticated and more people around the globe buy and explore on their e-bikes, local and national authorities are creating more legislation to ensure that all user groups can coexist in Smart ways that promote a positive experience for all.
Recently, there was a monumental announcement from the National Forest Service that paves the way for allowing local governing bodies to decide where and how e-bikes can be used on trails owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Part of what this announcement does is further sharpen the language around the three classifications of electric bikes. Yes, this is a positive step for e-bikes, but it is also something of which you should be well aware when you’re thinking about your need for speed.
Class 1: electric bikes in this category are pedal-assist only—meaning the bike will not move without active physical engagement by the rider—and there’s no throttle with a maximum assisted speed of 20mph.
Class 2: electric bikes in this category are also pedal-assisted but also feature a throttle. The maximum speed is still 20mph.
Class 3: like Class 1 bikes, electric bikes in this category are pedal-assist only and there’s no throttle. But, unlike Class 1, the maximum assisted speed is 28mph.
Note that it’s understood that all classes limit the motor’s power to 1 horsepower. So the aforementioned fastest electric bikes on the market are outside of this classification.
Ways to Make Sure Yours is the Fastest Electric Bike
In order to ensure the greatest possible access for our electric bikes, you can expect that maxed out, all QuietKat e-bikes will roll at about 20mph (which—all things considered—is pretty fast when you’re hauling through the forest on the trail). But, there are a number of other ways to attempt to make sure yours is the fastest electric fat tire bike possible. Here are our quick tips:
Make sure you’re fully charged.
A fully charged electric mountain bike yields a higher voltage output. We broke down the full details of what to expect from a (fully charged )1000 watt electric bike on our blog.
Invest in a higher voltage battery.
Like we said above, a bike with a higher charge results in a higher voltage output which, in turn, ensures you’re getting the most out of your speedometer. Peruse the full lineup of QuietKat batteries and charging accessories to see if an upgrade is right for you.
Opt for smoother tires.
If you’re taking your mountain-going steed off the trails and into the urban concrete jungle, one way to make sure you’re achieving top speed is to swap out your knobby, grippy tires for smoother tires. Smoother tires have less rolling resistance and can even add a 1-2mph bump.
Tune your brakes.
Did you know that poorly tuned brakes can slow down your e-bike? The unnecessary friction from brake rub can keep you from your full speed potential. It’s easy to learn how to tune your brakes yourself. If you’d rather leave it to the experts, simply take it to your local bike shop.
Ever watched the Tour de France? Then you’ll see the riders picking up impressive speed when they crouch low into their handlebars and reduce wind resistance. Try it: it’s amazing how much speed you can feel yourself picking up when you’re rolling downhill.
Built and tested in the USA. Motor Power | 20kW Stock Battery | 72V 36Ah (2.6kWh) Stock Range | 16-8 0 miles Brakes | 220mm Tektro Brakes Suspension Travel | 8 Front and 10 Rear Wheels | 19 Motorcycle DOT wheels Charger | 110V Smart AC Charger Contact for custom paint color, p ictures for reference only.
AuxiliaryPower and LED Light Kit
- Ultra-bright head and tail light
- On/Off button
- 12V lighter port 5V USB up to 120 Watts.
Street Safety Kit
Making your ride safer and necessary if you intend to register you bike, it includes:
- Auxiliary Power Kit
- Brake light
- Turn signals
- Hand-built in the USA with top materials and expertise.
- Essential for pushing your bike to the highest levels of performance.
- ~2x standard spoke diameter.
- 18 Excel Takasago rim (or similar) for high impacts and rocky conditions.
Tektro Brake System
- 1.8mm: 220mm Rotors / 2-piston
- 2.3mm System: 220mm Rotors / 4-piston
- Dual Front Rotors: Less noise / 2x Front Force / Longer brake life
Schlumpf 2 Speed Crankset
- Made in Germany
- 2.5:1 overdrive, pedal upwards of 50 mph. (Only 15 mph stock)
- A satisfying feeling and can add to the effective range of your bike.
USA Shipping: 600 ready-to-ride
Call or Email for International Shipping.
1 (714) 594-9885 / email@example.com
What’s the max range of your bikes?
Battery sizes are as follows:
24Ah / 1.7kW Hours | 12-60 miles of range. 30Ah / 2.2kW Hours | 14-70 miles of range. 42Ah / 3kW Hours | 20-100 miles of range. 63Ah / 4.5kW Hours | 40-200 miles of range.
