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Should You Buy an Electric Bicycle? This Is the Only Breakdown You Need

Thinking about buying an electric bicycle? Here's what an electric bike is, the pros and cons, and the best e-bike options for every budget.

Written by
Inga Vallery Phlegar

Most cars come with a massive environmental impact. From production to emissions, it's no secret that driving a car is a major contributor to climate change. While some drivers have opted to purchase hybrid or electric vehicles, others are choosing to ride a bicycle—or even an electric bicycle—to decrease their carbon footprint.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average car emits roughly 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. To break that down even further, the average car emits 404 grams of CO2 per mile—the equivalent of charging 49 smartphones. While taking public transportation during peak travel times could decrease your carbon footprint, you may want to try something new: an electric bicycle.

If you're on the fence about purchasing an e-bike, here's everything you should know.

What Is an Electric Bicycle?

Unlike traditional bicycles, electric bicycles are equipped with rechargeable batteries. Because of this battery-powered assist, it's not only easier to pedal but also allows you to get to your destination more quickly and efficiently, making it a great (and less sweaty) alternative to driving a car.

So, how fast can electric bikes go? Most provide electric assist when pedaling up to 20 mph. You can also ride your electric bike as a regular bike, or only use the power as needed—like when you could use an extra boost on steep hills or long rides.

The Pros of Riding an Electric Bicycle

1. They're Environmentally Friendly

Unlike driving a car, riding an e-bicycle minimizes carbon emissions. According to a past study from the European Cyclists Federation, e-bikes create don't just generate fewer carbon emissions than regular cars. They're also better for the planet than electric cars.

Researchers found electric bikes create 2.5 to 5 grams of carbon dioxide per mile compared to electric cars at 150 grams per mile. In general, another study found e-bikes have the capability to reduce car CO2 emissions by 24.4 million.

Most cars, buses, and trains emit large quantities of greenhouse gases if the vehicles aren't electric. And our transportation habits could also result in poor air and water quality. If you're looking for ways to take action against climate change and decrease your carbon footprint, try riding an electric bicycle instead of driving a car.

2. They Can Benefit Your Health

If you're looking for ways to stay active, an electric bike could definitely help. An increase in physical activity could reduce the risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. It has even been shown to improve anxiety and depression.

"One U.S. study found improvements in cardiovascular health, aerobic capacity, and reduced body fat by those who rode an electric bike as little as 40 minutes, three times per week," says Levi Conlow, CEO and co-founder of Lectric eBikes. "Electric bikes are also a great alternative for individuals with health issues or disabilities, making movement and transportation more accessible and easier."

Whether you're biking instead of driving or going on a leisurely ride, an electric bike can get you out of the house and moving.

2. You'll Have an Easier Commute

Showing up to work with sweat stains is usually not ideal. For anyone who lives in a hilly city or lives too far from work to ride a traditional bike, an electric bike is an excellent alternative to riding a traditional bicycle. The motor in the bike will help you conquer your journey while exerting less effort.

"An electric bike can provide as much assistance as necessary so the rider feels comfortable, confident, and in control," Conlow says. "Electric bikes have opened bike riding to a whole new group of consumers, and bike riding is no longer the sole domain of the most fit among us."

Plus, electric bikes can be helpful for those who have previous injuries or arthritis. And select bikes have special adjustments that focus on problem areas like the knees, ankles, or wrists. Commuting, whether you're going to work or simply the corner store, can be made easier with an electric bike.

4. They're Really Fun

Last but not least, riding an electric bike is fun! It's an instant mood-booster. It's also a great way to get outside and enjoy some fresh air.

"Fun and nostalgia come with riding a bike. It seems to take a lot of us back to our childhoods," says Jen Cohen Bogan, founder of Bluejay. "Through the experience of riding an e-bike, you end up discovering so much more around you; new paths through your old neighborhood. It offers so many avenues for exploration, right where you are. Once you ride one, you’re hooked."

