The E bike Revolution: Why More People Are Choosing E-bikes in the UK
If you’re like me, you may have started to notice a lot more e-bikes out and about in London lately.
You may have seen men and women heading to work on their urban e-bike or folding e-bike, parents taking their child to school or delivery drivers transporting packages using cargo e-bikes, or you may have even spotted an e mountain bike or two during a weekend hike.
These sightings are, in fact, no coincidence… the e-bike now represents one of the fastest-growing segments in the transport market with 36 million e-bikes manufactured in China each year(1).
Growth of the e-bike in the UK and abroad
If you’re not completely familiar with how an e-bike works, you’re not alone.
Although the first e-bike was created in Japan in the 1980s, many people in the UK remain unfamiliar with the concept.
They’ve grown in popularity in the past 20 years – predominantly in Europe – while the UK has only started to follow suit in the past few years(2).
In fact, research by Mintel highlights that 5% of adults and 14% of cyclists in the UK say they’re “likely” to buy an e-bike for sale over the next 12 months, which is around 2.78 million people.
This shows e-bike purchases will continue to grow, especially when only thousands were being sold in 2015 compared to 70,000 in the UK last year(3).
An electric bike is a motor-assisted pedal bike which usually looks like a regular bicycle but with the addition of a rechargeable battery and motor.
This offers cyclists the flexibility and support of a motor between the speeds of 0-15.5mph to assist starts, difficult climbs or simply when the cyclist needs/wants the additional assistance.
The increased popularity of the e-bike can be attributed to improved battery life, motor design and lighter weights, as well as the growing need to reduce pollution and boost physical activity(2).
In saying that, there are a variety of benefits to using an e-bike.
The top 5 Benefits of Owning an E-Bike
1. Cut commute time and avoid congestion
Those commuting in London and other highly congested cities know the stress of commuting all too well. Whether there has been a traffic or train line issue or not, getting from A to B can prove very time-consuming and unreliable in highly-populated cities. E-bikes allow cyclists to use designated cycle lanes or weave throughout traffic without breaking a sweat.
2. Reduce carbon footprint
We know the earth is warming up and there is a growing need to be more environmentally friendly. E-bikes contribute to significantly cutting pollution and reducing your carbon footprint, especially when they are usually used to replace motor journeys(2).
3. Save money
The initial lump sum of an e-bike is soon forgiven when it becomes apparent how little an e-bike user pays in on-going running costs. Charging an e-bike regularly will barely make a dint in your electricity bill, and general maintenance is roughly the same as a standard bike. There is also free parking, cycle-to-work schemes to consider and, as long as the motor cuts out at 15.5mph (plus 10% leeway according to EU and UK law(5)), no road tax(4). Also, if you own more than one bike, you’re eligible for Velosure’s multi-bike discount.
4. Improvements to health and lifestyle
Those riding e-bikes enjoy all the benefits of physical exercise and may even experience greater benefits than those using a regular bicycle. While those using an e-bike exert slightly less energy, their fitness seems to improve more as they tend to cycle more regularly and for longer distances. This is likely linked to the increased confidence that comes with motor assistance(1).
5. E-bikes can be used by a wider net of people
The assistance and support provided by the motor means that many people who would not otherwise be able to ride a bike or exercise, can now enjoy the benefits of cycling. Those with lower fitness levels can build this up over time, building confidence and momentum in the process, and those with physical disabilities, injuries or older age can cycle at their own pace without suffering the pain or risk of injury that comes with higher-impact forms of exercise. The older generation seems to be taking advantage, too, with 65% of their e-bikes being sold to those older than 55(3).
Now we have considered all the good that comes from electric bikes, particularly the best e-bikes with more modern technology, it’s important to consider the down-sides encountered from an e-bike.
What are the limitations of e-bikes?
Although e-bike technology has come a long way in the past 20 years, e-bikes remain quite heavy. This is due to the additional motor and electric parts and the need for wider/stronger wheels and body. Getting an e-bike up a flight of stairs may be a struggle unless you go for a lighter, compact folding e-bike.
2. Higher upfront cost
E-bikes are roughly twice as expensive as a normal bicycle, starting from around £650 and going well into four-figures for more modern, high-end designs. In saying that, many bike stores such as Fully Charged offer affordable finance options including 0% APR.
Distances over 30km in the city may cause issues, as the shorter batteries may need to be charged after this distance. In saying that, good quality batteries can last as long as 140km. Charging times vary from between 1-4 hours, which could comfortably fit into a morning at work or evening before bed.
If you’re considering buying an e-bike, it’s important to do some research around relevant UK law to understand the current legal requirements and ramifications before buying and setting out on your ride.
For example, e-bikes in the UK must not be more powerful than 250W and the motor must cut out at 15.5mph, with a 10% leeway. If it does exceed these limits, it will need to be registered, insured and taxed as per a motor vehicle. It’s also required you have a driving licence and wear a motorcycle helmet(5).
It’s important to stay across changing legislation as well, as the increased use of e-bikes is likely to warrant this. One area to keep on top of is compulsory third-party insurance, which the European Union have proposed as an amendment to the Motor Insurance Directive(2).
Those who choose to purchase e-bike insurance may also be restricted in what is and is not covered, particularly by providers who do not specialise in this field. Velosure Cycle Insurance offers specialised cover for e-bikes with extensive inclusions offered as standard, such as public liability, new for old, theft, accidental damage and family cover. To insure your e-bike with Velosure, it’s important to note that e-bikes must be legally compliant (see above).
If you would like to gain a quick quote for your e-bike, simply add the value of your bike online here and follow the prompts. Alternatively, contact the team directly at Velosure on 0800 083 3035 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2)“Road Safety Factsheet,” The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
(4)“10 Reasons to Buy an E-bike,” Cyclist, Dennis Publishing.
(5)“Electric Bikes and UK Law: What You Need to Know,” Cycling Weekly.