Note: Dan Gearino will return next week.
Kiran Herbert may be the person to convince you that ebikes can help cure cancer. She’s not just a writer and content manager at the bicycle advocacy group PeopleForBikes. She is an e-bike evangelist who wants electric bicycles to spread throughout her home state of Colorado, as well as across the country and the world.
“I just love it,” Herbert said during a phone interview. “I rode 10 miles today which on a normal bike is a lot and it’s not something I could just fit into my daily routine. But when I’m on an e-bike and have to go five miles I don’t even hesitate because it’s just as easy as driving. It’s almost better, because I arrive happier.”
She has good reason to be so excited. The state of Colorado will release $12 million next week for ebike ownership and rideshare programs. The funding is part of Colorado State Senate Bill 22-193, signed into law June 2. It is one of a number of state and local measures that recognize e-bikes in the United States as an essential tool to encourage people to ride less and reduce their carbon emissions.
“I will say the Colorado bill…has a lot of people excited because it’s showcasing what’s possible,” said Herbert. “Because they have done all these pilot [programs], there’s just a lot of proof that this works and they’re pretty much going all-in on e-bikes, which is really exciting. And I think, honestly, that’s the strategy this country needs.”
According to PeopleForBikes and Portland State University, Colorado joins Connecticut, Connecticut, and Vermont as states that offer statewide ebike incentive programs. Massachusetts could soon join them with a bill in the legislature that would offer rebates to consumers who buy e-bikes.
Electric bicycles have existed for more than 100 years. Recent technological advancements, including the development lighter batteries, have made it easier to ride an electric bicycle. The Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns made it easier for people to share, buy, and ride bikes.
According to NPD Group, an independent market research firm, E-bike sales increased by 47 percent over the 12 months ending October 2021. This makes this a $741m product category.
It’s not just sales that are up. Bicycle sharing programs all over the country have added electric bikes to their fleets. Electric bikes are available in Madison, Wisconsin, Charlotte, North Carolina, Chicago, and New York City. Riders seem happy. And The New York Times reports that in New York’s CitiBike rideshare program, e-bikes make up only 20 percent of the fleet but provide 35 percent of the rides.
E-bikes are very popular. But are they good to the environment? Kiran Herbert, an evangelist, says that e-bikes can replace many city car rides. E-bikes use less energy than either a gas-powered or an electric-powered car. People will be able to save money and reduce their carbon footprints by using e-bikes in place of their cars.
There is evidence to support this. A 2020 study in Norway showed that e-bike owners will drive less if they purchase a car.
E-bikes still require the use lithium-ion battery to power their motors. However, there are concerns about the environmental impact of lithium mining and the potential for battery fires. Also, e-bikes don’t protect riders from rain, wind and snow like a car. And they can’t completely replace cars in certain circumstances, a fact highlighted by the fact that Herbert did our interview from her car, as she drove an hour to the airport from her home in Boulder.
“If it’s raining, I’m going to still bike. It doesn’t rain a lot here,” admitted Herbert. “If it’s snowing, I live in a pretty blessed climate where the snow melts during the day ‘cause it’s so sunny. I also just walk or take the bus in town, or sometimes I’ll drive, but I think it really just depends on where you are. There are places in the Northeast where biking in the winter is just not an option.”
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There’s also the challenge of infrastructure. Herbert stated that American cities are built around cars. To accommodate those who prefer to walk or cycle, they will need to be physically rebuilt.
“The way we build our cities, everything we’ve done is so car-centric,” said Herbert. “If we actually want to become more sustainable, then we need to redesign our cities around people and bikes in a way where everybody can access things regardless of whether or not they have a car.”
Herbert pointed out that e-bike use is expected to rise in the business sector. UPS, an international shipping company started a trial of electric delivery cycles in New York City on Tuesday. UPS’s e-bikes (called eQuads) have four wheels instead of two, and look more like mini mail trucks than typical e-bikes. Herbert hopes that ebikes can be made a national priority by the power and influence of big business.
“I think, once companies and corporations get involved, we might see some shift at the federal level.”
You can also find other stories about the energy transition in this week’s news:
Solar Developers pledge $6 billion for Made-in America PanelsThe United States’ largest solar developers have announced that they are creating a new group to buy panels made here. This could greatly increase the domestic manufacturing industry. The group—including AES Corp., Clearway Energy Group, Cypress Creek Renewables and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments—said it wants to help diversify the supply of panels in a market that is now dominated by plants based in Asia, as David Iaconangelo reports for E&E News. The group claimed it would buy 7 gigawatts of panels annually from U.S. plants by 2024. This is considerably more than the 4.8 billion watts produced in the United States last year. The developers may be trying to protect themselves against potential import restrictions and supply-chain uncertainties that may exist in the coming years, Pol Lezcano, a solar analyst at BloombergNEF, told E&E News.
Democrats may drop another clean energy proposal to appease ManchinU.S. Senate Democrats are continuing negotiations to get Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on board to support a long-stalled program of climate and clean energies policies. The party is considering dropping an option that would have paid direct incentives to renewable energy developer, rather than allowing them to claim the incentives on their taxes. Maxine Joselow from The Washington Post reports. Developers and clean energy business groups have pushed for the “direct pay” provision because it would help smaller developers that have less tax liability and would allow for a faster use of incentives. Manchin opposed direct pay because he sees it as a handout to businesses.
A Clean Energy Boom Hits Colorado’s Eastern Plains:A boom in solar and wind power development is changing the landscape of Eastern Colorado’s farmland. The approval of an interstate power line will allow for more electricity to be transported from rural Colorado to the urban centers. This is the result of the wave of renewable energy projects, Mark Jaffe reports for The Colorado Sun. Developers are also trying to get projects underway in time to be eligible for federal tax credits, which expire in 2025. “It’s our new cash crop. We don’t have to worry about the rain or hail, as long as the wind blows,” said Jan Kochis, 73, whose family runs a farm and already has wind turbines.
Utility Giant’s ‘Real Zero’ Plan Is a Big Bet on Hydrogen: NextEra Energy, the country’s largest utility holding company based on market capitalization, announced a “Blueprint for Real Zero” last week. The plan would completely replace fossil-fuels by 2045, by converting natural gas plants so that they run on hydrogen produced with clean electricity. The Florida-based company’s plan is a notable contrast to the “net-zero” plans of other major utilities, which would continue to burn some fossil fuels but take steps to offset the emissions. But it’s far from clear that hydrogen will work as a fuel for power plants in the way NextEra is describing, as Rachel Parkes writes for Recharge. NextEra would make hydrogen from water and use renewable energy to power the process. The hydrogen would then be used in power plants. Many energy companies are talking about making hydrogen a part of their transitions to clean energy, but NextEra is notable for making “one of the biggest bets yet to make hydrogen a central piece of the energy landscape,” as Mark Chediak reports for Bloomberg Green.
Inside Clean Energy is ICN’s weekly bulletin of news and analysis about the energy transition. Send news tips and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Inside Climate News