A New Bill in the House of Representatives Would Make E-bikes More Affordable

If you’ve thrown your leg over an e-bike, either as a skeptic or enthusiast, you’ve probably had the experience of realizing just how fun they are. It brings a new sense of child-like wonder and excitement to riding a bike, surprising even the most experienced cyclists. Whether it’s pedal-assist or throttle powered, having that bit of assistance is just fun. And that goes for people who love to ride regular bikes, and those who thought they’d never ride a bike again after selling their Huffy.

A new bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) hopes to introduce that feeling to many more riders by making e-bikes more affordable. But not just because e-bikes are fun; their adoption has environmental, social and urban benefits.

A recent study published in the journal Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment shows that e-bikes are incredibly good for the environment. If just 15 percent of car trips were e-bike trips, carbon emissions would drop 12 percent, and that’s even after accounting for the carbon emissions from generating the electricity used to power e-bikes. A National Household Travel Survey also showed that more than 75 percent of car trips are less than 10 miles, and 35 percent are less than 2 miles. In addition, 46 percent of e-bike commuting trips replace car commuting trips.

The bill, called Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE), would make e-bikes more accessible and affordable with the use of a tax credit. The credit would cover 30 percent of the cost of a new e-bike up to $1,500; apply to new e-bikes costing less than $8,000; and be fully refundable with the hopes of allowing more lower-income taxpayers to claim the credit.

While you will need to pay the full cost of the e-bike up front, you will get the money back after tax season in the form of a tax credit. This tax credit is fully-refundable, meaning even if you don’t have taxes due to credit against, you’ll still get your money back from the government. Just keep your receipt. That opens a whole new ridership to e-bikes: those who could benefit from the discount but might be in an economic strata where tax reduction alone wouldn’t be an effective enough relief.

“E-bikes are not just a fad for a select few,” said Panetta. “They are a legitimate and practical form of transportation that can help reduce our carbon emissions. My legislation will make it easier for more people from all socio-economic levels to own e-bikes and contribute to cutting our carbon output.”

The bill, not unexpectedly, has backing from the cycling industry, with both the cyclist advocacy group People for Bikes as well as bike and cycling accessory brand Specialized helping Panetta to push the legislation. “Specialized is an avid supporter of the proposed federal tax incentive put forward by the E-BIKE Act,” said Mike Sinyard, Specialized founder and CEO, through a press release. “Whichever e-bike riders choose, we believe that encouraging more bike trips is a critical part of fighting the climate crisis.”

While we don’t yet know the fate of this bill, or the timeline, it’s a promising step toward changing American transportation to be more human paced, environmentally friendly and versatile. You can help the legislation pass by contacting your representative. People for Bikes has set up an easy to use tool to do just that: action.peopleforbikes.org/e-bike-act/