CO2 emissions between cars and e-bikes

Could electric bikes be the key to combating climate change issues? While there are many other factors at play, electric bikes offer a viable solution to the problem; they are fun to use and are also a way to save money on transportation.

Today. with Ben Mercer from the electric bike division at Leisure Lakes Bikes, we explore the scale of CO2 emissions between cars and e-bikes.

E-bikes over cars: reducing CO2 emissions

It’s a common knowledge that petrol cars are one of the most harmful means of transport to the planet. As a result, several new technologies have been proposed to reduce CO2 emissions, such as hybrid and electric cars. Yet electric bikes remain the most sustainable means of transport, which is fast, reliable, and eco-friendly.

To put things into perspective, take a look at the below table which illustrates the equivalent of vehicles’ CO2 emissions for the distance from Big Ben to Tower of London to the number of smartphones charged. While an e-bike CO2 emissions for that distance equal only 12 smartphones charged, a petrol car is equivalent to 182 smartphones charged.

VehicleLifecycle CO2 emissions g/kmDistance from Big Ben to Tower of LondonCO2 emissions per distanceNumber of smartphones charged
E-bike22 g/km5.8 km127.6 g CO212
Battery electric car – Nissan Leaf104 g/km5.8 km603.2 g CO273
Hybrid car – Toyota Prius168 g/km5.8 km974.4 g CO2122
Petrol car – EU average258 g/km5.8 km1,496 g CO2182

We all know ditching the car for the e-bike can significantly reduce CO2 emissions and lead the way to a more sustainable planet. But how much exactly?

A new study by I. Philips, J. Anable and T. Chatterton found that, in England, 24.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from cars could be avoid every year by using e-bikes. That’s the equivalent of more than 2.7 million homes’ energy use for one year and nearly 2.7 trillion smartphones charged. Alternatively, we would need more than 7.5 million tons of waste recycles instead of landfilled to offset the 24.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions

Based on that, the mean saving per individual is 589 kg CO2 per annum if they use an e-bike to replace car km to their maximum capability. That’s the equivalent of three return flights from London to Barcelona. Intriguingly, the study also discovered that rural areas offer the biggest opportunity for more significant CO2 emissions reduction. In fact, a person cycling in a rural area has the capability to save 750kg CO2 per year, which is the equivalent of 91,232 smartphones charged.

Modes of transport, such as walking, cycling, and public transport, oftentimes don’t fit journey patterns in rural areas in the UK, meaning that cars are on the rise. In that respect, e-bikes can make a significant contribution to transport carbon reduction. 

Urban areas also have the potential to contribute to CO2 emissions reduction if e-bikes are used more often. However, e-bikes are more appropriate and CO2-efficient for longer distances, and cities and towns have shorter commute distances. In those settings, e-bikes are more likely to replace public transport rather than cars.

E-bikes vs bikes: cycling to sustainability

You might be wondering how can e-bikes be more sustainable than traditional bikes?

Like we mentioned, e-bikes can travel a much longer distance than traditional bikes due to the power assistance of the motor. The study results showed that walking and cycling (where those who have a bike ride and those without a bike walk) have the capability to reduce car CO2 by 8.5 million tonnes per annum. That’s worth 971,309 homes’ energy use for one year. In comparison, the net savings capability of e-bikes is 16 million tonnes per annum, which is almost double and more than 1.8 million homes’ energy use for one year

Moreover, e-bikes take on yet another sustainability aspect. They have a lower carbon footprint than conventional bikes because they require less food consumption to “fuel” the pedalling.  Traditional bikes have a carbon footprint of 21g of CO2 per kilometre. The majority of it comes from the extra food required to “fuel” cycling, while the rest is produced during the manufacturing process.

Food production emissions are generated in a number of ways, such as deforestation for land use, livestock emissions, transportation, fertiliser production, and waste production. The eco-friendlier we eat, the fewer emissions we produce, and the kinder we are to the planet.

As you can see, replacing the car with an e-bike is a great way to reduce our carbon footprint. Together, we can cycle our way to a more sustainable future!