Cash discount programs for electric cars, trucks and SUVs should be expanded with e-bikes, say proponents of sustainability and mobility.
E-bikes, or motor-assisted bikes, function like traditional bikes, but are equipped with a battery-powered electric motor to give a boost when pedaling.
Erin O’Neil of Ottawa sits on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and has scoured the market for a power-assisted tricycle for adults that can easily retail for $ 2,500 or more.
“E-bikes make it easier to ride, especially in a disabled body,” says O’Neil. “But it’s just not something on ODSP that I can afford.”
O’Neil adds that she has a bit of patience for the notion that an e-bike is a luxury. For them, it would provide independence.
“It’s not a toy,” she says. “I live in an urban area and it’s something that can definitely help me around.”
While the federal government recently expanded its electric car discount program to include SUVs and pickups, buyers were offering up to $ 5,000 for cars under $ 55,000 and trucks under $ 60,000, e-bikes and e-trucks were not included.
“It feels really unfair, especially in a climate crisis, to see people get that kind of money to drive trucks and cars around … and we’re just sitting on the sidelines,” O’Neil says. “We would like to get around as easily as you can, but we do not. We are just left out.”
E-bike as a replacement for cars
With the birth of her second child, Jessica Barnes and her husband considered the pros and cons of buying a second car.
“Often people will upgrade to a bigger car to meet a bigger family, but we really did not feel good about that decision,” says Barnes.
Instead of adding another car to the road, the Ottawa family decided last year to spend $ 8,000 on an e-bike with a bucket for their two young children.
“If we wanted to make our family easy and functional for our family, it had to have a little assistance,” she says.
While any future cut for Barnes would come too late, she says governments should focus more on replacing cars, not just the engines that drive them.
“To encourage people to buy alternative forms of transportation, there needs to be some kind of financial support,” she says.
WATCH | Commuter by e-bike in Ottawa
As for the price tag of her $ 8,000 bike, Barnes says she’s still on top compared to buying and owning a car.
“What’s your insurance? What’s the bill for repairs?” Barnes asked rhetorically. “I guarantee you, we spend much less than a person with a car.”
And then there are the benefits that extend beyond their wallets.
“It’s so fun, [the kids] really enjoy it and can not wait to go. ”
Yukon, NS leads the way
In response to questions about why the federal government is giving discounts on the purchase of new electric cars (EVs) but not e-bikes, Transport Canada says its Zero-Emissions Vehicles program helps the sector move towards price parity between domestic combustion vehicles and higher price EVs, with the ultimate goal of increasing the share of EVs on the road.
The department adds that in five years it will invest $ 400 million to support active transportation infrastructure throughout Canada.
While the government does not currently help e-bike buyers, several provinces, such as Yukon, have introduced their own rebates.
E-bike buyers in Nova Scotia can get a discount of up to $ 500, while Yukon residents get a discount equal to 25 percent of the purchase price, capped at $ 750 for e-bikes and $ 1,500 for e-cargo bikes.
Companies in BC can raise up to $ 1,700 in assistance for an e-truck.
Ontario does not offer a discount for e-bikes, but both the Liberals and the Greens promise to introduce discounts in their election platforms.
With e-bikes the fastest growing segment of bike sales in Canada, the lack of a federal incentive program is a missed opportunity to improve sustainability, according to Brian Pincott, executive director of the advocacy group Vélo Canada Bikes.
“E-bikes have a much better chance of replacing a car,” Pincott says. “Sustainability is not just about changing a lane of gas cars to a lane of electric cars. We really need to provide opportunities for people to get out of the car.”
Pincott adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed striking inequalities when it comes to the ability of people to get around.
“Providing a greater choice of transportation to everyone builds greater equity within our communities, and we need to expand the choice of transportation, not just change the engine of the car,” he says.