The Cons of Electric Bicycles

1. The Cost

Buying an electric bike can be an investment. Most mainstream electric bikes cost between $1,500 and $4,000, and some could be more than $8,000. These bikes, however, are cheaper than cars—and as electric bikes become more popular, the cost is dropping.

But while the upfront cost of an electric bike can be steep, you may be saving more money in the long run. On average, a year's worth of charging an electric bike costs about $29.38. Compare that to how much you spend on gas in your car, and the electric bike might be a worthwhile investment.

"Increasingly, consumers with multiple household vehicles are finding that an electric bike may replace a car, eliminating the high cost of purchase, maintenance, fuel, insurance, parking, licensing, and more," says Conlow. "A 2017 study indicated that approximately half of the private car trips in the United States were shorter than four miles. These short trips are ideal for an electric bike, and it’s a great alternative to help get from point A to point B without the hassle of driving a car."

2. Risk of Injury

Biking, rollerskating, or skateboarding are fun and eco-friendly ways to get from one place to another. But each of these methods can be dangerous, especially if you're just starting out. The same goes for electric bicycles.

Most severe biking injuries can be prevented by wearing a helmet and other protective gear. Whenever you get on a bike, electric or not, be sure to wear a helmet that fits you correctly and is snapped in place.

3. Not Great for Inclement Weather

If you have to travel in inclement weather—including blizzards, freezing temperatures, rain, or high winds—you might not want to ride a bike as it can be unsafe.

With that being said, always check with the manufacturer. Bikes with fat tires, for instance, may be a better option for snowy days. But even using an electric bike part of the year is great for the planet.

Electric Bikes for Every Budget

If you're ready to look into electric bike options, here are two of our favorites to get you started on your journey.

If you're looking for a great electric bike on a budget, Lectric eBikes' XP Step-Thru 2.0 is the perfect pick. Despite being much more affordable than other options on the market, it's also one of the most comfortable and easy-to-use options we tried.

"In our research, we found a market gap in affordable quality electric bikes. We believed that the high price of many electric bikes, often $2,000+, was a roadblock for a large number of consumers," says Conlow. "Our focus was simply to get more people riding bikes and we were determined to build a bike with quality parts at a fair price, offering it directly to the customer."

Another quality that makes this e-bike unique is that it's equipped with both variable pedal assist and throttle. It also has a 500-watt (850-watt+ peak) motor, a battery that lasts 45 miles, and fat tires and an adjustable front fork suspension that allow you to power through different types of terrain.

And something especially great for adventure-seekers? It's foldable, so you can pack it up and put it in your vehicle to take along on your upcoming trips.

The Splurge: Bluejay Premiere Edition, $3,295

If you're looking for a bike that's fun to ride and looks stellar on your Instagram feed, Bluejay's Premiere Edition bike won't disappoint. While it's certainly on the expensive side, it's a great option for anyone who wants to customize their e-bike experience.

"You can truly tailor your bike to your preferences and needs. In addition to gorgeous colors, the bikes come fully loaded with lights, a bell, racks, and more," says Cohen Bogan. "We sell curated baskets, cell phone holders, coffee holders, and even pet holders. I don't know of any other e-bike brand that approaches the design process like we do. We think about the customer's lifestyle first and design everything from there."

This electric bike is equipped with a powerful 350-watt mid-drive motor, a long-lasting battery that can last up to 75 miles of riding between charges, and a lightweight frame and comfortable saddle.

Still Not Sure? Try E-Bike Rentals

If you're interested in buying an e-bicycle, but you still have some reservations, you don't need to commit to buying one right away. There are several bike-sharing apps you can try, such as Lime. Give an electric bike a test ride to see if it works for you! Just be sure to do so safely.

The Takeaway

If more of us choose to ride an electric bike instead of driving a car for certain trips, overall transportation pollution would decrease. E-bikes can have a positive impact on both the environment and our health, so if you're considering making the investment, they're more than worth it.