Today is Earth Day, which makes it a great day to reflect on how we can all reduce our individual impact on the environment. Transportation is a massive contributor to climate change, and a particularly effective and fun alternative to single-occupant car trips is a personal electric vehicle like an electric bicycle, e-scooter, or other small electric vehicle platforms.
Cars are often used as a default form of transportation, even when a multi-thousand-pound vehicle isn’t always necessary. Electric cars are certainly an eco-improvement over gas-powered cars, but they still use as much as 10-20x the energy of micromobility alternatives like a personal electric vehicle. By swapping many car trips for personal mobility alternatives, you can vastly reduce your daily energy usage in a meaningful way.
Some people have managed to sell their cars and live a completely car-free lifestyle by commuting solely on e-bikes or similar e-transport.
While I applaud this, it is an approach that likely isn’t entirely practical for the majority of us. Instead, most of us can benefit from replacing a second car with an e-bike or e-scooter, or just replacing many traditional car trips with these alternative vehicles.
And I understand that cars trips can’t always be replaced. If you need to haul a bunch of cement bags or move a mattress, sometimes a larger vehicle is your only option. But when you actually look critically at your own car use, you will start to see how many single-occupant trips can effectively be replaced by a much smaller vehicle.
Watch our “10 reasons to swap a car for an e-bike!” video below, and continue reading for the full list of benefits of replacing car trips with micromobility alternatives.
1. Reduce your energy consumption
As we mentioned above, personal electric mobility options like e-bikes and e-scooters are a great way to reduce your total energy consumption compared to cars.
Many car trips can easily be replaced by an e-bike.
Simple trips like meeting friends at a cafe, commuting to work a few miles away, or heading to the gym are all great uses for e-bikes.
Even larger trips like grocery shopping can be done on cargo bikes. Just check out how much stuff I can fit on the electric cargo bike in the video below!
RadWagon electric cargo bicycle
To quantify the effect this can have, let’s look at the numbers. Many electric cars have an efficiency of somewhere around 250Wh/mi. Meanwhile, many electric bicycles ridden on throttle-only have an efficiency of around 25Wh/mi. That’s 10x less energy to take the same person over the same distance! If you’re using pedal assist instead of throttle-only riding, many e-bikes can reach around 10-15Wh/mi, making them closer to 20x more efficient than an electric car.
That’s pretty crazy.
2. E-bikes require less effort than pedal bikes
If you are fit enough to ride a pedal bike everywhere, that’s awesome. They are some of the most efficient methods of transportation you can find.
But the fact of the matter is that most people simply can’t ride a pedal bike for all of their trips. And even for those that have the necessary fitness, that’s more physical exertion than they want to invest. Who wants to show up at work or the movies all sweaty?
CSC FT750-20 electric fat tire bike
E-bikes, on the other hand, are easier to use because the pedal assist can magnify your own effort (and they are much easier to use on throttle-only operation). And as we saw above, you’re still using way less energy than cars, even if you’re relying on the throttle instead of pedaling.
So while very few people will commit to using a pedal bike to replace most car trips, an e-bike or e-scooter is much more likely to be a realistic option for the masses.
3. Save time on your commute
In many cities, commuting by personal electric vehicle like e-bikes and e-scooters is actually faster than taking a car or bus.
While this isn’t always the case in the suburbs, it is almost always true in cities. Smaller single-occupant rides can take bike lanes to slip past city congestion. They aren’t limited to car-only routes. They can take advantage of shortcuts through parks or other bike-friendly trails. And they rarely ever pile up in traffic.
Propella V3.2 single speed electric road bike
Ironically, I often find it frustrating how quickly I can arrive ahead of my friends when we both leave somewhere at the same time. If they take a car or a bus, I’m inevitably left waiting for them to arrive at the destination.
4. Save money by switching to an e-bike
Personal electric vehicles are nearly guaranteed to save you money compared to driving a car. Whether it’s an e-bike, e-scooter, e-skateboard, e-unicycle, or anything else, the operating cost is ridiculously low.
Many people use less than a dollar of electricity per month when riding their e-bike. To put that in miles, depending on your efficiency and local electricity rates, $1 of electricity is likely between 350-900 miles of riding.
Ride1Up 500 Series electric commuter e-bike
But it’s not just daily riding cost. Other big savings include not paying for things like gas, insurance, car payments, or parking.
