The Federal Government’s National Electric Vehicle Strategy must include e-bikes

08 Nov 22 | By pp-admin | Submission

Pedal Power has joined seven other cycling organisations to put in a submission to the Federal Government’s ‘National Electric Vehicle Strategy (NEVS)’. The NEVS is designed to accelerate the transition of our transport fleet to electric vehicles. The strategy follows the Government passing an initial tax bill for EVs in the first weeks of the new parliament and is part of broader global plans to transition away from petrol-based vehicles.

As part of the consultation for this strategy, the Government has asked for insights into how we can make EVs more affordable, encouraging uptake and choice, increase charging infrastructure, reduce road transport emissions, introduce fuel efficiency standards, save Australians money on fuel and increase local manufacturing. Cycle organisations around the country have heeded this call, arguing that bikes and active travel more broadly are central to these goals.

Our submission made one thing clear: if we want to achieve many of these goals we cannot just focus on electric vehicles. We must also encourage an uptake of micromobility and active transport. Specifically, we argued that this strategy must include electric bikes as part of its remit.

E-bikes, e-cargo bikes and other forms of active transport are becoming increasingly popular as car-replacements for daily commuting trips. They provide accessible and affordable transport options, due to their reduced costs, the benefits they have for the environment, and the positive impacts on people’s health – both physical and mental. As we shift toward more sustainable transport options, it does not make sense to focus solely on electric vehicles, despite their benefits.

We called for what we described as a ‘multi-modal approach’ to transport from the Federal Government. The NEVS needs to recognise the potential for increased e-bikes and other light electric vehicles to contribute to the Government’s broader goals and objectives. These modes of transport are essential at reducing road transport emissions and saving Australians money on fuel.

A multi-modal approach that leverages the accessibility, cost-effectiveness and ultra-low or zero emissions of light electric vehicles will result in the best outcomes – whether Australians can use EV, e-bike, or other micro-mobility options such as e-cargo bikes.

A multi-modal approach is essential for two reasons.

First, we know that E-bikes and micro-mobility are increasingly popular as car-replacements for daily commuting trips. The period from July 2020 – June 2021 for example saw a new bicycle sales record in Australia, with 1.7 million units sold. E-bikes are also becoming increasingly popular, with the annual sales of e-bikes growing over 800% to 75,000 in the five years to 2021-22. Bikes address the cost-of-living crisis through significantly lower acquisition and running costs than electric vehicles. They are also viable alternatives for the short transport trips that make up half of all trips each day in Australia and their use contributes to health, environmental and community benefits. It therefore makes sense to include them in any future transport strategy.

The second reason why a multi-modal approach is essential is that we need bikes to achieve any sustainability goals. As our NEVS submission argues, the replacement of the internal combustion engine (ICE) car fleet will take well over a decade. In addition, the production of EVs are also a carbon intensive process. For example, including production and lifetime operation, the Tesla 3 emits 56,400kg CO2, while one e-bike (Trek MTB) only produces 229kg of CO2.

We cannot rely on EVs to achieve our transport emissions goals and will need to build alternative solutions to create a more sustainable future.   

We know this can be done. Australian bicycle organisations represent the 10.19 million Australians (40%) who ride a bicycle in an average year. Cities around the world such as Paris, Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen, and New York have in recent years seen a rapid uptake of cycling and other modes of active transport. Such is the potential for rapid and affordable transformation of our transport system with e-bikes, that the University of Oxford’s Christian Brand has stated that ‘cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities’.

While we therefore strongly support the Government’s goals to make all EVs more affordable and to expand uptake, any strategy must include e-bikes to be truly effective.

Read our full submission here.