British perceptions of eBikes in 2021
Bosch eBike systems, the electric bike division of the German battery giant, Bosch, has recently revealed the significant results of a study into eBike interest amongst Britons.
2000 people were questioned on their perceptions of electric bikes, their thoughts on purchasing one for themselves, and whether these had recently changed thanks to their experience of the past 17 months of the pandemic.
Perhaps the most interesting finding is that over half of those questioned said they were considering purchasing an electric bike, a clear confirmation that e-mobility is increasing in popularity. Quantitatively, the number of eBikes sold in Britain increased in 2020 by 68% (figures compiled by the Bike Association have shown, for the first time ever, eBike sales outstripped those of electric cars for 2020, with some 160,000 eBikes sold last year). This was a trend that the study pointed towards the pandemic as fuelling, with 23% saying that the experience of 2020 had made them more inclined to get one than before.
Amongst those who had recently bought an eBike, 56% said that the pandemic’s effect on shifting habits and circumstance had played a direct role in influencing their decision. For example, 28% of those with eBikes said they had bought it to forgo public transport and its potential for Covid transmission. Other reasons were likewise health motivated, with 54% saying their purchase was to boost their exercise levels, while others referred to reducing their carbon footprint.
Indeed, 25% of owners said they had bought their eBike to supplement their car, with 53% of owners saying they had cut down car dependence thanks to their new eBike. Meanwhile, 32% of prospective buyers said they would use their car less if they had an eBike.
The benefits for air quality, reducing global warming and congestion in cities would be felt significantly if British purchasing habits followed this trajectory. For example, if it translated to one journey fewer made by car per day, the average person would reduce their annual carbon footprint by half a tonne of carbon dioxide.
While these statistics are significant and encouraging, a caveat at this stage is that 66% of those asked would be more enticed to buy an eBike with the help of government subsidies, suggesting the relatively high price of eBikes is still a factor in delaying their general acceptance.
Thankfully, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recently announced a £338 million package that will be used to grow cycling. Coming as a 30% increase on what was announced in last year’s milestone spending review, the package will look to encourage the public to choose more sustainable travel options and make urban areas greener and cleaner, including encouraging eBike uptake through subsidies, including one (inspired by that already proposed in France) which will discount eBikes by as much as a third.
With eBike technology maturing (increasingly comparing them well to cars as commuter tools) and as supply issues drop off, we look forward to seeing how transport patterns change with their impetus and hope that business, government and social factors continue to coalesce and drive the change.