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March 21, 2023

From the CEO's Desk Newsletter

CEO Nick Chaset

E-bikes Are On a Roll!

Electric bikes are booming, with help from state and local governments. EBCE is launching a three-year, $10 million Ride Electric program to put them on local streets.

Photo by Ben Paulos

While electric cars get a lot of attention, they are actually outpaced by sales of electric bicycles. Close to 1 million e-bikes hit the road last year in the US and Canada, compared to 800,000 battery-electric cars.

E-bikes come in many variations, but are typically a pedal bicycle with an electric boost that enables longer distances and higher speeds. Electric “cargo” bikes can carry extra weight or passengers. “Adaptive” bikes allow people with disabilities to ride.

“Many people are finding that the extra capabilities of an e-bike allows them to replace their car, or even give up their car altogether,” says EBCE’s head of local development, JP Ross. “Powered with EBCE’s clean electricity, they are a good way to cut our largest source of carbon emissions, transportation.”

To introduce e-bikes to local residents, EBCE is launching a three-year, $6 million program, with funding for a lending program and incentives to purchase bikes. On February 23, the Alameda County Transportation Commission voted to provide an additional $4M in incentives to the EBCE Ride Electric program, bringing the total program budget to $10M over three years. “We are grateful to ACTC for adding funds so more Alameda County residents can benefit from these clean, safe and exhilarating e-Bikes,” said Ross. “We look forward to working with ACTC to develop a great customer experience”

While all of EBCE’s residential customers will be eligible to participate, EBCE is dedicating 40% of the budget to support income-qualified customers who are on a CARE electricity rate.

The program will reach out to low-income residents throughout its service area. EBCE issued a request for proposals (PDF) for a program administrator and expects to select a winner in March and to launch the program in Fall of 2023.

It’s an e-bike parade

EBCE’s new program joins efforts by the state, regional air regulators, and member cities.

The Bay Area’s air regulator, BAAQMD, has offered grants since 2019 to low income residents to replace an old polluting car with new or used electric or hybrid cars or transit passes under the Clean Cars for All (CCFA) program. They added e-bikes to the program in 2021.

To get the incentive, income-qualified Bay Area residents must scrap a gas car that is model year 2005 or older, operational, and under 10,000 pounds. If they choose the “Mobility Option” they get $7500 to cover a pre-paid card for public transit and the purchase of an electric bicycle and bike accessories.

On February 10, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) approved $16 million in vehicle electrification funds to expand the BayWheels e-bike share program in San Francisco, San Jose, and the East Bay. Their East Bay expansion will include nearly 1000 new e-bikes in Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville, along with lower ride fees, 30 new docking stations, a service area expansion into East Oakland, and discounted memberships for students and low-income individuals.

Coming soon is the statewide Electric Bicycle Incentive Project from the California Air Resources Board, which will give out $10 million in vouchers for e-bikes. The equity-focused program will be managed by San Diego-based Pedal Ahead, with an official launch in 2023. Pedal Ahead previously piloted a program in San Diego County that distributed nearly 400 e-bicycles throughout underserved communities, resulting in 225,000 bicycle miles traveled.

The voucher amount will likely be between $750 and $1,250 for a standard e-bike and $1,500 or more for a cargo or adaptive bike for residents with low income or who live in disadvantaged communities. CalBike expects the program to support 7,000 to 10,000 e-bikes statewide, but demand is likely to be much higher.

EBCE member cities hop on

EBCE member cities Berkeley and Oakland are also rolling out their own incentives.

The City of Berkeley and the local non-profit Waterside Workshop are launching the Berkeley eBike Equity Project (BEEP). Under the $250,000 program, 50 low income people will get free use of an e-bike for a year or more, plus safety equipment, training, support and maintenance. BEEP also includes youth job training in e-bike assembly and repair.

The Oakland Department of Transportation is working with GRID Alternatives on an e-bike lending program. The Oakland E-bike Library will provide low income communities with access to affordable medium and long-term rentals of e-bikes, cargo e-bikes, and adaptive e-bikes, while supporting community-run bike shops and other organizations to perform maintenance and educate users. The project was awarded a $1 million grant from "Clean Mobility Options", a statewide clean transportation program administered by CALSTART.

E-bike incentives are also being offered by other jurisdictions, including the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), Central Coast Community Energy (CCCE), and Contra Costa County.

And as part of the academic worker strike in the fall of 2022, the University of California agreed to create an e-bike purchase discount program for academic student employees and graduate student researchers. UC agreed to implement the program within 12 months of ratifications so it should be rolling by the end of 2023.

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