Our son will be 16 next month. In the fall, you will have a choice: Drive our small fossil fuel car to school, or walk or bike to your destination.
Is there a third option? we could buy him a e-bike. With a top speed of around 20 miles per hour, these battery-powered bikes that increase pedaling power are far less expensive than cars, reduce congestion on the roads, and emit no carbon emissions when in use.
There are a variety of publicly funded e-bike rewards (think coupons, rebates, or outlet discounts) through some state and local governments (although none where we live). Now, Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR.), Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) have proposed a federal tax credit for electric bike purchases.
“By encouraging Americans to own and use electric bikes, we are giving them the opportunity to help improve the quality of life in our communities and address the climate crisis in our country,” Panetta saying in a sentence.
Congressmen reintroduced the E-BIKE (Environmental Kickstart Electric Bike Incentive) Act in March. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. (The idea was dropped from the Build Back Better Act and left out of the Cut Inflation Act.)
The E-BIKE Act would provide a 30 percent refundable tax credit of up to $1,500 for the purchase of an electric bicycle. To get the full credit, an individual filer’s income must be less than $150,000 (and for joint filers, less than $300,000). It would apply to electric bikes priced under $5,000 in the Senate bill, or under $8,000 in the House version.
But whether the goal is to provide widespread access to electric bikes or to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion, a federal tax credit that rewards an individual’s purchase of an electric bike is not the best policy tool.
The E-BIKE Act tax credit will reward some electric bike buyers for doing something they planned to do, and could already afford, anyway. And for those who can’t afford luxuries, even with the refundable credit, it would be an expensive transaction to manage while waiting for their tax refund. Meanwhile, some of the top rated Electric bikes vary in price. between $1,300 and $2,700. Electric cargo bikes are more expensive, but It can be found for less than $3,500.
Before considering a subsidy, it’s also worth noting that the electric bike market isn’t in a bind. It’s growing pretty fast. electric bikes outsold electric cars and hybrid vehicles in 2021, according the Association of Light Electric Vehicles. The size of the US electric bike market reached $847.5 million last year. IMARC Group Dear All the market to reach $1.6 billion by 2028, or growth of nearly 12 percent. (In part, this might reflect the increasing availability of bike-sharing programs that can offer traditional and electric bikes).
In fact, my TPC colleague and avid cyclist Len Burman tweeted, “It’s not clear why you would prefer electric bikes to traditional bikes… Some people don’t ride bikes because they can’t afford a decent traditional bike. A modest subsidy for a bike with or without a motor might encourage them to buy a regular bike, but not an electric bike.”
Regular bikes, after all, are “cleaner” than electric bikes. Electric bikes require charging and electricity may not always come from a renewable source. Rechargeable electric bike batteries should also be recycled so they don’t end up in landfills where they can leach toxic chemicals into the soil and water table.
What if you live in a town like mine, designed for cars, with few sidewalks and no bike lanes? Given the traffic I see, if we buy our son an electric bike (tax credit notwithstanding), I might be more nervous about him taking it to school than driving a car.
As with many proposed grants, it is likely that there are more efficient ways to achieve the same goal. Investment and improvement in public infrastructure, not a tax credit for an electric bike, would make all low- or zero-carbon activities—walking, cycling, e-bike, or public transportation—more attractive. and safer
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