Sustainability, Energy and Environment Community

University of Colorado Boulder

 Transport

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Why I ride my e-bike

Portrait of Bruce Vaughn

Bruce Vaughn

Research Staff

As an Earth Scientist, I believe it is important to take what I know about the importance of reducing our carbon emissions and bring it home. Walk the talk. The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The more days we can leave the car in the garage, the better off the planet will be. So, I ride my bicycle when I can.

My commute is 7 miles west, 600 feet up, and takes about 45 minutes to get home. I have to admit, the last ½ mile is steep and gives me a good workout. But as life has gotten busier, and I have gotten a bit older, I noticed I wasn’t biking every day, even if the weather was good. It took time and energy that I didn’t always have. I thought about getting a plug-in electric vehicle and charging it from my solar panels at home. That would reduce my carbon footprint, but it would also be expensive. Then a friend let me try his e-bike just for fun. The fat-tired monster lifted me up the hill like a magic carpet and put a smile on my face. I was hooked. I felt like ET riding effortlessly on my floating bike to the moon.

After I got my e-bike, the fun continued. It’s made the choice to ride each day an easier one, as long as the ice is melted on the bike path in the canyon. Or at least now I have fewer excuses not to ride. Often, I can make it across town on the creek path quicker than I could in my car battling rush-hour traffic. I keep up with young athletic mountain bikers heading to the hills and smile at them as they wonder why the gray beard just passed them while carrying a load of groceries in my panniers. I get to share the benefits that all commuting cyclists enjoy, like being in a better mood when I arrive, and the bonus of getting exercise at the same time I am commuting. On the e-bike, I can adjust the electric assist from 0 to 5, depending on my mood, whether I am feeling tired or ready to sweat a little.

I had difficulty rationalizing an e-bike in the beginning, having ridden regular bikes all my life, including weeks of self-supported bike touring. I still ride my other regular bikes that don’t have an electric assist, yet somehow I felt like an e-bike was cheating. But at the end of the day, if it gets me out of my car, we all win. And the energy required to re-charge the battery takes about 100 watts for 4 hours. In other words, it’s about like having a bright lamp on with a conventional bulb for 4 hours. With over 12 kilowatts of solar PV on my roof, I can make that up in minutes on a sunny day. Call me smug, or just energy conscious. Either way, it brings me joy to get a free ride from the sun. I sleep better knowing that while my contribution maybe small, every little bit helps.


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