The Environmental Impact of Bikes and E bikes

The Environmental Impact of Bikes and E bikes

Can using bikes and e-bikes impact carbon dioxide emissions?

How much can bikes and e-bikes reduce our impact on the environment? Well, every bike leaves a carbon footprint in manufacturing, but this carbon cost can be mitigated or entirely offset when it's used to its potential, according to Trek’s sustainability report for 2021. If you ride about 430 miles you would have otherwise driven, you’ve saved the carbon equivalent of what it may have taken to make a bike.

The carbon emissions produced by bikes and e-bikes is considerably less than cars and electric cars. In fact, there’s no contest, according to data reported by The Guardian.

The European Cycling Federation says the manufacturing footprint of bicycles is 96kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Trek says the production of a basic entry-level mountain bike emits about 100kg of CO2e.

ECF estimates that manufacturing an e-bike has a carbon footprint of 134kg, whereas Trek says its 165kg of CO2e. Either way, it’s much less than the 5.5 tons needed to make just one small hatchback and considerably less than the 13 tons which could be needed to make an SUV.

Then there’s the lifetime analysis, per The Guardian:

A typical car A typical electric car A conventional bike An e-bike
220g CO2e/km 160g CO2e/km 25-35g CO2e/km 21-25g CO2e/km
180,000 lifetime kilometres A lifetime travel of 19,200km

Of course, there are a lot of variables—including a country’s electricity emissions—but it’s clear that bikes and e-bikes offer a considerable opportunity to cut travel emissions. Switching from a daily car journey to an e-bike can save an average 249g of CO2 for every 1km traveled. On a larger scale, if e-bikes were used to replace car travel, they would have the capability to cut CO2 emissions in England by up to 50 percent (about 30 million tons per year).

E-bikes are particularly ideal in helping to transition towards an electric future because they provide a realistic alternative to driving for people who would find it difficult or inconvenient to regularly ride an unassisted bike.

About the Author

Elizabeth Long is passionate about reducing the negative impact that we have on the environment around us, and learning new ways to sustainably manage our lifestyle. Long favors data-driven articles to help illustrate the scale of the problem for a wider audience.

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