Electric bikes to fight Putin? A reader thinks it’s a great idea!
Could e-bikes help starve Putin out of Ukraine? In part 1, I explained why “Drill, baby, drill!” is not the answer to energy insecurity, especially for high prices. The time it takes to ramp up production and fears of future profitability will prevent that from happening in this case. Oil companies are not conservative activists; they are businesses. Thus, they will only contribute to a problem if they can make money doing so.
We must therefore meet the demand for long-term and short-term energy security.
E-bikes can play an important role in solving the problem
Getting people to switch to electric cars can be like pulling teeth. People are used to what they are used to and don’t want to make changes without a compelling reason. Add to that the supply issues the auto industry continues to have, and you have some serious backlogs. Thus, people seeing high gasoline prices are faced with a conundrum. Order a Tesla, Rivian, VW ID.4, Mach-E, F-150 Lightning, or one of dozens of other electric models, and you’ll be waiting months. A relative of mine recently ordered a hybrid van, and he’ll probably see it in 4-6 months.
Past experience tells us that high gasoline prices can come and go quite quickly. So when a car buyer decides it’s time to go electric and finds it’s going to take forever to get one, they’re probably thinking twice. “Who knows?” they wonder. “By the time he arrives, I’ll probably pay Trump prices again.”
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people will make the switch to w-mobility regardless because they become aware that electricity prices aren’t volatile like gas prices, and never have summer. But, this spike in gas prices couldn’t have come at a worse time for EV adoption. If the lots were stuffed with electric vehicles to buy at MSRP or below, things would be different.
You know what you can get TODAY, though? Electric bikes. It took me two minutes to find e-bikes in stock at a store within 30 miles of me. One of the places with bikes ready to go out today is just up the road, has 5 different models in stock and has e-bikes prominently displayed both in store and online. There’s even a guy who sells some at his house, and if you call him, he’ll drop one off at your doorstep. Electric bikes can literally come to you in hours.
But hey, an e-bike can get expensive, especially if you don’t want to buy something junky or underpowered. This is where the idea of e-bike discounts, tax credits, etc. comes in. Lowering the price to something more people can afford, e-bikes are an option people can consider to immediately reduce their gas bill without making serious life changes. You don’t have to take on a big payment, add another car to your insurance, worry about car trips, or wait months. Unlike regular bikes, you don’t have to show up to work sweating and needing a shower.
Like e-bikes, e-scooters are also available, and today they are even cheaper than an e-bike. I wouldn’t depend on the $300 one to get me going, but there are other options in other price ranges with more durability and battery capacity.
Improve this idea
If we want to make a real difference, we need to sweeten the pot a little past $500. Low-end e-bikes would be covered about 30% per $500, but serious commuters cost much closer to $3,000-$5,000. For many people, that kind of money doesn’t just hang around. Instead of having a $500 rebate (which should apply at the point of sale, not like a mail-out or tax credit next year), there should be a percentage of the purchase price covered bike. It would make it easier to get a quality bike instead of all the cheap stuff available.
There also needs to be a concerted effort to improve micromobility infrastructure, especially protected bike lanes to make people feel more comfortable and safe. Getting people to buy bikes isn’t just about money, but feeling like you can actually use it for transportation without becoming the latest news on how dangerous e-bikes are supposed to be.
What about methane (natural gas)?
Oil and gasoline are only a small part of the problem. Getting more people in the United States and Europe to adopt electric vehicles, e-bikes and scooters is great, but there is also the question of stay warm in winter and electricity generation, which generally does not come from oil. While rising gas prices are a big nuisance, not getting natural gas to run your furnace can kill you.
European countries are used to importing oil by ship, so getting it from the United States could be a big help. Corn they’re used to getting methane by pipeline, and a lot of it comes from Russia. Worse still, you can’t really tell people to just turn off their heaters, and if you tell them to plug in heaters, you’ll need more power output to power those heaters. Again, the methane fueling the power plants comes from Russia. Ouch.
While it’s great to get more people onto e-bikes and other micromobilities, we need to make sure we continue to think holistically. Renewable energy that the United States and Europe can rely on without getting caught up in bad actors on the global stage is more important than ever. We have to make sure we don’t lose sight of that.
Helping people buy e-bikes and other micromobilities is a critical part of solving energy security and climate change, but we always need to look at the big picture. Bikes need good paths and protected lanes to ride, and that’s a much broader topic than just buying bikes. The global energy situation calls for renewable energy unless we want to turn on coal-fired power plants whenever a gas and oil dictator decides to do politics over business.
It wouldn’t hurt to become more energetically independent, of course. We would just have to agree to be more resilient to power outages, pay less for electricity, and have fewer problems with the extreme weather events we see.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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