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Boost your commute on an electric bike

•  Increase activity, cut fuel costs and do your part for improving air quality with an ebike

•  Funding opportunities make discovering and purchasing an ebike a ride in the park

Thanks to ebikes, cycling longer distances doesn’t have to be exhausting. If you travel under 10km to work, switching to two wheels is a sure-fire way to increase your activity, do your part for improving air quality and save on costly fuel, whilst not working up too much of a sweat before work. Besides, it's recommended that adults spend at least two hours outdoors every day, so it’s a great time to turn your regular journeys into daily opportunities to boost your well-being.

Electric bikes explained

Simply put, an ebike is an electric pedal-assisted bicycle. It is a regular bicyle with the addition of an electric motor and battery. The battery supplies power to the electric motor and can be charged from a regular 3-pin socket. The electric motor provides power assistance when the cyclist is pedalling to ease the amount of effort required. The cyclist can choose how much assistance they get from the motor by selecting the power mode on an accompanying head unit.

In the UK, an ebike is road-legal for anyone if they are aged 14 and over, and if the assisted speed is restricted to a generous 15.5mph. eBikes not only make cycling accessible to people who might otherwise find it difficult, such as the elderly and those with health problems including asthma and muscle soreness, they also make the journey a lot quicker.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing states: “eBikes can be a great way of getting started with active travel as they offer as much assistance as the rider needs. They also make it easy for people to take heavy bags with them using panniers, trailers or by opting for an ecargo bike.”

If you’re considering branching out to a more active way of travelling or replacing your current bike, you’ve picked the right time. Transport Scotland provides a generous, interest-free loan covering the purchase price of a new ebike. With a 4-year repayment term, you can borrow up to £6,000 per household. This covers the cost of either two ebikes, capped at £3,000 per individual bike; or one ecargo or adaptive ebike.

Consider your current barriers to cycling. Chances are, an ebike will help you break these down. Do hills put you off? The battery assist will make going uphill feel more like a gentle downhill, no matter how steep. The safest cycle route is too far out of your way? With an extra electrical push, you should be able to cover more ground in less time than with a conventional cycle. Too much to carry? Having some electrical power under your pedals makes transporting items on two wheels significantly easier.

Most ebikes will offer you between 25 to 100 plus miles of pedalling enhancement on a single charge (depending on the make / model of bike) and can be plugged into a normal 3-pin socket in your home, garage or workplace. This provides you with enough battery range to offer continued support as you go about your weekly routine to work or town, and even gives you plenty of charge to play with on longer recreational bike rides. 

Try before you buy

The best way to experience the ease and satisfaction of an ebike is to try one out. Home Energy Scotland offers free ebike trials to both households and businesses. Each Home Energy Scotland advice centre has a small fleet of ebikes to provide free, short-term trials of between 3 days and 3 weeks, subject to availability. All we need from you is photo ID and a signed disclaimer form and Home Energy Scotland will take care of the rest including providing helmets and reflective vests. In addition, they can provide guidance and advice regarding how an ebike could benefit your lifestyle. 

To enquire about the loan, request an application form, or simply find out more, call Home Energy Scotland for free on 0808 808 2282.

Breaking barriers

Scottish sustainable adventurer Chris Ramsey of Plug in Adventures has teamed up with Energy Saving Trust and VOLT ebikes to tackle a Guinness World Record on a standard electric bicycle.

The record, which was previously set by Prasad Erande, in Maharashtra, India, is the longest distance covered on an electric bicycle in 12 hours and is currently 110.6 miles. Chris commented: “The record has stood for almost two years and this is in part due to the strict guidelines surrounding the type of ebike and closed circuit that can be used to attempt the record. The team and I have worked hard to put everything in place, though; and I cannot wait to get pedalling. 110 miles might not seem much to some people, but when you cannot use a road ebike and start to factor in wind resistance, riding positions and standard grippy tyres, cycling this distance starts to look a lot more challenging.”

