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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Advancing the 'Green Rider' Revolution

By Ray Carrier

The wave of the future in transportation for consumers lies in switching over to using cleaner Green alternative fuels instead of continuing to waste with highly polluting gasoline from fossil fuels. The general public is becoming increasingly aware of the urgent need for everyone to start changing our consumption behavioral patterns if we want to save our planet, especially since the major conference in Copenhagen this past December when world leaders gathered to address the critical issue of climate change

Most of the attention about this topic in the news recently has been focused on electric cars, but for the next few years prices for many of these new products will remain fairly high and unaffordable for most consumers as the technology remains in the development stage. However here in the USA, unlike in many other areas of the world such as Europe and Asia where gasoline is more expensive and people are not so strongly attached to their cars, large portions of the population have already taken a different approach to realize significant savings, improve their health and help the environment by using Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs) - specifically electric bicycles and scooters - for much of their short distance travel.

Many American TV viewers were surprised to learn that in the city of Copenhagen, with a population of 500,000, there were more than 600,000 bicycles riding on its streets that people use to commute to work and take care of most of their daily errands. The same situation applies in neighboring bike-friendly Holland, and this trend has recently been rapidly gaining in popularity throughout Europe. The Dutch are leading the way in Europe, with fully 25% of commuters using bikes to travel an average of 6.3 km to work. Meanwhile, in Japan 15% of the population use their bicycles to commute to work, and even higher proportions do so in China, as compared to the USA where only 1.67% of Americans now commute by bicycle.

Most recently, the newest trend that has really been picking up steam in short distance transportation for both bicycle and car owners has been to switch over to using LEVs. The LEV industry is still a relatively new one, since the first modern LEV products were only introduced to mass markets a little more than 15 years ago during the early 1990s. The modern E-bike originated in Japan in the early 1980s, where the intent seemed to be to make cycling easier for the elderly. Because of extremely large local demand and very low labor and production costs, manufacturing was initially centered in China, where it still remains dominant. Today nearly 1 out of every 2 bikes sold in China are electric, and this pattern can be expected to expand globally - including in the USA - as more quality E-bikes become available at prices affordable to consumers.

During the past 5 years many Dutch have been switching to electric bikes that increases the average commuting distance traveled to 9.8 km. This has already had a noticeable effect in reducing carbon emissions and declining carbon footprints. An amazing 41% more E-bikes were sold in The Netherlands compared to the same period in 2008! During the first six months of 2009 alone a total of 105,000 electric bicycles were sold there. Meanwhile in the Netherlands, The successful sale of E-bikes is leaving its mark on other segments as 10% less city bikes were sold, while Trekking bikes dropped 6.6% and kids bikes with 12%. This is the trend for the future in the bicycle industry.

Although there were less than 100,000 LEVs sold in Europe only 5 years ago, in 2009 it is projected that annual sales will reach as many as 750,000, a 300% increase in sales over just 2 years since 2007, with 1 in 4 bike buyers in Holland buying LEVs. Germany is now starting to approach the numbers in Holland, and 1 in 10 people doing the same in mountainous Switzerland. It is estimated that more than 100 million people own LEVs in China alone today, and trends demonstrate that this is rapidly escalating. Elsewhere around the world, 170 nations bought e-bikes from China in 2008, and demand just keeps on rising. More than 23 million electric bicycles were sold in 2008, and Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports forecasts that globally E-bike sales will more than double by 2012.

Electric bicycles, commonly referred to as E-bikes, are still fairly new in the USA, with less than 200,000 sold to date, but they are rapidly emerging as a viable alternative form of transportation for those millions of people who enjoy and would rather ride a bicycle to get around and get some exercise from riding them to help stay in good physical shape.

Health officials in the USA emphasize that our modern cities need to better address the challenge of catering to the needs of a rapidly aging population as well as better tackling the important social issues of health and wellbeing for which maintenance of physical activity is seen as a key. One way more people can improve their physical condition is by frequent cycling on an E-Bike.

An important feature of E-bikes relates to how they can reduce physical effort, especially when ridden in cities where the topography includes lots of hills. This makes them very convenient for use among people with low initial fitness levels to help improve their physical performance, such as most Baby-Boomers, elderly and disabled and others with debilitating health conditions, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and stroke victims.

By providing assistance to persons who want to get more exercise and stay in better shape, electric bicycles thus can help to maintain the rider’s heart rate in the aerobic zone when climbing uphill and so avoid spending excessive energy and straining their heart and risking bringing on an attack, whereas otherwise on a regular bike they might feel completely drained. In addition to helping people to just stay in shape, electric bikes can also be used by those who know they are overweight and want to do something about it to lose weight. On the other hand, people who use them for commuting to and from work can avoid sweating and getting overheated when they almost exclusively use the motor on hilly terrain to coast instead of pedaling.

Only very recently have very high quality electric bicycles been introduced to the US market typically ranging in price from $1000 to $2500, but it is very likely that they’ll soon quickly catch on in popularity, especially among Baby Boomers and slightly overweight people who no longer have the strength they once had and have grown flabby and out-of-shape over the years, or weak and more fragile persons, including elderly persons and those who are recovering from illnesses such as heart disease or accidents.

Many such people know that they need to get more exercise, but dislike bike riding because they think they will get tired too quickly if they went out on a long bike ride then had to return home exhausted. Riding an E-bike instead of pedaling all the way on a regular bicycle eliminates that excuse and opens the way for people to be able to exercise more than they normally would otherwise, and this helps them to get back in shape.

E-bikes solve this problem because riders can pedal all they want on a flat surface, using the gears like they would on a regular bike, but then when they reach a steep hill that ordinarily would be too much of a challenge for them to climb on a regular bike, or feel too tired from trying to follow a companion who is stronger and pedals faster, just turning on the throttle would get them over the hump effortlessly, and then when they’re ready to go back to pedaling again they can readily do so.

One interesting variation that can be expected to gain greater popularity in the near future, especially among commuters, is the compact umbrella-type of bike that can easily be folded up when it is not being used. Folding bikes take up very little space for storage and thus are ideal for taking indoors to tuck into the closet of someone’s small home or apartment, even if there are stairs to climb because they are relatively light-weight and can be easily rolled up them on their wheels. They can also be carried on public transit such as trains and buses where often even regular bicycles are not allowed to go during busy rush hour periods. They are also convenient to put into the truck your car to take with you far from home or when you travel.

Light-weight and compact folding electric bikes are especially suitable for owners of sail boats and recreation vehicles (RVs), people who travel around away from home for extended periods of time but would like to have a means of transportation to be able to easily travel short distances to get around, take care of errands, or pick up groceries and supplies when they moor their boats to a wharf or camp in an RV park and want to save money in high gasoline costs that accumulate quickly from driving around a heavy big RV over only short distances.

LEVs are especially useful in helping cash-squeezed consumers to save large sums of money from their transportation budget. Recent studies indicate that when the average person gets into their car, SUV or truck to go somewhere, more than 40% of the time they travel distances of less than 2 miles, and more than 50% of Americans live a distance of less than 5 miles from work. Everyone knows that it is the constant stop-and-go of driving in heavy traffic in urban areas that is responsible for causing much of the wear and tear on their vehicles and makes it necessary to keep bringing them back to the garage for regular maintenance check-ups and repairs that can be costly over time.

Short distant travel also means much higher consumption of gasoline as compared to driving longer distances on the open highway. The AAA issues annual reports on the total cost of driving that take into account a variety of factors including maintenance, insurance and other incidentals. In 2009 it was estimated that when gasoline costs $3 a gallon, the average driver spends almost exactly $10,000 per year to drive his/her car a distance of 20,000 miles. Looking at it from another angle, the average cost of owning, operating, maintaining, and driving a car comes out to 71 cents per mile for an average car driving an average of 10,000 miles per year. In contrast, it costs about 2.7 cents per mile to drive a LEV the same distance.

If you estimate that your average yearly commute amounts to about 8,000 miles, i.e. a distance of about 16 miles each way, the average car gets 23.9 miles per gallon, and gas is priced at about $3.00 a gallon, then you are paying more than $1,000 for gasoline alone when commuting. If instead you travel that distance in a LEV and can go about 30 miles on full charge, and electricity costs about $0.11 per kilowatt hour, it will cost you less than $30 a year for fuel, making commuting with a LEV much more affordable and cost effective in the long run. Another way of looking at how much money you can save with a LEV is that by spending a total of $100 on electricity for continuously recharging it, you should be able to travel a distance of more than 17,500 miles for that much money. To travel that same distance in a car, using the AAA average costs for driving, that would amount to $15,825 based on a price of $3 per gallon of gasoline.

This means that if you substituted and rode an LEV for most of their short distance travel instead of driving their car or SUV for that purpose, you could literally save several thousands of dollars every year from ever increasing transportation expenses, and more effectively use those savings to pay for other purchases or bills. Recently gas prices have started to rise again, and projections show that they are likely to keep on getting higher.

Furthermore, when you drive a car there are considerable environmental and monetary costs of transportation. Close to 30% of the greenhouse gases released in the United States come from transportation. Each gallon of gasoline burned in an average car’s engine spews 19.4 pounds of CO2 out the exhaust and directly into Earth’s atmosphere. With a gas tank size of 15 to 18 gallons, that’s 350 pounds of CO2 you’ve releasing every time your fuel gauge hits Empty. The less gasoline we burn in our cars, the better it is for our atmosphere.

Overall, significant long term financial gains can be achieved from riding an electric bicycle to work or to the store instead of taking a car, and with zero-emissions they definitely have less impact and are more environmentally friendly. As millions of consumers are learning, LEVs are really ideal for people who want to save a lot of money, are Green-conscious, and want to improve their health and stay in shape.

Go to a LEV store for a test ride and select a model that best suits your own particular needs. Once you start to change your lifestyle, you’ll never look back again. You’ll be saving money, improving your health, and helping to save the planet, all at the same time.

Ray Carrier has recently opened a Green Rider store in Fells Point in Baltimore MD that exclusively sells and rents a wide variety of the best and latest in high quality and performance state-of-the-art LEV products available in North America today. These include Motorino electric scooters, eZee Bikes (‘the Rolls Royces of the e-bike industry’) and PEDEGO umbrella folding bikes, BionX Intelligent Energy Management electric bicycle conversion kits, and Razor kick-scooters for kids. He has recently written a comprehensive 141-page guide book on How to Start Your Own LEV Business that is available for sale at $29.95. For more information about this, you can contact him at: Ray invites everyone to check out his cool products so they can join the Green Revolution and like him, adopt his business motto: Don’t Be Fuelish, Save Your Green - Be a Green Rider. Check out the website at

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very extensive article on LEVs and electric bikes. I think the main problem that seperates us from Europe and China is infastructure. Our cities just weren't designed for bikes! They were built around the Industrial Revolution -- and cars. It will take a lot more than just a change in mindset for the majority of Americans to get onboard. But hopefully with enough pressure from environmentalist and LEV enthusiats, the necessary changes will be made slowly over time and e-bikes will be a realistic option for more people.

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