Senate E-BIKE Act Could Make Electric Bicycles a Lot Cheaper

A bill that would provide Americans with a refundable tax credit when purchasing a new electric bicycle was just introduced in the Senate by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). The bill is called the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment, or E-BIKE Act for short, and it is the bill accompanying a bill introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

E-bikes are more expensive than regular bikes and typically cost between $1,000 and $8,000 for some of the more high-end models. But they also have the potential to replace car journeys for many people, with a recent study showing that if 15 percent of car journeys were made by e-bike, CO2 emissions would fall by 12 percent.

This afternoon, I had a brief interview with Senator Schatz via text message to get an idea of ​​the goals of the legislation, the opportunities in Congress, and whether he would ever consider buying an e-bike himself. (He said no, but I think I got him to reconsider.)

“The idea is simple,” Schatz said, “the electrification of transportation isn’t just about cars, it’s about all the ways to get around.”

At its core, the bill is about accessibility, the senator said. There should be more people riding e-bikes than just those who can afford them. Driving is already heavily subsidized across the country. We build cheap — often free — parking spaces, we invest in highways, drivers don’t pay for traffic jams or carbon emissions, and zoning and taxes promote sprawl. We need to accommodate bicycles – especially e-bikes – if we want more people to switch to greener modes of transport.

“The bill makes a clean alternative more accessible to more people,” Schatz said. “E-bikes make a lot of sense for working people, young people and others who can’t afford or don’t want a car.”

Like House law, Schatz and Markey’s legislation would provide Americans with a refundable tax credit worth 30 percent of the purchase price of a new e-bike, capped at $1,500. All three e-bike classes would qualify for the tax credit, but bicycles with motors more powerful than 750W would not. The credit would also be fully repayable, allowing lower-income individuals to claim it.

A common refrain you hear from critics of this legislation is that people aren’t switching to cycling without a safer infrastructure to support it. Protected bike lanes are still scarce in the US, and it’s unclear whether a surge in demand for e-bikes would necessarily lead to better policy decisions at the local level.

Schatz said it would take a “major infusion of physical infrastructure for bike lanes and safe streets” for this bill to deliver the desired outcome, which is more people to switch from cars to e-bikes. There is $20 Billion in President Biden’s Infrastructure Proposal for safe street improvements, including bike paths. But whether that money survives in the final deal — if there is a final deal — remains to be seen.

“I’m optimistic,” Schatz said of the potential approval of the E-BIKE law, “but this total package will face multiple near-death experiences before it becomes law. We plan to push it through in the upcoming package.” but if we don’t, we’ll keep pushing.”

The House version of the bill has 21 co-sponsors — all Democrats — while the Senate version is just making the rounds. But Schatz said he doesn’t think it will be difficult to sell with his colleagues.

“We expect to be able to build momentum for this,” he said. “It’s one of those rare ideas that’s both revolutionary and non-controversial.”

And while Schatz said he’s only tried riding an e-bike once, while on vacation, and doesn’t have any immediate plans to buy one for himself, given his newfound position as an advocate, he’s reconsidering. of this mode of transport.

Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC, has a number of pedal-assist e-bikes in rotation. Just sayin’.