Riding easy vs hard can result in a ~5x difference in range. This is true for all battery powered high-performance vehicles.
How capable are the bikes?
Acceleration: Our ebikes have surprising torque, and the Recon is quicker than any other ebike. Nimbleness: Added weight from a larger battery is hardly noticeable. Light, powerful, and agile. Terrain: Standard 8 front and 10 rear suspension allow you to overcome most all obstacles.
What is the Performance Motor wheel?
Hand-built in the USA and doubling the spoke diameter from the standard. It cushions the motor from high impacts and rocky conditions. Mitigating dented rims with its higher sidewall.This is essential if you’ll be pushing your bike to the highest levels of performance.
Rain and wet conditions?
Our E-bikes can handle rain and water splashes. However, submerging or pressure washing the bikes with water is not recommended and can lead to component damage or failure.
How should I clean my bike?
Use a clean, dry or damp microfiber cloth to wipe down your ride or leave it dirty as your badge of honor.
The incredible, Earth-saving electric bike is having a moment
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The clean-transportation revolution won’t arrive by way of futuristic hyperloops, driverless taxi pods, or drones the size of minivans — not anytime soon, at least.
And while electric cars get all the hype, a game-changing solution to getting around without warming the planet has flourished right under our noses.
Electric bicycles of all shapes and sizes have whirred and zipped their way into the mainstream in recent years as the pandemic has supercharged an e-biking boom that was already well underway. And that’s a great thing, because while replacing gas-burning cars with electric ones is key to heading off global warming, research has found Americans also need to drive less altogether to avoid climate catastrophe.
The Earth-saving potential of e-bikes
Transportation is the single biggest contributor to US greenhouse-gas emissions. And light-duty vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs, not semis and airplanes) make up the largest chunk of that. Gains in vehicle efficiency are being dragged down by rising sales of large SUVs and trucks, while practically no progress has been made in reducing the number of miles people drive, Carter Rubin, a transportation lead at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Insider.
All that makes enticing people to step out of the driver’s seat and onto a bike, bus, or sidewalk increasingly important for meeting climate goals.
Cleaner cars are an important solution, but we can’t just FOCUS on cars, Katherine García, the director of the Clean Transportation for All Campaign at the Sierra Club, told Insider. We need to make sure we are putting programs in place that really encourage people to take alternatives.
E-bikes have loads of potential to pry Americans away from their beloved automobiles, advocates told Insider, especially since short trips could easily be made on two wheels instead. According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than half of all trips in the US are under 3 miles.
A University of Oxford study found that swapping a car for a bike just once a day slashed an individual’s transportation emissions by a whopping 67%. Another study found choosing an e-bike for 15% of one’s miles traveled cut their transportation emissions by 12%.
Fast, fun, and convenient, e-bikes are already helping people make that kind of shift in their daily lives.
Victor Silva, a product manager in the suburbs of Washington, DC, bought a RadRunner Plus from Rad Power Bikes for 1,900 in the summer after realizing most of his car trips were only a few miles. Now he’s hooked. He recently bought another e-bike and is looking to sell his and his wife’s second car since it barely gets any use. He said he wasn’t going to miss the insurance payments or traffic jams.
I’m trading an activity that I absolutely hate doing, which is getting stuck in traffic, with something that I actually like doing, which is getting some exercise and riding my bike, he told Insider.
After Wesley Cook and his wife sold their second car last year, they test-rode a pair of e-bikes from a local, Atlanta-based company called Edison Bicycles and never looked back. While they had never biked much before, they’ve slowly replaced daily errands like getting groceries or taking their son to school with e-bike rides.
Cook, a software engineer, just made an addition to the couple’s fleet — a cargo bike from Urban Arrow that has plenty of room for their son and their baby who’s arriving later this year.
The e-bike advantage
The power of e-bikes to alter peoples’ habits and help save the planet is simple and maybe a little obvious. But it’s important and worth spelling out nonetheless: By making biking easier, e-bikes encourage people to ride more.
A little electrical assistance goes a long way toward helping people overcome the obstacles keeping them from biking, whether that’s steep hills, a lengthy commute, physical limitations, or the mortifying thought of showing up somewhere with pit stains, John MacArthur, a professor at Portland State University who researches sustainable transportation, told Insider.
