Electrically-assisted e-bikes could replace enough car journeys to cut carbon dioxide emissions from car use by around half, particularly in rural and sub-urban settings.
Reducing carbon emissions from transport remains a significant challenge for the UK if it wants to meet its net-zero target. Energy use from transport has increased by 16% since 1990 against a UK economy-wide decrease in energy use of 4%, and the sector remains 98% dependent on fossil fuels.
Research conducted by Dr Ian Philips and Prof Jillian Anable (CREDS Transport & Mobility theme lead) suggested that electrically-assisted bikes (e-bikes) have the capability to replace enough car journeys to cut carbon dioxide emissions from car use by around half in England.
The greatest opportunities for reducing emissions were found in rural and sub-urban settings: city dwellers already have many low-carbon travel options, so the largest impact would be on encouraging use outside urban areas with particular potential to cut the vast number of car journeys that are between 5 and 15 miles.
Moreover, the research showed the scope for e-bikes to help people who are most affected by rising transport costs. Incentivising e-bikes for use in areas characterised by: low-incomes, limited access to public transport; and high car dependence would create other opportunities. Alongside carbon savings, co-benefits for these communities could include improving the mobility of low-income households and enhancing access to services and employment.
Leading with the carbon emissions finding, CREDS shared the story – via news release – with contacts in national and trade/specialist media (e.g. cycling magazines). Colleagues in the University of Leeds press office liaised with their regional news outlets. The briefing launch was also promoted via Twitter.
The BBC ran the story with coverage online and an item on Radio 4’s 6pm news programme. It was also referenced in online cycling websites in the UK and internationally: Australia, Italy, USA, India, Spain and Norway.
To share the briefing more widely, we contacted c.60 organisations and individuals with an interest in energy, climate and transport. This included cycling organisations (Cycling UK), policymakers (Department for Transport, Committee on Climate Change), local government (Local Government Association) and other agencies (National Parks).
The briefing has been downloaded 356 times and has been one of the most popular pages on the CREDS website with over 2,500 unique views.
The report is being used as evidence and referenced by key policymakers, including the Department for Transport and the Committee on Climate Change.
CREDS is continuing to develop this research with further modelling. We will be encouraging policymakers to see e-bikes as part of a package of measures that will reduce carbon emissions and contribute to a sustainable, fair, post-pandemic recovery.
Sources of information
- CREDS briefing: e-bike carbon savings – how much and where?
- BBC: Electric bikes ‘could help people return to work’Opens in a new tab
- Department for Transport: Call for evidence the Future of Transport: rural strategyOpens in a new tab
- The CCC: Committee on Climate Change’s 6th Carbon Budget Report – Transport Sector SummaryOpens in a new tab
- HS2: High Speed Rail Group evidence to Department of Transport Transport Decarbonisation report, pdfOpens in a new tab (27 pages, 2.2 MB)
- Grantham Institute: Financing climate action with positive social impact: How banking can support a just transition in the UKOpens in a new tab
Thanks very much for alerting us to this research. It’s of great interest to us, given that we promote e-bikes for both health and environmental reasons.” Cycling UK
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