E-cycles – a (small) mobility revolution

Faster than a bicycle and greener than an automobile

E-cycles on a field pathClick to enlarge
E-cycles constitute an important part of modern sustainable mobility.
Source: autofocus67 / Fotolia.com

The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has encouraged cities and municipalities to make it easier to switch from automobiles to e-cycles. "E-cycles, that is bicycles driven by electric motors, require less space than cars and are considerably cheaper. Health and the environment also stand to gain from these new bikes", said Maria Krautzberger, President of UBA. "E-cycles constitute an important part of modern sustainable mobility. Many municipalities must quickly adjust to the new bicycle trend. Their cycle paths are not always adapted to the higher speeds travelled by e-cycles." A new UBA background paper has compiled all the essential information about e-cycles.

The advantages of e-cycles, which include pedelecs and e-bikes, are obvious: e-cycles are quiet and have far lower levels of CO2 emissions, particulate matter, (PM10) and nitrous oxides (NOX) than motor vehicles. As the share of renewable energy grows in Germany's power grid, these already low emissions will decrease even further.

E-cycles are an asset for leisure time mobility since they extend the 5-km radius of the conventional bicycle to 10 km. The distance of three quarters of all trips taken is up to 10 km. For a 10-km trip an e-cycle takes only about as much energy as is needed to boil 0.7 litres of water at room temperature.

Unlike the conventional bicycle, an e-cycle gets you where you want to go in a far more relaxed way. E-cycles add to the range of uses that bicycles have. They are helpful for transporting heavier loads and make it easier to travel uphill and cover longer distances. E-cycling might be a convincing way to entice some people to start cycling, and it poses a healthy and low-stress alternative for commuters in urban rush hour traffic. For people who wear a suit to their appointments, an e-cycle ensures that the rider won't work up a sweat.

Although the production and disposal of the lithium ion batteries most commonly used in e-cycles cause greenhouse gas emissions, when compared to the distance saved in car travel, the batteries' CO2 emissions are already offset after 100 kilometres travelled on an e-cycle.

Because of their many advantages, UBA is advising municipalities to adapt bike paths in particular to the sometimes greater speeds travelled by e-cycles. The Länder and municipalities must plan, improve and expand their cycle and pedestrian traffic infrastructure in such a way as to enhance the safety of the cycle and pedestrian traffic which often still runs parallel. Finally, landlords, shop owners and employers can do their bit by placing level access, secure parking facilities so that more citizens will opt for grabbing an e-cycle rather than climbing into a car.

Further information

The terms pedelec, e-cycle and e-bike are often used as synonyms or can be used to refer to different things. Here is a short UBA glossary:

Pedelecs are electric bicycles. It takes human muscle power to propel them and they reach speeds of up to 25 km/h with the help of a 250-watt electric motor. Riding a pedelec is virtually the same as riding a conventional bike.

E-bikes are equipped with an electric motor which can be ridden without any pedalling at all.

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A comparison: door-to-door in urban traffic

  1. A comparison: door-to-door in urban traffic