Nova Scotians taking advantage of e-bike rebates

·4 min read
Jillian Banfield is seen on her e-bike. Banfield says she considers her e-bike an alternative to a car. (CBC - image credit)
Jillian Banfield is seen on her e-bike. Banfield says she considers her e-bike an alternative to a car. (CBC - image credit)

Jillian Banfield describes her first experience on an e-bike as "love at first ride."

Since that test spin, Banfield has started using an electric bike to get to work and run errands, making it a viable alternative to other modes of transportation.

But with a hefty price tag, e-bikes are not accessible to everyone — something the provincial government hopes to change with a rebate program introduced earlier this year.

"Hopefully it's the first step of many from the government to do much more to support people getting e-bikes because the cost certainly is a barrier, and I'd like to see it a lot easier for people to get on bikes," said Banfield.

She and her partner, Dan, are among more than 1,000 Nova Scotians who've applied for — and received — a $500 e-bike rebate.

CBC
CBC

To be eligible for the rebate, the e-bike must retail for at least $1,200 and be purchased new from a retailer with a physical storefront in Nova Scotia. The electric motor must be 500 watts or less and it cannot be powered by gas or diesel.

Banfield, whose e-bike cost $5,500 after the rebate, said finding an electric bike cheaper than the $1,200 electric minimum isn't easy. She said most retail for at least twice that.

Choosing e-bikes over cars

To those who say e-bikes rely on electricity generated by fossil fuels, Banfield said she didn't buy one to replace her traditional "acoustic" pedal-powered bike.

"We need to think of an e-bike as a replacement for a car," Banfield said. "It's not necessarily a replacement for a regular bike. So if we're replacing car trips with bike trips, you know, it's not a fair comparison about greenhouse gas emissions or anything like that.

"So for me, I have arthritis. If I'm having a bad day with my arthritis, I put a little more assist on to help me up the hills. Not as much pressure on my joints."

Unlike electric cars that rely on designated charging stations, e-bikes can be plugged into the same outlet as your vacuum cleaner or hair dryer.

Hundreds of applications

The Clean Foundation of Nova Scotia processes the rebate applications for both electric vehicles and e-bikes. Its transportation manager, Sarah Balloch, said the group has received more than 1,400 applications for e-bike rebates and close to 1,300 were successful.

CBC
CBC

"Some folks that we've heard back from through the rebate program have said that e-bikes have given them the ability to ride a bike again because they no longer have to worry about the hills of Cape Breton or trying to get over the bridge here in Halifax," said Balloch.

"The e-bike can give them that extra assist to make those leaps."

Balloch agrees that e-bikes should be considered as an alternative to cars.

"We get lots of folks who say that they've used it as a replacement for their second vehicles, and now they can run their regular errands. They can commute to work when they need to. They can go to functions when they need to," Balloch said.

"And we get another mix of people who are really excited about the opportunity to cycle again. And then, of course, lots of people who are just interested in the technology, interested in having fun. They are fun to ride."

'A great success'

And, so far, not that hard to find.

At a time when retailers are reporting long waits for inventory, those in the business of selling e-bikes say they've been lucky.

Norman Wiechert, owner of The ebike Centre in Dartmouth, has been selling e-bikes for the past 10 years. He started at a time when there wasn't much interest so he had to "create that trend."

CBC
CBC

These days, Wiechert said he's selling them as fast as he can put them on the showroom floor — but there have been few, if any, delays. He gives credit to the province for helping out the local retailers.

"It's been a great success with that rebate," he said. "And I really appreciate that the government thought about local businesses with their rebate because now people are coming to us, buying local. And that's supporting us, of course."

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