E-Bike Research

Under the leadership of TREC's sustainable transportation program manager, John MacArthur, TREC has developed a wealth of research around electric bicycles (e-bikes) to understand the potential for e-bikes to meet people's mobility needs, increase access to active transportation options, and address sustainability goals. Findings from this research have been used in policy discussions at the local, regional, state and federal level.

E-Bike Incentive Programs in North America (Active Project)

In July 2022 the research team launched a national stated preference survey (take the survey here), aimed at learning the potential effects of different rebate methods, cash amounts, demographics and other factors. This will yield even more insight into what affects people's decision-making, and which types of incentive programs may hit the sweet spot.

In May 2022 the research team released a new white paper from this ongoing study, "Using E-Bike Incentive Programs to Expand the Market – Trends and Best Practices", and hosted a recorded online seminar on this white paper.

In January 2022 the team released their live E-Bike Incentive Programs in North America table (access here) to track e-bike purchase incentive programs in the United States and Canada. This information is intended to provide a point of reference for the development of future e-bike incentive programs and policies, or for further research on the topic.

Key details are provided for each program, which includes detailed information on:

  • Country, State, Location – Location that the program is available in.
  • Administrator, Admin. Type – The program administrator and the administrator’s entity type.
  • Status – Whether the program is currently active, closed, or otherwise.
  • Incentive Style – How the incentive amount is determined.
  • Discount Mechanism – How the incentive value is delivered to the recipient.
  • Discount Rate – Incentive rate if the incentive is a percentage of e-bike purchase price.
  • Minimum Purchase/Fee – Minimum required purchase price to qualify for the incentive, or the fee required to participate in loan-to-own programs.
  • Maximum Incentive – Maximum incentive amount if the incentive is a percentage of e-bike purchase price. Incentive amount if the incentive is a flat rate.
  • Total Earmark – Total program funding.
  • Income-Qualified? – Is participation in the program restricted to a certain income level?
  • Low-Income Option? – Are additional incentives available to people at certain income levels?
  • Low-Income Threshold – Income limit to receive low-income benefits.
  • Details/Links – Further details if required for program comprehension, links to program websites or news releases.
  • Parent/Child Program – Indication of whether a program exists as a sub-program for a larger piece of legislation, or is a ‘parent’ of other sub-programs.

This was developed using web searches, google alerts, and an existing incentive program tracker provided by PeopleForBikes. The list is updated periodically (see update date at top of sheet) to reflect newly-implemented or proposed programs, current program status, or to include programs not in the current database.

If you have comments, edits, questions or additions, please email John MacArthur (macarthur@pdx.edu)

Novel Approaches to Model Travel Behavior and Sustainability Impacts of E-Bike Use (Active Project)

Researchers at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Portland State University, University of Pittsburgh, and Bosch E-Bike Systems have received funding from the National Science Foundation to measure real-world travel behavior and assess the sustainability impacts of those choices. Current practices of tracking e-bike data rely on memory recall and self-reporting from the user. This study will instead leverage smartphones to conduct ad-hoc travel surveys to supplement passive data collection and, using machine learning algorithms, create the largest and richest dataset to support the growth of e-bike use as a transportation option.

Love your e-bike and want to join the study? Apply here (accepting applications ongoing)! Passively share your trips with us - just plug in a dongle, download our app, and ride like you normally do. The study is open to U.S.-based participants who ride an e-bike with a Bosch onboard computer, and use an iPhone.

Electric Vehicle Incentive Cost and Impact Tool (2020)

This online tool enables policymakers, public stakeholders, and advocates to quickly visualize the potential outcomes of an electric vehicle incentive program made up of several vehicle types. The tool estimates the cost efficiency of a proposed program in terms of the cost per kg CO2 avoided by each mode over the course of one year. It also takes the proposed budget into consideration to calculate the potential number of incentives to be made available and the amount of total CO2 that would be avoided due to internal combustion engine automobile VMT displacement.

