Run Your E-Bike Profits

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E-Bikes at Chiemsee in Bavaria
E-Bikes at Chiemsee in Bavaria (René Antonoff)

There is an old business maxim of “run your profits, cut your losses”, but it would appear that the German government has not heard that one. And you have to wonder if other governments around the EU have either.

A few days ago, on the 27th April to be precise, the German federal government decided to launch a huge subsidy package for electric cars worth almost 1 billion euros over the next years. Besides a buyer’s premium of 4000 Euros per electric car and 3000 Euros for hybrid cars (of which one half will be funded by the car industry), this includes financing for charging infrastructure and public procurement of electric cars. Despite their success in recent years and their huge potential for making the mobility system more sustainable, electric bikes are not included in the package, reported Holger Haubold, Fiscal & Economic Policy Officer of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF).

According to ECF member organisation ADFC, the German Cyclists’ Federation, this subsidy package with its one-sided focus on cars is a disastrous signal for transport policy in Germany. In a statement issued after the announcement of the measure, ADFC CEO Burkhard Stork said: “More walking, more cycling, more public transport – and more shared vehicles, these are the answers for the problems of our time. A buyer’s premium for private cars is a backwards-looking concept, and putting a big ‘E’ in front of it won’t change that”.

The subsidy package can be seen as a desperate attempt by the government and the car industry to achieve the goal of having 1 million electric cars on the street by 2020 set in 2009 – at the beginning of 2016, only around 25,500 purely electric cars were operating in Germany.

Contrast that with around 2 ½ million pedelecs and electric bikes in use between the North Sea and the Alps! And these enormous figures have been reached with practically no public subsidies, the German e-bike market has been booming during recent years. People have been voting with their feet – on their pedals in this instance.

The potential of e-bikes to replace cars and relieve congestion in cities is enormous.

A report by the German Federal Environmental Agency found that while conventional bikes already are faster than cars for trips of up to 5 km in urban areas, e-bikes increase this distance to almost 10 km. A fact reflected by Stork in his statement: “4000 Euros of buyer’s premium for electric cargobikes – that would be an innovative signal for transport policy!”

German e-mobility subsidiesGood examples of how promoting e-mobility can be done in a more balanced way exist, also in Germany: The City of Munich has recently launched an e-mobility scheme that includes cycling and offers a financial incentive of up to 2000 euros for buyers of electric cargobikes.

The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) will produce a report compiling this and other good practice and give recommendations on fiscal incentives for e-cycling later this year. In the meanwhile, the ECF is inviting its member groups to advocate for cycling to be included in e-mobility strategies and funding all around Europe in order to make a real change happen for sustainable mobility.


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