Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by Matt
Are electric bikes worth it and do they provide all the good things they are touted to have?
In this post, we’ll explore the important aspects of owning or renting an electric bike as a means of transport. We’ll discuss important topics that make or break electric biking in general with reference to real-world use cases, location-specific facts or electric biking, costs and more.
Why is getting an electric bike worth it
Because of low running costs, easy parking, quick and efficient transport, lower VATs, and zero emissions, electric bikes have many advantages over cars, normal bikes, and other short-distance means of transport.
In considering whether it is worth getting an electric bike, the following important factors come into play.
Electric bike running costs
If we consider running costs alone, electric bikes are significantly more cost-effective than other motorized forms of transport, including public transport such as buses, the metro, and taxis. After purchasing your electric bike, charging is the only cost you can worry about, and it is way cheaper than gasoline, diesel, or public transport tickets in most modern world countries.
On average, a person using public transport for short trips, say to and from work, in any major city will spend between $2.47 to $6 for a one-way ticket if they don’t have a monthly transit pass. Compare this to the average cost of charging a standard electric bike which typically costs between $0.10 to $0.16 per kWh in the US (and that’s during peak hours).
The average basic electric bike sold in the United States comes with a 250-Watt Hour battery pack that typically gives you a range of 20 to 25 miles at max settings. Such a lightweight electric bike is what most of us need for daily commutes as it has enough power and range and is also affordable.
To calculate the amount you would spend per charge, you can use the following simple formula or calculations.
First, convert the electric bike battery pack capacity to Kwh by dividing it by a thousand:
250 Wh / 1000 = 0.25 Kwh
Then, multiply the result by the average cost of electricity as given in Kilowatt-hours. We’ll use the higher figure of 0.16 for this example.
0.25 x 0.16 = 0.04 or 4 cents per charge.
Take a look at the comparison below of electric bike monthly charging costs in major cities, and compare the figures to the average monthly costs of public transit passes for the same cities.
Electric bike vs public transport cost in major us cities
|US City||E-bike charging Cost per day (Est)||E-bike charging Cost per Month (Est)||Estimated Public Transport Cost Per Month||Cost Savings using Electric Bike (Monthly)|
|New York City||5.6 cents||$ 1.67||$127||$125.33|
|Chicago||3.3 cents||$ 0.98||105||$104.03|
|Philadelphia||4.0 cents||$ 1.19||96||$94.82|
|San Francisco||5.8 cents||$ 1.73||98||$96.28|
|Boston||2.9 cents||$ 0.86||90||$89.14|
|Washington. D.C||3.3 cents||$ 0.98||83||$82.02|
|Seattle||2.8 cents||$ 0.83||99||$98.17|
|Miami||3.5 cents||$ 1.06||112||$110.94|
|Atlanta||3.5 cents||$ 1.05||95||$93.95|
|Dallas||3.0 cents||$ 0.90||96||$95.10|
|Denver||3.8 cents||$ 1.14||104||$102.86|
|Portland||3.8 cents||$ 1.14||100||$98.86|
|Houston||2.9 cents||$ 0.86||75||$74.14|
|Lost Angeles||6.5 cents||$ 1.95||75||$73.05|
|Minneapolis||4.1 cents||$ 1.22||100||$98.79|
|Baltimore||3.5 cents||$ 1.05||83||$81.95|
|San Diego||5.8 cents||$ 1.74||72||$70.26|
|Phoenix||3.2 cents||$ 0.95||68||$67.05|
|Pittsburg||5.0 cents||$ 1.50||97||$95.50|
|Detroit||5.0 cents||$ 1.50||70||$68.50|
Simply put, using an electric bike to commute to work or for daily errands, even for a few days a month can save you a lot of money in the short term and long term.
Electric bike maintenance costs
The other cost you may incur when running an electric bike is maintenance or repairs. As with other electric mobility devices, electric bikes do not have many serviceable parts and are therefore significantly cheaper to maintain than normal bikes.
That said, electric bikes do break and the cost to repair and replace items after the warranty expires is higher than a normal bike. It’s still significantly lower than a car.
Most electric bikes have complex designs and parts that can only be repaired by an expert. Where you would spend a few bucks to repair a normal bike, you may have to spend up to a hundred or more.
The assumption here is that you will be doing these repairs out of warranty. However, good electric bike manufacturers provide fairly attractive warranties on their bikes and other conveniences, so maintenance cost is usually not a big factor as it is with road cars and motorcycles.
Electric bike battery replacement costs
As with other battery-powered machines, your electric bike’s battery’s performance and capacity will taper off after a certain period or several charge cycles. Battery replacement is usually the biggest cost electric bike owners have to deal with, unlike those who run normal bikes.
However, it is far from being a deal-breaker.
Modern electric bikes are equipped with lithium-ion batteries, which typically have a max performance lifetime of between 3 to 5 years or 300 to 500 charge cycles. After that, the battery will continue to charge and power the e-bike motor, albeit at a reduced capacity. Replacing an electric bike’s battery pack costs between $300 to $800, depending on the brand and the battery’s capacity.
It’s also important to note that some advanced electric bike models come equipped with long-lasting lithium-ion batteries that can last up to 10 years or more, depending on the brand. Typically, the more expensive an electric bike is, the better the battery, and the more it will last.
You can also opt to replace a basic e-bike battery with a premium brand with better durability.
Most electric bike owners can offset the cost of replacing the battery- if they ever do replace it- by the cost savings they get from using the e-bike. Generally, an electric bike is expected to have covered or paid back its purchase cost after two to three years of daily use.
Other advantages of using an electric bike
It’s not just the cost savings that make electric bikes worth it when compared to other forms of short-distance travel. Some other benefits or upsides of an electric bike may include:
Electric bikes are faster
One of the main reasons people buy electric bikes is the presence of a motor that makes them faster than normal bikes. This makes them practical to use for longer trips (usually up to 40 miles) and on busy streets and highways.
You can comfortably commute to work with an electric bike and not have to worry about getting late. Most are capable of hitting speeds of up to 25 mph / 40 kmh.
Electric bikes are easier to ride
Riding an electric bike with pedal assistance reduces the amount of pedaling needed to propel the bike meaning you can cover longer distances comfortably. In some models, you can use the throttle to propel the bike with the motor thus minimizing pedaling.
Electric bike incentives and tax exemptions
As an environmentally friendly form of transport, electric bikes are usually the target of many local and federal government incentives that you can benefit from directly and indirectly. Nearly every state and municipality in the US has electric mobility programs providing everything from rebates to tax exemptions.
Some examples include:
- California’s CalBike’s $10M E-Bike Affordability Campaign
- The San Diego Pedal Ahead program
- City Of Santa Clara Silicone Valley e-Bike rebates, and many others
Convenient for city commutes
Not only do electric bikes make it easier to move around busy urban streets but they are also easier to park, store and lend out. In most major cities, you will find wide bike lanes and free dedicated bike parking areas even along the busiest business districts. Undoubtedly, this makes them more convenient for city commutes than cars and other forms of transport.
Do electric bikes have any disadvantages?
Sometimes potential e-bike buyers may be put off by the relatively high initial costs of buying a decent electric bike. The cheapest models sell for above a thousand dollars. Electric bikes also fall short when it comes to long journeys when compared to cars, as they have much shorter ranges, and are not as convenient.
Are electric bikes worth it?
All in all, the advantages of electric bikes in the form of cost savings, green energy, and convenience far outweigh their few shortcomings. This makes them very much worth the initial investment, which will quickly pay off.
Many cities are turning to green sustainable forms of transport, and electric bikes are right at the top of that list. We will likely see more electric bikes on our roads going forward.