New Mobility

E-bikes: Cool, useful or ridiculous?

Why should a fit person in his early forties get electric support from an e-bike? Our columnist Markus Sekulla took a thorough look at the pros and cons as a "victim". Because after he got a motorised bike, it started with the (nicely meant) taunts from his circle of friends ...

Why an e-bike?

I am a city dweller and often have customer appointments in and around the city. For this, I have considered getting an e-car. But do I really want to do my rounds through the streets after every journey because of the extremely tight parking situation, as Herbert Grönemeyer sang about so beautifully? Probably not. Besides, from an environmental point of view, I don't really want a car. What about public transport? Also good, but there I personally lack the freedom to start when I'm ready. My solution: a business e-bike. OK: I'm actually talking about a pedelec. Unlike real e-bikes, pedelecs only offer motor support when you pedal. If this pedal assistance is only provided up to 25 kilometres per hour, these pedelecs are still considered bicycles. But enough of the definition: with such a vehicle I can now easily cover medium-length distances and feel good about being out in the fresh air. When it rains, I take the public transport and there is one less car on the roads. 

Should we all become e-bike riders? No. For me, there is a sweet spot for conventional bicycles in everyday life: it is a maximum of 15 to 20 kilometres. After that, you really don't want to ride your normal bike more often. To cover these distances, the car is usually used - with the exception of sports freaks. However, as we all know, the car is worse for the environment than the good old bicycle. For people who don't live in big cities and for whom public transport is not so regularly available, e-bikes are a great alternative. So if you frequently cover distances of around 15 kilometres or more, that's a recommendation "pro e-bike" from me.Should we all become e-bike riders? No. For me, there is a sweet spot. It is around 15-20 kilometers. From there on, you really don't want to ride your normal bike more often. To cover these distances, the car is usually used - with the exception of sports freaks. However, as we all know, the car is worse for the environment than the good old bicycle. For people who do not live in big cities and for whom public transport is not so regularly available, e-bikes are a super alternative. So, if you frequently cover distances of around 15 kilometers, this is a clear Yes from me.



But why isn't a normal bike enough? I've been having this discussion for a good 2 years now ...

Hip and healthy?

Austria 2020: On a tedious mountain trip in the Alps, I noticed how many older people are shooting up the mountains on e-bikes. Nice that these options have now emerged, but somehow, I have to get used to seeing a couple in their seventies jaggedly and happily ride past me. All of them greeted nicely without exception. Now you can call that cheating on your own body or not, but we are all free to decide how much of a sporting component we want to have. In any case, they got plenty of fresh air, which is great for them.

Riding a bike is healthy. So why substitute an e-motor for a good workout? After all, the spread of e-bikes started primarily with older people who wanted to take a more relaxed approach to their Sunday ride. But more and more younger people are now riding e-bikes, too. Partly because of the very cool design of the bike models. Dark frames and lean and slender shapes are a given in the new generation of e-bikes.

What is often forgotten: Not all e-bikes are the same. There are models that are actually a normal wheel, where you only have to quickly click the battery and there are the "battleships" that weigh around 25KG. Just as often we forget the fact that you do not always have to ride with full support. For me personally, the engine is especially important when I drive longer distances. My strategy is that I go to sport to warm up without support and on the way back with full power, as to spare the already battered muscles. 

E-mobility is booming

More and more people want to take care of our planet. Not only do they pay attention to their diet or to reducing plastic, they also want to get around in a more climate-neutral way. Whether it's taking the train and bus more often, swapping their combustion engine for an e-car, or using an e-bike. In the best case, all options complement each other and significantly reduce CO2 emissions and the ecological footprint.

But how much does an e-bike actually consume per 100 KM? Of course, the numbers you find on the Internet vary. The ZDF article "How e-bikes affect the environment" (article in German only) talks about an e-bike's electricity consumption of 0.6 to 0.8 kilowatt hours per 100 kilometers. In addition, of course, the production of an e-bike and the raw materials needed for a battery also come into play. According to ZDF, the emissions that result from the production of an e-bike are already cycled out after 165 kilometers (in which one does not take the normal car). There is no mention here of the production emissions for a car. If one acquires an E-car, then one has to drill with the refueling and so also somehow a thicker board than with the electric bicycle, whose battery one can charge mostly the plug socket at home.


One thing is certain: e-bikes are good for the environment.  

The question of cost

If you're already looking for pros and cons, then on the con side you'll still find the cost. An e-bike is not a cheap affair. Good models can be found from 2,000 euros upwards. In addition, there are time-consuming and expensive repairs. The battery will also eventually give up.  But if the cyclist takes all this into account and spares no expense, it minimizes risks and increases his protection. However, this makes the e-bike a luxury product for many people, which not affordable. Even used bikes are not affordable for many. E-bike sharing could be a trend for the future, which companies like Swapfiets have also already embraced. E-bikes are still relatively cost-intensive.

Tl;dr

In the beginning, I thought e-bikes were not that useful. In the meantime, I think the motorization of bikes has created a whole lot more opportunities for us. Almost every area I've looked at has been made better by e-bikes. From critic to fan, you could say. The only thing that's not cool: Naggers who question whether you really need such a bike. Maybe even call it ridiculous to ride an e-bike as a young person. Ridiculous, that's for sure for me after considering all the advantages, e-bikes are definitely not!

Text: Markus Sekulla