Estimating the Effect of E-Bikes on Person Miles Travelled and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (2020)

Many U.S. cities have climate crisis goals for reducing automotive vehicles miles traveled (VMT) in order to reduce tailpipe emissions. How do we reach the untapped potential for new bicyclists? Wider adoption of e-bikes might be the answer. This white paper found that, given a 15% e-bike mode share in Portland, Oregon, the city's CO2 emissions would be reduced by over 900 metric tons per day. The researchers conclude that the strategy of increasing e-bike mode share can be used confidently as a tool to help meet carbon emission reduction goals.

How E-Bike Incentive Programs are Used to Expand the Market (2019)

Research has demonstrated that the high cost of e-bikes was a barrier to entry. This white paper explores techniques to develop and structure e-bike incentive programs to reduce that barrier. Four main program structures were identified: Partial Purchase Subsidies, Vendor-Funded Discounts, Employer-Sponsored Programs, and Government Sponsored Loans. After an international inventory of existing programs, the researchers found that the most popular were partial purchase subsidies.

Taxonomy and Classification of Powered Micromobility Vehicles (2019)

As a member of SAE International's Powered Micromobility Vehicles Committee, MacArthur helped co-author a technical report on Taxonomy and Classification of Powered Micromobility Vehicles. These vehicles may be privately owned or available via shared- or rental-fleet operations. This report does not provide specifications or impose design requirements for powered micromobility vehicles. SAE International, previously known as the Society of Automotive Engineers, is a U.S.-based, globally active professional association that develops standards for engineering professionals in the mobility industry. (Image: SAE J3194™ Taxonomy & Classification of Powered Micromobility Vehicles)

A North American Survey of Electric Bicycle Owners (2018)

Widespread adoption of bike commuting could improve public health through increased physical activity and reduced carbon emissions, as well as ease the burden on congested roads. However different lifestyle demands, physical ableness, and varied topography create an unequal playing field that prevents many from replacing their car trips. E-bikes could bridge this gap. If substituted for car use, e-bikes could substantially improve efficiency in the transportation system while creating a more inclusive biking culture for people of all ages and abilities.

Learn more about the North American Survey of Electric Bicycle Owners.

Evaluation of Electric Bike Use at Three Kaiser Permanente NW Employment Centers in Portland Metro Region (2017)

In 2015, participants from three Kaiser Permanente Northwest campuses were issued an e-bike for 10 weeks and were asked to complete surveys about the experience. Results show that participants biked more often and to a wider variety of places than before the study; they become more confident cyclists; and they cited fewer barriers to cycling when given the opportunity to use an e-bike. This study’s findings support the general hypothesis that e-bikes enable users to bike to more distant locations, bike more frequently and allow a broader participation in cycling for certain segments of the population.

Learn more about this Evaluation of Electric Bike Use at Three Kaiser Permanente NW Employment Centers in Portland Metro Region.

Differences of Cycling Experiences and Perceptions between E-Bike and Bicycle Users in the United States (2017)

This paper investigates the differences of the cycling experience and perceptions between e-bike and conventional bicycle users. The results show that e-bikes play a more important role in utilitarian travel, such as commuting and running errands, compared to a conventional bicycle. Conventional bicycle-owning respondents use their bicycles more for recreation and exercise. Also, e-bike owners tend to bike longer distances and take more trips per week. These findings begin to provide insight and a profile of potential new markets for e-bikes in the United States.

Access the journal article on "Differences of Cycling Experiences and Perceptions between E-Bike and Bicycle Users in the United States."

The People Behind the Research

Meet the experts behind many of the projects listed above:

  • John MacArthur, Sustainable Transportation Program Manager, TREC at Portland State University
  • Mike McQueen, former TREC Graduate Research Assistant and PSU alumni in Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • LEVER: The Light Electric Vehicle Education & Research Initiative is a consortium of LEV researchers and educators that currently includes faculty and staff from University of Tennessee, Portland State University, and Monash University. LEVER started in 2014 to bring together some of the leading researchers in the field to collectively answer some of the biggest questions related to these emerging vehicles.

Online Education

We have presented a variety of webinars and online seminars focused on this topic, and are always adding more. See the YouTube playlist of our online education in electric vehicles and e-bikes.