Older woman wearing red and white dotty helmet and yellow high-vis vest rides on road on a red strep through e-bike.
Government to help people buy e-bikes

The Tasmanian Government has released its Climate Change Action Plan for 2023–25 and for the first time it’s focusing on getting more people on e-bikes.

The government has announced $1.2 million for incentives to get people buying e-bikes, e-scooters and e-vehicles.

The only detail in the plan is that a grant program to encourage people to buy e-bikes will be delivered in the next two years.

There is no detail yet on how much of the $1.2 million will be available for e-bikes, who will be eligible or what the grant program will look like.

Bicycle Network put forward a strong argument for e-bike incentives in its submission to the draft plan.

This is because e-bikes have the potential to cut emissions faster than e-vehicles because they are so much cheaper to buy and offer a genuine transport option for many of the trips taken in urban centres.

When people are thinking about switching from a petrol to electric vehicle it’s also an opportunity to get them thinking more broadly about their transport choices.

While electric cars charged with renewable energy will produce fewer emissions than petrol and diesel cars, it’s still not a particularly efficient travel mode for shorter trips when compared to cycling.

Incentive programs to get people on e-bikes are being successfully implemented in other countries as part of emission reduction plans.

The government has several options available for how it can deliver an e-bike program.

  1. Try before you buy

People who have never tried an e-bike don’t always understand their potential as a transport option, and that they replace car trips rather than bike or walking trips. Try-before-you-buy schemes can just be a hire agreement but can also include an option to buy the bike at a subsidised cost at the end of the loan.  

These schemes operate by people leaving a deposit or paying a small loan fee to take a regular or cargo e-bike for 2–4 weeks to see how it could fit into their lives. If the bike suits them the government could then use a grant to lower the cost of the bike. This also helps ensure grants go to the types of bikes that are useful for transport rather than recreation.

  1. Assistance to buy

An e-bike no-interest loan scheme would help overcome that initial barrier of high purchase cost, and people can pay back the loan with the money they save from parking and petrol costs. Such a loan scheme could have two categories – standard e-bikes and cargo e-bikes. There could also be streams for individuals and for businesses to buy staff e-bike fleets and cargo bikes for deliveries. Scotland provides loans of up to £6000 interest-free for four years and for businesses up to £30,000 to buy e-bike fleets. An e-bike scheme could be set up like the Tasmanian Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme that allowed people to buy energy efficient home appliances and pay the cost back over three years. 

  1. Direct subsidies

These types of subsidies are popular in European countries to help people get onto e-bikes and are increasingly being used in North America.

The Netherlands’ region of Arnhem-Nijmegen granted a subsidy of 30% of the purchase price and found that 84% of people who bought an e-bike using the subsidy kept using the e-bike.

Some places have focused on cargo e-bikes, recognising they can get more people out of cars, especially if they have children or being used by businesses for deliveries or carrying tools and equipment.

They can also be associated with a vehicle trade-in to ensure the e-bike really is replacing car trips, e.g. California’s Clean Cars 4 All program or the City of Ghent in Belgium which provides an e-bike grant when a car number plate is handed in.

Other actions listed in the plan that will benefit bike riders include existing plans from the Department of State Growth to update the Walking and Cycling for Active Transport Strategy and working with local government to improve cycling infrastructure.

Work has already started to develop a transport sector emissions reduction plan by the end of the year, which will come with $2.3 million for implementation.