Some of these savings are more significant if you replace a car with micromobility alternatives. For most people though, these alternatives are more appropriate for replacing a second car, since at least one car in a family is often still a necessity. Even if you’re still paying for one car, every trip on an e-bike that leaves your main car in the garage is guaranteed to save you money — and most importantly, it’s better for the environment.
5. Get healthier
Electric mobility options are also great for your health. Riding an e-bike on pedal assist can still provide a significant amount of exercise, even if it is less than a pedal bike. Interestingly, because many people wind up biking more frequently on an electric bike than a pedal bike, they can actually make up for the reduced effort required by an e-bike and get more net exercise on an e-bike!
Even riding an electric scooter, skateboard, or unicycle, despite not having pedals, still gives you more core activation and balance work than sitting in a car seat.
6. Enjoy increased convenience/accessibility
Another benefit of micromobility devices that I enjoy is the convenience.
Smaller devices like electric skateboards are great for bringing inside to your destination, such as sticking under the table at a restaurant or under your desk at work.
Swagtron EB7 Plus folding electric bicycle
Even folding e-bikes can often fit under a desk, making them even more convenient than full-sized bicycles that require parking/locking outside.
Nature trails that permit e-bikes are another great accessibility advantage. You are unlikely to take a scenic drive down a dirt path in your SUV on your way to work, but cutting through a nature trail or local park is a convenient way to add some interest or relaxation to your daily commute or to a weekend pleasure ride.
7. Can run on a small amount of solar energy
Here’s something neat: You can actually charge an electric bicycle or scooter completely on solar energy. Because the batteries in these devices are small compared to electric cars, it doesn’t take much energy to charge them.
A single 100W solar panel (a bit smaller than a yoga mat) can produce around 400-600Wh of energy per day in many areas of the world.
RadMini electric bike being solar charged
You know what holds around 400-600Wh of energy, on average? A typical e-bike battery!
And since most people don’t do a full discharge of their battery each day, a single solar panel is usually enough to provide all the energy you need.
We’ve previously written about how simple it can be to solar charge an e-bike. Unfortunately it still isn’t very cheap (as most hobby-level solar energy products are still relatively expensive), but it can be a fun project and provide a rewarding feeling to commute entirely with energy harvested from the sun.
8. Reduce traffic for everyone
Traffic is the direct result of too many cars on the road at once. The more cars there are, the worse the traffic gets. It’s not rocket science.
So every driver who removes one car from the road and replaces it with a much smaller personal electric vehicle plays a part in reducing traffic for everyone. Studies have shown that even just 10% of drivers switching to bikes can have a 2-3x magnitude effect on congestion levels by preventing traffic from compounding on itself and spiraling out of control during heavy congestion hours.
In addition to reducing traffic for everyone else when you switch to a micromobility vehicle, you also get to skip past the traffic yourself.
9. No license/insurance/registration hassles
Not only can you save money by not paying for a license, registration, or insurance on your car, but you can also skip the hassles as well.
Not everyone wants to get a driver license. Others may have lost their license. E-bikes don’t require a driver’s license in most countries and can be a more convenient alternative.
Young drivers often face higher insurance costs or have to jump through more hoops, and no one likes going to the DMV to sort out vehicle registration.
Emove Cruiser electric scooter
E-bikes and e-scooters have very minimal regulation in the US and much of the world. They are almost never subject to registration or insurance requirements. If you’re of the tin hat variety and don’t want Uncle Sam getting into your business, e-bikes and other personal electric vehicles have an additional appeal there.
10. They’re fun!
I saved this one for last because I think there are many more practical reasons for switching to personal electric vehicles. But at the end of the day, perhaps one of the most impactful reasons that you’ll feel for yourself is simply how much fun it is to ride an e-bike or an e-scooter.
There’s something we call the “e-grin” in the industry. It’s this goofy smile that people get the first time they spin the pedals or twist the throttle on an e-bike or scooter and feel the surge of power beneath them. There’s something that is just so fun and exciting about these vehicles that brings out the kid again in so many of us.
CSC FT720-26 electric bicycle
They’re legitimate, hard-working commuter vehicles, for sure. But they’re still just such a hoot to ride around that they always bring a smile to my face. And I can just about guarantee that they’ll bring a smile to yours.
So there are our top 10 reasons for swapping out as many of your car trips as possible for an e-bike or other micromobility solution. What do you think? Could this work for you? Did we miss any important reasons? Let us know in the comment section below!
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