Electric bike in Shanghai, China

.A man riding an electric bicycle downtown in Shanghai - China.

Electric Bicycles

Reduce SourcesTransportationShift to Alternatives
CO2 Equivalent
Reduced / Sequestered
Billion $US
Net First Cost
(To Implement Solution)
Trillion $US
Lifetime Net
Operational Savings
Small battery-powered motors give electric bicycles a boost. It makes them a more compelling alternative to more polluting forms of motorized transport, namely cars.

Solution Summary*

Electric bikes are the most environmentally sound means of motorized transport in the world today. They come in many shapes and forms and are accompanied by a small battery-powered motor that can make hills manageable, journeys swifter, and longer trips more viable. As they grow more effective and affordable, e-bikes are increasingly drawing people out of more polluting modes of transportation, such as driving solo.

E-bikes are all the rage in China, where millions of people use them to commute and e-bike owners outnumber car owners by a factor of two. The trend dates to the mid-1990s, when China’s booming cities put strict antipollution rules in place. These pedal-motor hybrids are on the rise in many parts of the world, as urban dwellers seek convenient, healthy, and affordable ways to move around congested cities.

An e-bike’s battery gets its charge from the nearest outlet, tapping into whatever electricity is on hand—from coal-based to solar-powered. E-bikes have higher emissions than a regular bicycle or simply walking, but they still outperform cars, including electric ones.

* excerpted from the book, Drawdown

In 2018, electric-bike riders traveled around 586 billion km, largely in China. Based on market research, we project travel can increase to 2–3.4 trillion km per year by 2050. Shifting from cars will drive that growth, which promises to be greatest across Asia and in higher-income countries. This solution could reduce 1.3–4.1gigatonsof carbon dioxide emissions and save e-bike owners US$304–941 billion in first costs and US$610–1,870 billion in lifetime operating costs.

Note: August 2021 corrections appear in boldface.