How Can E-bike Purchase Incentives Grow the E-bike Market?

John MacArthur, Portland State University



E-bike incentives are a way to stimulate more use of e-bikes for transportation purposes that could have the effect of lowering overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Many cities and a few states have financial mechanisms available to support transportation systems that meet transportation and environmental goals. Personally- owned e-bikes have some of the lowest GHG emissions per passenger mile, even if operated in a power sector that relies on fossil fuels. They use only ~2 kWh per 100 miles and emit about 5-10 g of CO2/mile, a fraction of a conventional car. We found that existing e-bikes used for transportation substitute car trips at a high rate; about 70% of e-bike trips are substituting car trips. However, e-bikes still remain out of reach financially for many people, particularly those who are not first adopters or already avid bicyclists who understand the value of a premium bicycle. Some of the most popular e-bike brands have targeted a lower price point and have found a market for more utilitarian e-bike use. Despite well-documented environmental performance of e-bikes relative to cars, there are still questions about the cost effectiveness of public investment in e-bike purchase incentives that would a) spur more adoption of e-bikes for transportation purposes that b) result in more mode substitution away from cars in order to reduce GHG emissions. Popular electric car incentive programs have clear accounting mechanisms that allow policymakers to assess their impacts. Understanding how incentives for e-bikes result in car substitution is a more complex analysis. To date, few studies have evaluated purchase incentives in a systematic way. Specifically, no studies, that the authors are aware of, have used experimental approaches to assess the marginal effect of incentives on purchase. We have conducted similar analysis in the past on electric motorcycles in Vietnam and electric bikeshare in China. We propose doing a similar study in the U.S. for electric bikes. The outcome of this study would be a marginal assessment of expected increase in e-bike purchase intention related to explicit and implicit changes in purchase price. From this assessment, readers of the study will be able to assess the cost effectiveness of different incentives in increasing the overall market and reducing GHG emissions from the transport sector.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
In Progress
End Date:
September 30,2022
UTC Grant Cycle:
NITC 16 Round 5
UTC Funding: