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Cherry Collaborates on Study on E-Bike Incentives, Suggestions for Future Programs

Christopher Cherry.

Chris Cherry

Professor Chris Cherry recently co-authored a paper looking at incentive programs surrounding e-bike use in North America, and the impact and implications of such programs.

That paper, “Using E-Bike Purchase Incentive Programs to Expand the Market—North American Trends and Recommended Practices,” looked at how agencies are subsidizing e-bikes, similarly to e-cars, to improve environmental and other transportation impacts. E-bike sales have rocketed upward during the pandemic, with more than a million sold last year.

The team looked at 53 incentive programs in the US and Canada: 7 that have been approved but not yet implemented, and 13 that have been proposed. They found that incentives started from $100 all the way up to a Denver-specific one offering $1,700 on a cargo bike. Nearly 60 percent of such offers were in the $200–$600 range, according to the study, which was led by Portland State University.

“E-bikes have continued to become integrated with many communities around the world, so understanding factors that lead to their successes and increased adoption is a major piece of the puzzle,” said Cherry. “This program has provided a lot of insight into programs that are trying to grow the user base, and can serve as a guideline for potential incentive programs in the future.”

Cherry’s collaborators include Portland State’s John MacArthur as the lead on the project, which also includes student Cameron Bennett—both of whom work through the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) there—as well as Professor Luke Jones of Valdosta State University.

Together, they provided recommendations such as identifying target populations and partners, defining what type of e-bikes to include, and selecting incentive amounts.

Other interesting findings included:

  • 25 percent of incentive programs were income-limited;
  • Administration was largely by local power districts and local governments, with 22 and 13 programs, respectively;
  • Fully half of the programs required purchases from local stores and forbade online purchases.

The group also recommended following up with specific users in six months to a year to see what they thought about the program, if they were still using it as hoped, and what feedback that they might have.

TREC took lead on the project as an affiliate of The Light Electric Vehicle Education and Research Institute, which brings together researchers from UT, Portland State, and the University of North Carolina, as well as Australia’s Queensland University and Monash University.

The program on which the paper was based was funded by the National Institute of Transportation and Communities, a US Department of Transportation University Transportation Center. PeopleforBikes provided funding and technical support for the project, while the Federal Highway Administration provided additional support through the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program.