Why is an electric bike good for you and the environment?

Cycling an electric bicycle is not just good for the environment, it’s also good for you. The experience of people across Europe is that once they get an electric bicycle they feel they finally need their car less. Cycling an electric bicycle is more appealing and the health and environmental benefits are comparable to conventional cycling.

So, whether you’re young or old, you can see a better side of life while taking more care of the planet with an electric bicycle.

Carbon footprint

Average carbom emissions by transport mode broken down by category (in gram per pkm)
CO₂ emissions of different types of transport.

Cycling is already the most efficient mode of transport. It’s even more efficient than walking the same distance for the amount of human effort needed. In fact, there’s a small debate about whether an electric bicycle is even more efficient because of the added efficiency of the electric motor.

What there is no debate over is that electric bicycles leave a far smaller environmental footprint that driving. Even taking into account the manufacturing, maintenance and eventual disposal, electric bicycles leave just 16 grams of carbon emissions for every kilometer traveled by the rider.

This compares to 58 grams for every passenger kilometer on a city bus, 92 grams for an electric car, and 208 grams for a petrol car.

This can be reduced even further by choosing an electricity provider offering 100% renewable energy, such as Energia, Panda Power, Pinergy, SSE Airtricity or Bright.

More appealing

Infographic from the "Smart e-bikes research project"
Infographic on the benefits of electric bicycles.

The experience across Europe is that electric bicycles increase the appeal of cycling and reduces car use. This includes groups of people less likely to cycle, such as women and older people.

In a trial of electric bicycles among UK commuters, car use among participants dropped by about 20% and nearly 60% reported that their overall physical activity increased. At the end of the trial, 73% said they would cycle to work at least one day a week if they had an electric bicycle.

The research is that cycling an electric bicycle is more appealing form of active travel to groups who traditionally undertake less exercise. This can include people who don’t feel able to use a conventional bike because of the geography of where they live and the physical efforts involved.

In addition to standard bicycle designs, electric bicycles are also available as tricycles, cargo bikes (for families and businesses), low step (for people with mobility issues), and wheelchair transport and tandem models (where cycling is with a companion). These options provide choice for people with disabilities to cycle, including in Cork for people with difficulty walking.


Cycling, including cycling an electric bicycle, is known to have substantial health benefits. A five-year study of over 260,000 commuters in the UK found that people who cycled to work had far fewer serious health incidences and deaths from all causes, especially cancer and cardiovascular disease, compared to drivers and even those who walk to work.

The study found that initiatives to encourage and support active commuting reduce risk of death and the burden of important chronic conditions. The results strongly suggest that driving to work is associated with higher rates of death and disease than cycling.

Electric bicycles are also beneficial specifically to older adults. Another UK study into the psychological and cognitive benefits of outdoor cycling among people aged over 50 found that both pedal and electric bicycle riding improved mental abilities and mental health score compared to a non-cycling group.

Battery disposal

Paddy Lane of Mallow, Co. Cork charging an electric bicycle battery in his home.
Paddy Lane from Mallow charging an electric bicycle battery at his home.

A common concern with electric bicycles is about the eventual disposal of the battery. Electric bicycles use rechargeable a lithium-ion batteries. A lithium battery will slowly lose its capacity over time, even if it’s not used.

However, good quality electric bicycles today have a lithium-ion battery with a lifespan of approximately 10 years. After that it will need to be recycled properly, just like any other battery.