Electrification could cut emissions of short journeys by half, US study finds

A US-based study has found that e-bikes could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than two-times compared to combustion cars.

Yamaha NEO's. - Yamaha

IN the US, a study has found that replacing cars with e-bikes for short journeys could result in just over a 50% decrease in CO2 emissions. 

The study has been published on The Bike Adviser, and shows, in America, 55% of car journeys are over distances of less than five miles. In that five-mile distance, cars emit 551,940 metric tons of CO2 per day, on a national scale. By replacing 50% of those journeys with e-bikes, the CO2 saving would be 273,000 metric tons, according to the study. This is equivalent to the carbon taken by 4.5 million tree seedlings grown over the course of 10 years.

Additionally, an 8% replacement of cars with e-bikes over these short journeys would save 44,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions, or over 700,000 tree seedlings over 10 years. 

In the US, over 80% of people live in cities and urban areas. The comparison to England is quite similar, with 82.9% of the English population living in urban areas in 2019. 

The UK’s population is around five-times smaller than the US, and the size of the country is much smaller, so of course the numbers regarding CO2 production for cars are a bit smaller. But the data from the study can still be transferable, because of the similar proportion of the population living in urban areas, and by extension it can be assumed that many of those people are completing small journeys. 

It would also be interesting to make a comparison between cars and 50cc- or 125cc-equivalent electric scooters, which are becoming more prevalent. E-bikes are efficient, but are also often not cheap, or as practical as a scooter. Ducati’s e-bikes are not the cheapest, but can cost as much as £10,000. For that money, you could buy a fully-kitted out Yamaha NEO’s, with all the luggage capacity and other add-ons, and have a bit spare for a Tesco meal deal on the way to work, and turn the big light on for half-an-hour when you got back - all while dumping no carbon out the back of your steed, nor blowing out your own arse either. 

Even the cheaper e-bikes - and there are definitely those out there with much more agreeable price tags than the Ducatis - do not offer the same practicality as a scooter, which can have space to store your helmet while you are in work, or wherever you decided to go on your scooter that particular day. And, while riding, there is room in a scooter to carry some things: a laptop, phone charger, notebook, camera - whatever you need. Plus the Tesco meal deal you grabbed on the way.