The UK government is considering plans to subsidise the purchase of electric bikes, which could see prices to consumers drop by up to a third, according to The Times [paywall].
Outlines of the scheme were given in response to a parliamentary question by transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris, who said that the government was “developing a national programme of support to boost ebike uptake to the levels seen in many other countries”.
The Times says the plan is to set up trials of the scheme this fiscal year, which means before the end of March 2021. Finalisation of the support package is then expected in spring 2021 as part of the government’s spending review. The pilot schemes are aimed at determining “the type of approaches which are most effective in increasing ebike use”.
It seems likely that support will be aimed at increasing use by commuters in work clothing, as well as older and less fit riders. That’s on top of a further £175-million of funding to councils to create safe space for cycling and walking, announced last Friday by the Department for Transport.
“We want to do everything we can to make it easy for people to include some activity in their daily routines, whether that’s cycling to work or walking safely to school,” said Boris Johnson, the prime minister, announcing that funding.
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Cycling UK has welcomed the plan to subsidise electric bike purchases, pointing out that ebikes are the only electric vehicles where subsidies currently aren’t available, unlike electric cars, vans, lorries, taxis and motorbikes.
The government seems to concur, with The Times quoting a source as saying that “it’s wrong that the only type of electric vehicles we don’t provide any support for is a bike”.
Up to 10 per cent of all bike sales in countries including Germany and the Netherlands are electric bikes. However, with UK electric bike sales at less than 3 per cent of the 2.5-million bikes sold in 2018, any government support would have to provoke a substantial increase to encourage similar uptake.
According to the research from the #BikeIsBest campaign conducted in September 2020, 17 per cent cyclists would consider buying an ebike if a government subsidy was available.
However, Cycling UK has suggested the proposed scheme should not be overly generous “as the concern is it could simply end up being a subsidy for wealthy people to buy expensive bikes”. Instead, it suggests support could be more generous for those with health conditions or disabilities.