Apr 3, 2023 - Technology

E-bikes could get cheaper, thanks to a tax credit

Illustration of a bike wheel that becomes electrified.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

There's a renewed effort afoot in Congress to subsidize the cost of e-bikes nationwide, on the heels of successful rebate programs in Denver and elsewhere.

Why it matters: E-bikes, which use an electric battery and motor to help riders go faster and further while exerting far less physical effort, are a promising alternative to cars and other internal combustion vehicles for cleaner trips around town.

  • Yet they're often shockingly expensive. Many well-reviewed models cost over $1,000, while high-end versions go for more than twice that.
  • Cargo e-bikes — probably the best option for replacing many car trips, especially to the grocery store — can cost several thousand dollars.

Driving the news: Four Democratic House members and one Democratic senator recently introduced bills in their respective chambers that would create a new tax credit for consumer e-bike purchases.

  • As written, the proposal would cover up to 30% of an e-bike's cost, with credits maxing out at $1,500 for e-bikes costing up to $8,000.
  • Single filers making less than $150,000 or joint filers making less than $300,000 would be eligible for the full credit.

The big picture: The bill, called the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act, follows Denver's successful e-bike rebate program.

  • Under that initiative, income-qualified residents get up to $1,400 toward an e-bike, while others get up to $500.

By the numbers: Denver's e-bike rebate program "was estimated to have cut 2,040 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2022 and saved nearly $1 million in avoided fuel and electricity costs," Axios' Alayna Alvarez recently reported.

  • "71% of participants said they used their cars less after purchasing an e-bike. 90% were riding weekly, and 65% were on their bikes daily."

What they're saying: "Although we're seeing more and more people on e-bikes in our communities, more needs to be done to ensure that everybody across our country has access to this form of transportation," Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), E-BIKE Act sponsor, told Axios.

  • "I'm proud of the coalition that we've built for this new consumer tax credit that will encourage Americans at all economic levels to own and utilize e-bikes for not just recreation, but also for their transportation."

Yes, but: Past efforts to establish a national e-bike tax credit have fallen short.

  • Moreover, whether e-bikes make sense for a particular person's transit needs depends on myriad factors, ranging from their aptitude for biking in general to the weather and biking infrastructure where they live.

The bottom line: A little bit of cash toward an e-bike won't change America's car-happy culture overnight — but the e-bike curious among us would no doubt welcome a little discount.

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