A comparison of grants and subsidies offered by European governments to increase electric bike use and reduce pollution sees the UK languishing near the bottom of the table.
The December 2016 report from the European Cyclists’ Federation shows the differing levels of financial incentives for e-cycling in a number of countries at both national and local levels.
Founded in 1983, ECF’s mission is to ‘promote cycling as a sustainable and healthy means of transportation and recreation’. This report is presented by the group as showing that ‘numerous countries and authorities have already realised that promoting electric bikes through grants is a very cost-effective way to achieve the decarbonisation of the transport system.’
ECF notes that e-mobility incentives in Europe have largely focused on cars; this is despite the fact that the group say an electric bike costs, on average, “less than 8% of the price of an electric car”.
Germany is cited as a case in point, with €1.4bn of public subsidies spent on research and development of electric cars until 2014, with approaching a further billion euros invested to encourage uptake since. However, the report notes a ‘rather disappointing 25,500 electric cars on German streets as a result – with the 1 million electric cars target of 2020 seeming almost impossible to reach’.
In contrast, approximately 2.5 million electric bikes are estimated as being in use on German roads. ECF say that this number is likely to have been much higher if similar ‘massive financial support’ had also been invested in e-bikes. The group is therefore calling for an approach that looks at a broader picture of e-mobility, which includes electric bikes as an integral part of future cities. A ‘level playing field’ should push e-bikes on to their potential of replacing car trips and would make the ‘mobility system as a whole more sustainable instead of just improving one mode of transport’ argue ECF.
The research undertaken to compile the report also noted the ‘striking’ difference between subsidies for e-bikes granted at local authority levels compared to national. With most e-bike subsidy schemes decided at local or regional level, ECF believe that ‘cities and regions seem to have a clearer picture of the development of electromobility and the needs of consumers than that at national and European level’.
The ECF are calling for a 10% purchase subsidy in countries still in the ‘take off’ phase to encourage further sales by helping to bridge the price gap between an ordinary cycle and e-bike. For more mature markets, where there is already significant uptake of e-bikes such as Germany and The Netherlands, ECF would like to see further incentives such as investment in charging infrastructure, discounted e-bike purchase in return for cancelling a car’s registration but with a priority placed on both infrastructure for safe e-bike parking, due to their higher value, and adapted roads for safer cycling.
Austria has seen numerous local incentive programmes in recent years and the ECF notes the country as having one of the ‘highest sales rates of e-bikes per capita in Europe’. Currently there is a national subsidy programme for e-bikes, cargobikes and bike trailers – grants that are only currently eligible for local authorities, private business and not-for-profits however.
Meanwhile the Belgian Ministry of Mobility is looking at making e-bikes tax deductible, while regional authorities offer subsidies to reduce the purchase cost of an electric bike where a car is scrapped or its registration cancelled. Antwerp offers up to €400 for buying an ordinary cycle or e-bike if it is used for commuting.
Several regions in the Netherlands have also subsidised electric bikes for commuting. The region of Arnhem-Nijmegen subsidised 30% (to a max of €600) for such cycles in 2012 – that programme saw 84% switch from car to e-bike.
Last month, France unveiled a new incentive, with a grant of 20% towards the cost of a new electric bike (up to a max of €200) – provided it isn’t a speed pedelec, doesn’t have a lead battery and the purchaser undertakes not to sell it within a year of purchase. (This development has been announced since the table below was compiled.)
Oslo municipality’s Climate and Energy Fund last year launched its first electric bike grant programme. The funding is part of a drive to reduce pollution levels in the city by reducing the amount of cars on the road.
Oslo Council told Pedelecs: “The electric bike grant programme was first launched in 2016 when the fund gave grants to regular electric bikes. In 2017 it was decided that the fund should focus on giving grants to electric cargo bikes instead, and the reason for this was that an electric cargo bike can replace the use of a car, not simply for transportation, but also in day-to-day activities such as delivering children to day care, grocery shopping etc..”
The city allocated NOK 5 million in electric bike grants last year, with a maximum grant of NOK 5 000 (currently approx £475) per person and therefore approximately 1000 applicants received funding.
This year’s funding sees a maximum grant per person of NOK 10,000 (approx £955) with 300 applicants receiving funding from the overall NOK 3 million pot.
Jersey aside, in the UK there are no national subsidies specific to incentivising electric bike use. The cycle to work scheme is noted by the ECF as having a £1000 price ceiling, which in turn restricts the options of e-bikes that can be purchased within that price tag.