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Democrats want to make electric bikes much cheaper by giving you up to $1,500 to buy one

Eliza Relman   

Democrats want to make electric bikes much cheaper by giving you up to $1,500 to buy one
  • A new bill would give Americans up to $1,500 off the purchase of an electric bicycle.
  • The E-BIKE Act of 2023 is an expanded version of legislation that was cut from the IRA last year.

Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would give Americans up to $1,500 off the purchase of an electric bicycle. The legislation, the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act, is a new version of a 2021 bill with the same name and offers a more generous tax credit to more Americans for a broader range of bikes.

The new and expanded legislation would give Americans who earn up to $150,000, or up to $300,000 for joint tax filers, a refundable tax credit of 30% off, up to $1,500. The credit applies to e-bikes that cost under $8,000.

The previous version of the bill limited the rebate to bikes that cost under $4,000 and only those who earn under $75,000 a year (or $150,000 for couples) were eligible. The Senate cut this legislation out of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, but included subsidies for electric cars and SUVs.

The new E-BIKE Act, which was introduced in both the House and Senate on March 21, is backed by a much larger set of environmental groups, and is sponsored by more lawmakers. Reps. Jimmy Panetta, Mike Thompson, and Adam Schiff of California, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, and Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii introduced the bill.

"Many people are looking to get out of their cars and get on to e-bikes not just for recreation, but also for transportation purposes," Rep. Panetta said in a statement. "By incentivizing Americans to own and use e-bikes, we are allowing them the chance to help improve the quality of life in our communities and tackle the climate crisis in our country."

While this year's bill has more support both in and outside the halls of the Capitol, it will need Republican backing to pass the House, and it remains to be seen whether that will materialize.

E-bikes have increasingly been embraced by environmental advocates as the best alternative to cars and a key way to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. If people rode an e-bike instead of driving a car just 15% of the time, it would reduce emissions by 12%, a study found in 2020.

Biking advocates argue that electric bikes should be subsidized just as electric cars have been for years.

"It'd be great for bikes to get similar consideration because they really can replace car trips and be that form of transportation for people at a lower price point and with less impact on the environment than electric cars," Ken McLeod, policy director for the League of American Bicyclists, told Insider.

E-bikes are generally viewed as a better replacement for cars than analog bikes because people ride more frequently and for longer distances on them, the 2020 study found. But they're on average more expensive than regular bicycles, often starting at around $1,000.

"If that passes, I think it'll be one of the biggest impacts in shifting the transportation system," Rachel Hultin, sustainable transportation director at Bicycle Colorado, told Insider of the E-BIKE Act.

Both Hultin and McLeod — along with bicycle advocates from across the country — will be converging on the Hill this week as part of the National Bike Summit to lobby Congress to pass the legislation.

Electric bikes have boomed in popularity in the US over the last several years. E-bike tax credits introduced by cities and states around the country have become hugely popular in recent years. Thousands of Denver residents have taken advantage of the city's e-bike rebate of between $400 and $1,200 per person (plus an extra $500 for cargo e-bikes). The city's program was so popular that the government had to temporarily pause it to catch up with demand.

Other cities, including Ann Arbor and Austin, have implemented e-bike rebates, while the states of Colorado, California, Connecticut, and Hawaii are all planning to introduce e-bike subsidies this year.

"Bicycle Colorado just declared 2023 the year of the e-bike," Hultin said.

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