Cost-effectiveness of electric bicycle incentives for greenhouse gas mitigation

Substituting use of electric bicycles (e-bikes) for driving could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation – an essential component to meeting Canada’s climate goals. The potential emissions benefits have led to suggestions for e-bike promotion (often purchase incentives or rebates) as a climate action strategy – with co-benefits related to physical activity, traffic congestion, and more. However, to date there has been no robust quantification of the effects of e-bike purchase incentives on GHG emissions, which limits the potential for strategic use of e-bikes to contribute to achieving GHG mitigation goals.

To know the role that e-bike incentives can have in climate action plans, we need to know how cost-effective those incentives are relative to other GHG mitigation strategies. Accurate quantification of program impacts requires investigation of the long-term changes in travel activity that result from e-bike adoption, and consideration of the full life-cycle emissions associated with observed and counterfactual travel activity, including energy inputs from petroleum, electricity, and humans.

The proposed research will determine: What are the true GHG mitigation impacts of e-bike adoption across different segments of the population, and how cost-effective are e-bike incentives as a GHG mitigation strategy? This project is a collaboration among the UBC Research on Active Transportation (REACT) Lab, the District of Saanich and the City of Nelson (which are running e-bike purchase incentive programs), the Capital Regional District, the Community Social Planning Council (CSPC), OneEarth, and Vancouver Foundation.

A robust empirical analysis of real-world GHG impacts will create essential information for using e-bike promotion as a climate action strategy elsewhere in Canada and beyond – including how effectiveness in GHG mitigation varies across population groups and intersects with equity considerations for transportation.