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Are Electric Bikes Good for the Environment?
Yes. Electric bikes make it easier for people to cycle, and the more people cycling means less people driving. Less people driving means less traffic, less emissions and frees up road space for essential traffic. Most urban commutes are less than 5 miles, which is easily achieved with an eBike.
While the battery does have a higher impact environmentally over not having one, the added bit of technology changes how people get around. The assistance gives riders more confidence on the road, making it easier to get up to speed. As a result they ride further and faster than they would otherwise would. The motor assistance also removes the need to be super fit to be able to ride long distances.
One common concern is around the environmental impact of batteries. Compared to a traditional, unassisted bike it is true that the battery increases the environmental footprint. However, that's only half the story. This isn't a case of Electric Bike vs Bicycle, but really eBike vs Car.
Many eBike owners have sold their car, fully replacing their commuting vehicle with an eBike. The lack of needing to negotiate with traffic makes it the same time, or even faster than driving (average speeds in city centres is less than 10mph).
So yes, electric bikes are good for the environment thanks to their impact on behaviours when commuting. It enables more people to ride, which translates into less traffic on the roads.
In recent years we've seen improvements in Battery technology, allowing for lighter batteries which will carry you further. These are more commonly integrated into the downtube in modern designs, with some models still placing them over the rear wheel. In-tube, "hidden" design offers better balance and weight distribution throughout the bike, and appears more like a standard bicycle at a glance.
Some batteries can also be easily removed from the bike for charging at home, work or while out on your ride. Cheaper models tend to be fixed and integrated into the frame, limiting the supply.
Electric bikes come with motors in three locations: Rear, Front or Mid. Rear mounted motors offer the most performance and natural riding style, due to being "pushed" from behind similar to a traditional bicycle. Front wheel motors tend to be lighter and "pull" you along, and are often found on folding bikes. The most common location is mid mounted, where the weight of the motor helps keep the bike balanced thanks to a low center of gravity.