Ebikes are gaining popularity across the world as great eco-friendly alternatives for everyday transport, but what is their carbon footprint and how does it compare to that of a fossil fuelled vehicle?
We found a comparison of some of the key modes of transport in modern day society, which highlights just how beneficial ebikes are for the planet. Surprisingly, it turns out that riding an ebike has an even lower footprint than walking!
Here is a rundown of what we found, plus a few handy links for calculating how much carbon you are saving by cycling your ebike every day.
One 13th of the footprint of a car
Calculations by BikeRadar put the carbon footprint of an ebike at 15g CO2 per kilometre of cycling. To put this into context, this is lower than the carbon footprint of walking, which sits at around 56g CO2 per kilometre.
But the carbon footprint of a conventional car is a whopping 271g CO2 per passenger for every kilometre of driving. That’s over 13 times the amount of an ebike.
There are a number of factors that went into this calculation: manufacturing, electricity consumption and fuel consumption.
BikeRadar estimated that manufacturing an ebike emits just 7g of CO2 per kilometre. This is based on the amount of CO2 that typically enters the atmosphere for every kWh of battery capacity produced, and the number of kilometres the average ebike will be cycled during its lifespan.
Manufacturing a car, on the other hand, generates a terrifying 42g CO2 per kilometre from manufacturing emissions. This means the production of the average car alone is six times as damaging to the environment as that of an ebike.
Then there is the electricity consumption of an ebike which has an estimated footprint of 1.5g CO2 per kilometre. By contrast, the average car consumes 229g CO2 per passenger for every kilometre driven, just from fuel use and fuel production.
Finally, BikeRadar included the carbon produced in order to feed and fuel a human being to pedal an ebike, estimating around 6.3g CO2 per/km from food production for the average 70kg cyclist. There was no food calculation for cars as this isn’t essential to the vehicle getting from A to B.
Let's visualise it
We put all of this into a few charts, to visualise just how significant the difference is between the carbon footprints of these different modes of transport, and how the factors of an ebike's footprint compare.
Push-bikes and walking: how do ebikes compare?
There is a clear difference between the footprints of an ebike and a fossil fueled car. But what about regular bicycles or simply walking on two feet? BikeRadar digs into this too, putting the carbon footprint of a regular bicycle at 21g CO2 per/km.
The difference is in the bodily energy required from you to get the bike from A to B. Because ebikes require less food production per kilometre travelled, they have lower greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime than push bikes. Using the same logic, BikeRadar suggests that the real carbon footprint of walking could be as much as 56g CO2 per/km!
A real-world impact
The reality presented by this data is simple - ebikes are far less damaging to the environment than the average fossil-fueled car, and even less than walking or cycling a regular bicycle.
But how much CO2 would the world actually save if everyone converted to two-wheel, electric transport?
It’s impossible to know exactly, but what we do know is that the question is incredibly urgent.
The global transport sector currently accounts for as much as 24% of direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, and this number increases every year. In 2020, 7.3 billion metric tons of CO2 was pumped into the atmosphere by our transport sector.
These emissions were from cars, buses, trucks, planes and ships - the entire sector - but it was passenger cars that carried the greatest burden, accounting for 41 percent of global transportation emissions.
Imagine how much CO2 we would save if everyone invested more in two-wheel travel. Using your ebike as your main form of transport would significantly reduce your carbon footprint and raise the positive impact you are having on the planet.
To put this into the context of your own life and find out how much C02 you would save by cycling your ebike, check out this ebike emissions calculator. You can also use a more general carbon emissions calculator like this one to figure out the cost of using other transportation methods.
At the end of the day, not only are ebikes great, high-tech fun, they are a huge part of sustainable travel. Every little bit counts!