A lot of those barriers can be broken down by putting a motor on a bike, he said.
National surveys he’s conducted have indicated that e-bikes motivate people to ride farther and more often — plus they broaden interest in cycling beyond the stereotypical spandex-clad white man.
Lyft, which operates bike-sharing systems across the US, has noticed similar trends. It’s seen ridership boom by more than 50% since 2020 and attributes much of that growth to e-bikes. In 2021, e-bikes made up just 20% of Lyft’s New York City fleet but 40% of total rides and nearly two-thirds of journeys between boroughs, which typically involve a steep climb over a bridge.
As many people who have ridden an e-bike will tell you, they’re just plain fun — and they can often get you places faster and with less hassle than a car or bus. They’re that rare thing in life that’s both good and good for you.
They’re kind of a rocket fuel for regular biking, Rubin, a daily e-biker, told Insider.
Electric cars are important, too, but they’re expensive and far off for a lot of drivers, MacArthur said. Just consider someone who recently bought a gas car and doesn’t plan on trading it in for a decade. E-bikes, on the other hand, are an option that’s right here, right now.
The most popular electric vehicles in the US don’t have a Tesla logo
While electric cars get all the attention, e-bikes have for years been the best-selling electric vehicles in the US.
Last year, Americans bought just over 800,000 electric cars, according to Kelley Blue Book, a record. E-bike imports (a good proxy for sales since most e-bikes aren’t made in the US) numbered around 1.1 million, surging from 880,000 in 2021 and 437,000 the year before, according to an e-bike-industry trade group.
In dollar terms, e-bike retail sales nearly quadrupled in the past four years, rising from 240.1 million in 2019 to 885.5 million in 2022, the market-research firm Circana estimates. While sales of leg-powered bicycles slumped 16% last year, e-bike sales jumped by 100 million.
Ed Benjamin, the Light Electric Vehicle Association’s chair, chalks up the trend to growing awareness among consumers and more interest and know-how among bike sellers. The pandemic, which made people wary of close-quarters public transit, boosted e-bike fandom to new heights, he said. And sales show no sign of slowing down. In China and some parts of Europe, one out of every two bikes sold has a motor, Benjamin said, which indicates there’s plenty of room for growth in the US.
Improving tech and new form factors for different types of shoppers have fueled public appetite, too, MacArthur of Portland State said. Now buyers can choose from a wide variety of regular-looking bikes, folding bikes, tricycles, fat-tire mopeds, and even cargo bikes, which have extra room for groceries and seats for children.
The demand explosion has meant boom times for e-bike makers who played their cards right, like California’s Aventon, which got its start in 2013 selling (nonelectric) fixed-gear bikes.
Seeing the potential in e-bikes, the young firm went all in on the technology in 2020, at what turned out to be a very opportune time. Since then, it’s expanded its lineup to seven models and multiplied its revenues by a factor of 42, Aventon’s chief marketing officer, Adele Nasr, told Insider. One key driver of the success, Nasr said: Customers are increasingly seeing e-bikes as legitimate tools for replacing car trips, rather than just toys for recreation.
They’re starting to think about them differently, starting to imagine use cases that are so much more evolved than they were even three years ago, which is incredible, Nasr said.
Congress could give the e-bike boom another jolt
While the federal government has committed billions of dollars to public EV charging and 7,500 tax refunds to buyers of Teslas and electric Ford F-150s, it’s largely left e-bikes out in the cold.
That’s a big mistake, said Noa Banayan, the director of federal affairs at PeopleForBikes, an advocacy group that represents the bike industry. Since e-bikes are much cheaper than electric cars, you can get them into the hands of consumers faster, she said.
But times are changing. In March, a group of congresspeople reintroduced the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act, which proposes a 30% discount (up to 1,500) for the purchase of a new e-bike. The law could not only make e-bikes more accessible to more Americans, Rubin of the Natural Resources Defense Council said, but also send a powerful message to state and local governments to get serious about safer cycling infrastructure such as protected bike lanes.
Unlike when it was first introduced (then scrapped) in 2021, the bill now has support from major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Environment America.
Now they’re realizing that electric bicycles and active transportation, and micromobility more broadly, should be a part of their larger transportation and climate agendas, Banayan said. That’s really exciting.
This article is part of The Great Transition, a series covering the big changes across industries that are leading to a more sustainable future. For more climate-action news, visit Insider’s One Planet hub.