By Paul Levett.
An e-bike rebate or incentive program is a government or organization-led initiative that provides financial incentives to encourage people to purchase electric bikes (e-bikes). These programs aim to promote e-bikes as a sustainable mode of transportation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.
Key Points of this Article
Different Types of E-bike Rebate Programs
Researchers at Portland State University are tracking local state and city e-bike rebate/incentive programs in the United States. The incentive programs may come in various forms, such as tax credits, cash rebates, or vouchers that can be redeemed for discounts on e-bike purchases. Some programs may also provide subsidies for bike-sharing services that use e-bikes.
By providing financial incentives, rebate programs promote the adoption of e-bikes as a viable and cost-effective alternative to cars and other fossil fuel-powered vehicles, contributing to a greener, more sustainable, and equitable future.
The E-bike Rebate Program in Washington DC
The E-bike Rebate Program in Washington DC proposes rebates to residents and businesses purchasing e-bikes. The DC Council is considering two proposals for a DC e-bike rebate/incentive program:
- B25-0115 - Electric Bicycle Rebate Program Amendment Act of 2023 introduced by CM Allen.
- B25-0032 - Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstarting the Environment ("E-BIKE") Act of 2023 introduced by CM Pinto.
A summary of the two bills, provided by Kevin Whitfield, Senior Policy Advisor to CM Allen, is as follows:
Table 1. CM Allen's Electric Bicycle Rebate Program Amendment Act of 2023
Who is Eligible
(1) Have a household income ≤ 60% AMI; or
(2) Do not have a vehicle registered in the DMV
Individuals who have household income ≥ 60% AMI
Retail grant applicants
Table 2. CM Pinto's Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstarting the Environment (E-BIKE) Act of 2023
Who is Eligible?
Benefit (whichever is lower)
Families with income ≤ 80% MFI
Families with ≥ 80% MFI
Which Proposal Offers a Better Value for DC Taxpayers?
CM Allen’s proposal B25-0115 offers a good starting point as it:
- Applies to "motorized bicycles" (DC's equivalent to class 1 & 2 e-bikes) that are legal to ride in bicycle lanes and on trails in the District of Columbia.
- Provides a point-of-sale discount, making it easier for low-income or low-credit rating residents to purchase an e-bike in a shop.
- Introduces a requirement for eligible e-bikes to meet safety requirements issued by the CPSC, a DC agency, or a federal agency that issues e-bike safety standards.
Concerns About the Rebate Program
During the March 2023 feedback session, the Washington DC Bicycle Advisory Committee (DC BAC) testified that the DC Council needs to identify a dedicated funding source for the program. A comparison was made with Denver's program, which the DC BAC described as a minimal and underfunded e-bike rebate program “in 2022, the vouchers quickly ran out. In 2023, Denver funded just 860 e-bike vouchers. Essentially, the Denver program is a bike lottery program.”
Proposal B25-0115 allows the rebate to be available at the point of sale, which might drive a surge in demand at the program's start. Lauren Copsey, co-owner of DC bike shop Daily Rider, supports a phased rollout of rebates/incentives.
The Importance of E-bike Battery Safety
ABC News reported 22 deaths nationwide in 2022 attributed to micro-mobility e-bikes and scooters. New York City witnessed 219 fires related to these kinds of devices in 2022, causing 147 injuries and six deaths. In response, landlords and Universities across New York City imposed bans on e-bikes and e-scooters. The New York City Council passed a law in March 2023 requiring retailers to only sell e-bikes and batteries with UL 2849 or UL 2272 safety certification.
Federal E-bike Battery Safety Standards
In a December 2022 letter, the CPSC urged e-bike manufacturers to adhere to safety standards, including ANSI/CAN/UL 2272 and ANSI/CAN/UL 2849. The proposed federal E-bike Act also requires eligible e-bikes to be certified to battery standards named in UL 2849 or by the CPSC. Wahington DC should set similarly high e-bike safety standards.
PeopleForBikes provided a list of battery safety standards referenced in UL 2849 and UL 2272 in their written testimony to the DC Council at a feedback session held in March 2023:
- UL 2580/ULC-S2580
- UL/ULC 2271
- CSA C22.2 No. 62133-1/UL 62133-1 or CSA C22.2 No. 62133-2/UL 62133-2+ UL 2849 Clause 11.2 requirements or
- UL 2054 + UL 2849 Clause 11.2 requirements
- UL 1012 and CSA C22.2 No. 107.2
- UL 1310 and CSA C22.2 No. 223
- UL 60335-2-29/CSA C22.2 No. 60335-2-29
- UL 62368-1/CSA C22.2 No. 62368-1
Additionally, batteries and chargers should be regarded as safe if tested to the safety standards included in EN 15194, specifically:
- EN 50604 (battery standard)
- EN 60335-2-29 (charger standard)
Not only e-bike batteries are a safety concern. The Daily Rider and E-bike Lovers have been advocating to address safety concerns related to low-cost e-bikes for years. The DC Council should require that e-bikes and batteries purchased under the DC rebate program meet CPSC, UL Solutions, and PeopleForBikes safety standards.
A $300 brake replacement coupon redeemable at participating bicycle retailers and service shops, which covers the cost of a replacement hydraulic brake set and one-hour shop labor, would significantly improve the safety profile of low-cost e-bikes in Wahington DC.
Additional Concerns for the DC Council
The DC Council should enable DC residents to be re-eligible for the rebate within a reasonable time frame, including a trade-in/exchange/buy-back option, and extend the rebate on replacement batteries. The program should exclude remanufactured or used/second-hand batteries.
Provide For the Safe Disposal of E-Bike and E-Scooter Batteries
The DC Council should work with DC FEMS to construct fire-safe lithium battery drop-off bins, lockers, or bunkers outside DC neighborhood fire stations, particularly in Wards 7 & 8. Currently, the Call2Recycle map of battery recycling drop-off points shows no locations in Wards 7 & 8.
It is also recommended that the DC Council mandate Capital Bikeshare to collect e-bike batteries for recycling from these areas. Capital Bikeshare is currently transporting lithium batteries in their vans for recharging their e-bikes. Those vans could also be used to transport batteries left by residents for recycling to the Benning Road Transfer Station for electronics drop-off.
Provide Fire-Safe Charging Facilities
The DC Council should construct a fire-safe public charging infrastructure to enhance safety in public spaces. Similar to the "Ride Safe, Charge Safe" initiative in New York City, the DC Council could design and install outdoor micro-mobility storage and charging solutions. The Council could also apply for federal grant funding to support this effort.
The DC Council should follow New York's example and apply for federal funding under the Inflation Recovery Act to build secure bicycle storage facilities with power outlets and fire-safe battery charging lockers at DC Housing Authority properties. The DC Council should also require private developers of multi-occupancy housing to do the same.
The DC Council should establish a dedicated funding source for the e-bike rebate program. This funding would provide the necessary resources to Council staff to make crucial adjustments to the disbursement mechanisms during the program's implementation.
It would enable the Council to allocate staff to monitor the rebate uptake and liaise with local bike shops regarding their inventory. Such measures should allow the Council to respond to sudden changes in demand or supply chain constraints.
Paul is a librarian, cyclist, and Dad, who emigrated to the US from the UK in 2005. He started riding a bicycle for transportation at age 10, delivering newspapers. Currently he rides a Breezer Downtown pedal bicycle converted to an e-bike with a BBS01 kit motor. Paul lives in Arlington, VA.
Favorite e-bike: Tern HSD
CONTRIBUTOR E-BIKE LOVERS