The popularity of e-bikes is not slowing down

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This kind of trend has the potential to transform urban transportation. In New York City, just over half of all car trips are three miles or less, according to a 2019 study by analytics firm INRIX. Many short car trips could be replaced, hypothetically, by a short, quick ride on an electric bike. So what would it take to get there?

The growing appetite for electrified commuting is the product of three trends happening simultaneously, said David Zipper, a visiting scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a specialist in new forms of mobility technology.

The first is the rapid development of lithium-ion batteries. Used to power electric cars, these batteries “have become smaller, more efficient and less expensive,” Zipper said, allowing their use in scooters, mopeds and, he added, “for applications. smaller as well, like a bicycle “.

The second, he said, is a renewed global interest in urban cycling over the past decade. And the third is what he called the “drug gateway” of bike-sharing programs, which allow cyclists to try out electric bikes without buying one.

“You put them together and it’s kind of a natural outgrowth,” said Zipper, who regularly uses Washington’s Capital Bikeshare, or CaBi. “Electric bikes capitalize on all of these things.”

Most electric bikes fall into three categories. With the first, pedal assistance, cyclists receive a motorized boost, like an invisible hand pushing them forward. The second, an accelerator, allows the rider to zoom, up to 20 miles per hour, without pedaling, and is commonly used by delivery drivers and couriers. And the last is faster pedal assist, allowing speeds of at least 28 mph.

For New York’s Citi Bike, blue e-bikes make up 20% of the fleet but carry 35% of all trips, according to internal data provided by Lyft, its parent company. Considering that monthly Citi bike rides have exceeded three million four times this year, that’s a lot.


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