Electric bike vs alternatives

Ebikes are growing in popularity, and people are choosing to replace regular bicycles and cars with an ebike. In cities, ebikes are offering a fun, affordable alternative to oversubscribed, unreliable public transport. The reasons behind this are simple – they’re more convenient, faster, and environmentally friendly. According to the Department of Transportation, half of all trips are 3 miles or less which is easily navigable by bike (even more so by ebike), yet 72% of these trips are currently made by car, and only 2% by bicycle.

A recent industry analysis showed that ebike sales in America had increased 83 percent between May 2017 and May 2018, and sales now make up 10% of overall bike sales in the US. With a price tag of between $2000 and $3000 (compared to $1000 for a middle of the range commuter bicycle), ebikes are becoming a viable option (especially if the maintenance and fuel costs are factored in) for commuters looking to replace shorter trips typically made by car.


Ebikes vs. The Competition


Since 2010, the number of residents in New York has grown by almost 400 000 (and in 2015 there were 10 million more tourists than in 2010. That puts pressure on the transport system regardless of what transportation method commuters are using to get to work.

The current trend of urbanization means that the rate of growth in other cities around America has been similar, with the result that commutes are longer as residents are forced to move further away from the city center, but the capacity of the existing transport infrastructure has not expanded to meet the increased demand.


Ebikes vs. Normal Bicycles

standard bicycleCycling to work has always been a popular option in much of Western Europe and Asia, but less so in America. With the requirements for professionalism in the workplace, longer commutes and limited infrastructure for cyclists in American cities, cycling is often not a convenient option.


This is changing slowly as city planners in large cities have recognized the importance of reducing the congestion on roads and as a result bicycle infrastructure is improving, but arriving at work sweaty from a long cycle commute is not a viable option. This is where ebikes offer a more convenient, less physically demanding alternative.


Bike Share

In different American cities, ebike-share systems have been gaining popularity. The country’s first electric bike sharing system was launched in 2011 by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville on the university’s campus, followed by a city-wide bike sharing system in Birmingham, Alabama.


In 2016 Utah unveiled plans for an ebike-share system. Other conventional bike share systems are following suit, integrating ebikes into their existing non-motorized fleets, with providers such as LimeBike, Jump Bike and Motivate leading the way, offering dockless ebikes in major cities such as Austin, Denver, and Sacramento.


Ebikes vs. Public Transport

standard busIn American cities, commuters travel by subway or buses to get to work. But in many cities, such as New York, the subway system is notoriously unreliable and hopelessly oversubscribed.


Ebikes offer an affordable alternative (if annual public transport passes are taken into account) that is still quick, with a similar environmental impact. They also solve the ‘first and last mile problem’ that cause many commuters to bypass the public transport system entirely.


Ebikes vs. Cars

car trafficThroughout America, car sales among millennials (people born between 1981 and 2004) have fallen by over 30%; this is largely because owning a car is impractical and expensive.


Taking into account insurance, repairs, parking costs, registration fees, and fuel; it’s around 20 times cheaper on annual fees to own an ebike rather than a car, and the startup costs are also lower. In terms of convenience, ebikes also have a lot to offer over a car. They’re much easier to store, maintain and ‘refuel’ especially for people living in crowded areas.


Legislative Challenges

State legislatures have begun the process of differentiating and defining ebikes, as well as implementing laws that regulate their operation, equipment standards and access to roadways, paths, and trails.


On a federal level ebikes were defined and legalized in 2002, and they are now differentiated from gas-powered motor vehicles such as scooters and motorcycles. Twenty-seven states across America, along with Washington D.C., have legally defined ebikes. In the state of California, and in 10 other states, there are three defined classes of ebike designated based on speed, and the law regulates where each is allowed to be ridden.


In New York, pedelec ebikes will soon be legal, as Mayor de Blasio said “The new e-bike rule will recognize that pedal-assist bicycles are permissible,” however throttle operated e-bikes will not be legal in New York City under State law. He also highlighted the opportunity that they present as they “help cyclists travel longer distances and more easily climb steep hills.”



Ebike Classes


  • Class 1 (Pedelec): A Class 1 electric bicycle is defined as a bicycle equipped with a motor that only provides assistance when the rider is actively pedaling (pedelec), limited to a speed of 20 miles per hour.
  • Class 2 (Throttle): A Class 2 electric bicycle is equipped with a motor that may exclusively propel the bike (throttle), limited to 20 miles per hour.
  • Class 3 (Spedelec): A Class 3 electric bike assists only when the rider is pedaling up to speeds of 28 miles per hour (spedelec).




The reasons for purchasing an ebike vary – from a cheap, convenient commuting option to a less physically demanding option compared to cycling (especially in hilly areas).


Ebikes have a similar environmental impact to public transport, but they are often a more convenient, reliable alternative and are relatively inexpensive compared to the costs of owning a car. Add to this the reduced physical impact compared to cycling, and it’s easy to see why ebikes are outclassing the competition.

Although legislative implications are still unclear in many cities, the growth of ebike popularity and updates by policymakers points towards an increasing uptake in ebike ownership in the United States.