Myths and legends of electric bicycles; Green Innovation gaining traction inworld export markets
The ‘Electric Bikes World Wide Report’ (published in 2009) recently estimated that
population of Light Electric Vehicles (LEV’s) has now exceeded 100
million units, and indicated that Europe represents the second largest growth marketafter China. In response to a number of concerns voiced about in regard to safetyand the merits of claims made in relation to the sust
ainability of LEV’s, the EU has
published two documents: the first establishing the legal definitions of whatconstitutes an electric cycle and the second outlining their policies for the promotionof such modes of transport.
While the European Union’s ‘Intelligent Energy’committee may be fully behind the promotion of LEV’s,
some sceptical voices havebegun to raise questions about
the ‘safe and green’ credentials of
the electricbicycle, citing recent e-bike bans in China. How justified are these criticisms towardsthe e-bike, and are there any grounds for concern?The Chinese market for electric bicycles has grown exponentially- in 2009, morethan 22m units were sold along with many more millions of kits for home assembly.The automotive industry in China has, alongside their economy, changed rapidly inthe last decade, with tens of millions of rural dwellers moving to cities and accessingmotorised transport for the first time. This rapid growth in auto ownership has filledurban road capacity in cities like
Zhuhai and Guangzhou,
compounding civic planningadjustment issues that authorities in Europe- where patterns of migration are clearlydifferent- would be able to mitigate at a more comfortable pace.However, in China it would appear that the main concerns of local governmentscome not from environmental issues but from the safety hazards of crowded andcongested streets, to which electric bikes can be a perilous addition. Importantly,many of the bikes in China are actually electric scooters , pedal-free with a throttle
and therefore not ‘
e-bikes. Some Chinese officials in particularly congestedareas have not only taken the regulation route favoured in Europe, but have bannedthe use of electric bicycles altogether. Beijing, however, has also recognised that theelectric bike is the primary transport method by which Chinese cities can realisticallycombat pollution and congestion while remaining accessible and economicallyactive. With that in mind, Chinese authorities are partnering with businesses andpioneering methods of making e-bikes greener.
E-bikes, the Environment, and Safety
The main environmental issue to be addressed for e-bikes is the battery ; lead-powered acid
batteries cause harm not from ‘tailpipe’ emissions but
rather from theproduction, recycling and the disposal processes of batteries, spread over the lifecycle of the vehicle. In the Chinese market, the relatively cheaper lead acid batteryhas proven popular; but manufacturers are now being compelled by the Chinesegovernment to use greener lithium batteries. In a volt to volt comparison, lead acidbatteries are four times cheaper than the higher energy density Lithium-ion (Li-ion)favoured by European and UK distributors such as http://www.theelectricbikeco.com.
However, they last for a fraction of the time, so in terms of life cycle costs are lessener
gy efficient and more expensive. China’s e
-bike manufacturers, such as Xinri,are now partnering with universities in a bid to improve their technology.