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The country where half of all bicycles sold are electric bikes – and what it can tell us

Electric bicycle sales have shown exponential growth for several years now, but 2020 saw an unprecedented e-bike boom.

Electric bicycle demand skyrocketed all over the world in 2020, fueled largely by fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Netherlands, e-bikes have become such a mainstay that they accounted for approximately half of all bicycle sales in 2020.

According to a new report by industry experts RAI Vereniging and Bovag, over half a million of the 1.1 million bicycles sold in the Netherlands in 2020 were electric bicycles.

While total volume of sales of bicycles in the country during 2020 only increased by 9% compared to 2019, the total sales figure increased by 31% to €1.65 billion. The larger share of electric bicycles contributed to the higher spending percentage because electric bicycles are typically more expensive than pedal bicycles.

The Netherlands is famous for its cycling culture, with the public embracing two-wheeled transport as the norm.

Companies like VanMoof and Gazelle have risen to meet that demand, providing electric bicycles that combine classic Dutch inspiration with modern styles and features.

Electric bicycles, which in Europe are generally only available with pedal assist and no hand throttles, help riders take the edge off of bicycle commutes by providing assist on arduous hills. They also help riders maintain higher speeds for longer periods – key to long-distance commutes – without becoming overly exhausted.

Being able to arrive by bicycle to work without needing to take a shower is often cited as one of the main reasons commuters have switched to an e-bike after passing on adopting pedal bicycle commutes.

Many European countries provide incentives that encourage bicycle use for transportation. These have come in the form of government-sponsored incentives as well as incentives offered by employers.

UK-based electric bicycle manufacturer Gocycle created its own cycling incentive program for its employees.

As Gocycle founder Richard Thorpe explained to Electrek:

At Gocycle, we introduced a UK-first policy that sees the business pay its employees 40p per mile [approximately $0.55] when they commute to work by e-bike rather than using their car. There are countless studies that show that encouraging cycling reduces sickness levels and contributes to a more productive, healthier and happier workforce.

gocycle g3+

As Europe leads the way on electric bicycle adoption as alternative transport, perhaps the United States can learn a thing or two.

Past incentives in the US have been floated without gaining steam, but a recent push in the US Congress could signify a massive shift.

A bill is currently under consideration to create a 30% tax incentive for electric bicycle purchases in the United States. Under the current terms of the bill, known as the E-BIKE ACT, a maximum tax credit of $1,500 could be applied to the purchase of a new electric bicycle.

The bill is currently under review in the House Ways and Means committee.

Electrek‘s take

Let’s all learn something from the Dutch here.

Electric bicycles may not be able to replace all cars for all commuters, but they certainly can for many of us.

And those of who can replace car trips with e-bike trips absolutely should. The combination of lower transportation costs, an easier ride experience, and the pure joy of feeling the wind in your face should be incentive enough.

But for those that find the higher price of e-bikes to be out of range, government incentives like the E-BIKE ACT could be the missing link the US needs to finally kick e-bike adoption among the masses into high gear.

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Avatar for Micah Toll Micah Toll

Micah Toll is a personal electric vehicle enthusiast, battery nerd, and author of the Amazon #1 bestselling books DIY Lithium Batteries, DIY Solar Power, The Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide and The Electric Bike Manifesto.

The e-bikes that make up Micah’s current daily drivers are the $999 Lectric XP 2.0, the $1,095 Ride1Up Roadster V2, the $1,199 Rad Power Bikes RadMission, and the $3,299 Priority Current. But it’s a pretty evolving list these days.

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