Transportation alone causes about 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. A big way we can reduce our carbon footprint is by rethinking the way we get around. One of the best and most viable options is with an e-bike.
E-bikes aren’t even a new idea. They’ve been around for over 100 years. But a lot has changed in between then and now. So let’s take a peek at the evolution of the e-bike.
The First U.S. Patent Was in 1895
As we said, e-bikes aren’t a new idea. The first patent for an e-bike was in 1895 by a man named Ogden Bolton Jr, and it had a lot of similarities to the modern e-bike. His contraption was a battery-powered bicycle where the main battery was stored in the bicycle’s frame, but it didn’t have pedals. It was more like a two-wheeled car.
Speaking of cars, many historians think they may have caused a lost interest in electric bikes at the time. These bigger four-wheeled vehicles felt safer, and you could take the whole family with you. As a result, most patents for electric bikes never actually saw production.
Electric Bikes Take Off in Europe
While Americans turned mostly to automobiles, electric bikes saw a surge in Europe. In 1932, the 1932 Phillips Simplex Electric Bike hit the market. It ran on a 12v battery.
But the most popular electric bike in Europe at the time was the Gazelle. Made by Phillips and Gazelle 5 years after the Simplex, the Phillips Gazelle Ebike. Even still, only 117 bikes reached the public, but today Gazelle has sold over 13 million bikes.
E-bikes Weren’t Popular Until the 1990s
While the idea of an electric bike never disappeared, it didn’t get popular either until the 1990s. Major corporations invented bikes, but none of them took hold.
In 1993, Yamaha invented the pedal-assist system, and between 1993 and 2004, production grew by 35%.
Today, over 350,000 electric bikes are sold in the U.S. every year. As people become more aware of their environmental impact and their health, they’re taking to biking. Electric bikes are more practical and affordable than ever before.
So What Changed?
So if electric bikes have been around for over 100 years, what changes happened to make them better today? And why is demand rising?
They Were Slow
Old bikes were heavy, bulky, and slow. You could go faster on a conventional bike, and once cars hit the market, old electric bikes weren’t practical.
Today, e-bikes are lighter and faster than ever. The fastest bikes can reach speeds of 60 to 80 miles an hour, though to be street legal you usually can’t go faster than 28MPH. That’s a problem with the law, not the technology.
Remember when Sunday drives used to be a thing? After church, the family would get in the nice car and take a leisurely drive down a country road. Yeah, right, like we have time for that anymore.
The point is, Americans are busy. We’re always trying to make the most of our time. So if we can pair exercise with our commute to work, that’s perfect.
Older electric bikes were more like scooters, where you turned a throttle and wheeled away. If you wanted to get some exercise, it wasn’t going to happen.
We’re Worried About the Environment
We’re also more aware of the way our choices impact the environment, and we know driving is one of them. But honestly, public transportation in America needs some work. And for many people, biking to work isn’t viable.
But riding an e-bike is. It can help you get to work on time, get your workout in, arrive without being drenched in sweat, and dramatically lower your carbon footprint.
So to take care of your health and the environment, consider getting an e-bike.
The Evolution of the E-Bike is About More Than Just the Technology
The first patent for an e-bike in America still looks similar to the e-bikes on the street. But technology has made them faster, lighter, and more practical for the every-day cyclist.
But still, it’s the cultural shift towards a more conscientious lifestyle that truly sets the e-bike up for success.
Want to buy your own electric bike and join the trend? Check out our favorite e-bike here.