Chris plans on taking the capabilities of the electric bike to the extreme. “By tackling this world record, I am aiming to demonstrate to the public just how capable ebikes are and that you do not need to be a hardcore cyclist to use one for your daily commute. Switching your combustion engine vehicle for an ebike to travel into the city, or to and from work will not only help increase your fitness, but also help Scotland reduce emissions within our cities, towns and villages. Making the air we breathe in our country much cleaner helps the general public be healthier as a whole, as well as reducing our impact on the climate.

No stranger to pushing sustainable transport to the limits, in July last year Chris became the first person in the world to enter and complete the gruelling 10,000 mile Mongol Rally in an electric car. Starting in Goodwood Racing circuit in London, it took him just 56 days and 110 charges to drive across Europe, Turkey and Kazakhstan, finally finishing in Southern Siberia.  Chris said: “I am a passionate advocator of sustainable transport. I live and breathe it every day myself, having an electric car and solar panels fitted to my home. My adventures and challenges are not publicity stunts; they are aimed at helping the public better understand the capabilities of this technology.”   

Words by Emily Stone from Energy Saving Trust
 

Update: 

On Sunday 26th August at the Grampian Transport Museum in Alford, Aberdeenshire, Chris cycled over 180 miles in 12 hours on the quarter mile race track. We're proud to announce that he is the new World Record holder for the longest distance covered on an electric bike in 12 hours. 

Find out more about Chris Ramsay's World Record here.

Electric bike FAQs

We spoke to Energy Saving Trust's Heather Quin to get the low-down on ebikes and answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

Are there different types of e-bikes available?

There is a variety of ebikes available on the market from hybrid and folding bikes that suit different commuters needs, to electric road bikes and off-road/mountain ebikes for those who enjoy cycling for leisure or fitness. For businesses or people who will be cycling while carrying heavy loads or with children, e-cargo bikes are also available.

How much do ebikes cost?

The cost of an ebike depends on where you purchase it as well as the quality and type of ebike you invest in. You can find some ebikes for as little as £500, while premium ebikes can cost up to £3,500. Energy Saving Trust recommend investing in a good quality ebike to ensure that the frame and parts are also of good quality. This will not only reduce your maintenance costs, but the battery is more likely to have a greater range and lifespan too.

There are many bike retailers that sell ebikes throughout the UK and the market continues to grow. Speak to a bike retailer about your budget and what you wish to use your ebike for and they will help you find the right model for you.

If you are based in Scotland, Transport Scotland provides a generous, interest-free loan covering the purchase price of a new ebike. To enquire about the loan, request an application form, or simply find out more, call Home Energy Scotland free on 0808 808 2282.

How far can I cycle before recharging?

It’s a common misconception that ebikes recharge whilst you pedal, but this is not the case.

The range of an ebike will depend on the model and how much power assistance you require. The average range of an ebike is typically between 25-100 miles. This is model/riding-style dependent but most likely plenty to get you through your daily commute.
And if you run out of battery, the bike will still function as a regular bicycle, although ebikes tend to be heavier as they have the electric motor and battery on board.

Cycling an ebike on maximum power-assistance will drain the battery quicker than cycling on eco- or medium power-assistance mode. You may find that the eco-mode provides enough power-assistance for most of your journeys. 

How long does it take to recharge the battery?

This will depend on the size of the battery. It is common for ebikes to come with a 36V battery which will take around 4 hours to charge from 0-100%.

Whilst it is good to use as much of the battery’s capacity as possible before recharging, but remember that completely running out of battery may leave you with a heavy bike and no power assistance. 

What are the running costs of ebikes?

The running costs are very low, and if you are charging your battery from home, this will cost around 5-10p* to charge your ebike from 0-100%.

You will still require regular maintenance of your bike as you would with a conventional bicycle, but there should be very little maintenance required for the electric motor and battery. Ensure you talk to your bike retailer about a warranty for the motor and battery when you purchase your ebike.

*Based on electricity tariff of £0.149p/kWh and a 36V battery.

 

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