Becoming the Electric (Bike) City

Agencies in Eugene are working to get residents on e-bikes

The Eugene Water and Electric Board celebrated Earth Day April 22 with a plan to give people green to buy an e-bike: a $300 e-bike rebate program. 

The rebate can be used by EWEB customers for any e-bike purchase. The city of Eugene and a local community development financial institution are working together with EWEB to get residents on e-bikes through informational events, such as the city’s May 20 e-bike expo, and low interest rate loans. 

Pedal-operated bicycles are great for trips shorter than three miles, says Cas Casados, a senior transportation options coordinator at the city of Eugene. E-bikes with an electric motor are best for trips that require luggage — like a grocery store trip — or those that are longer distances. “We need to do more of our trips using sustainable modes of transportation,” Casados says. 

EWEB’s $300 rebate is through a grant from the Oregon Clean Fuels Program administered by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. Juan Serpa Muñoz, a business line manager at EWEB, helped develop the agency’s Green Options, which funds green technology projects for customers. He says money from the Oregon Clean Fuels Program is generated from the state based on the number of electric vehicles in the agency’s region. The more electric vehicles, the more credits the agency earns, which can then be used to fund green programs, such as the e-bike rebate. 

Muñoz says in the few weeks that the e-bike program has been going, the agency has processed 16 rebates. The agency is expecting on distributing about 70 rebates, he adds, though if there’s a huge demand, EWEB may consider increasing that number. He says EWEB settled on a $300 rebate based on conversations with other cities in Oregon, such as Ashland. And he adds that it’s a number that can be a convincing factor for someone considering an e-bike. 

On the higher end of rebates, the Corvallis-Benton County Economic Development Office offered low-income residents $1,200 rebates for an e-bike through a grant from Pacific Power. 

E-bikes have an electric motor, but how much it assists pedaling depends on the model. Some have the motor kick in to assist with pedaling at a cruising speed. Some have a throttle to help move from a standstill. And a few models blur the line between e-bike and moped and require minimal pedaling. 

The batteries are charged by a standard plug-in. If an e-bike were used to replace a household’s car and its miles traveled, EWEB spokesperson Aaron Olrlowski says, the user’s EWEB rate would increase about $20 per year. But that would be a lot of biking, and he says the average cost of charging per mile is nominal, about $0.002 cents per mile. 

EWEB’s rebate is a great way to reduce the cost, Casados says. Because the rebate covers part of the price tag of an e-bike, which can start around $750 and can run up to $5,000, the city is working with Community LendingWorks. The nonprofit organization can provide loans for purchases under $2,000 to those who may have lower than average credit history and credit score, Casados says.  

With an increase in e-bikes and other electric modes of transportation, Casados says the city is going to start posting signs about speed limits. E-bikes can travel as fast as 20 mph, so the city is reminding people that the speed limit on multi-use paths is 12 mph.

Eugene’s e-bike expo runs 5:30 to 8 :30 pm Friday, May 20, at the Campbell Community Center, 155 High Street.

This article has been updated. 

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