Electric bike in Shanghai, China

.A man riding an electric bicycle downtown in Shanghai - China.

Electric Bicycles

Reduce SourcesTransportationShift to Alternatives
CO2 Equivalent
Reduced / Sequestered
Trillion $US
Net First Cost
(To Implement Solution)
Trillion $US
Lifetime Net
Operational Savings
Small battery-powered motors give electric bicycles a boost. It makes them a more compelling alternative to more polluting forms of motorized transport, namely cars.

Solution Summary*

Electric bikes are the most environmentally sound means of motorized transport in the world today. They come in many shapes and forms and are accompanied by a small battery-powered motor that can make hills manageable, journeys swifter, and longer trips more viable. As they grow more effective and affordable, e-bikes are increasingly drawing people out of more polluting modes of transportation, such as driving solo.

E-bikes are all the rage in China, where millions of people use them to commute and e-bike owners outnumber car owners by a factor of two. The trend dates to the mid-1990s, when China’s booming cities put strict antipollution rules in place. These pedal-motor hybrids are on the rise in many parts of the world, as urban dwellers seek convenient, healthy, and affordable ways to move around congested cities.

An e-bike’s battery gets its charge from the nearest outlet, tapping into whatever electricity is on hand—from coal-based to solar-powered. E-bikes have higher emissions than a regular bicycle or simply walking, but they still outperform cars, including electric ones.

* excerpted from the book, Drawdown

In 2018, electric-bike riders traveled around 586billion km, largely in China. Based on market research, we project travel can increase to 2-3.4 trillion kmper year by 2050. Shifting from cars will drive that growth, which promises to be greatest across Asia and in higher-income countries. This solution could reduce 1.3-4.1gigatonsof carbon dioxide emissions and save e-bike owners $380-1,100 billion in first costs and $610-1,870 billion in lifetime operating costs.