- Author: Laurel Schwartz
- Date: September 7, 2023
As the popularity of e-bike incentives sweep the US, California is leading the way with an equity-focused program. California is…
As technology advances and a focus on environmental sustainability grows, e-bikes have emerged as a convenient and eco-friendly mobility solution. While several cities in Colorado already have had e-bike rebate programs, the state-wide program launched this month, after a year and a half of planning.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the State of Colorado used federal relief money to give e-bikes to low-income essential workers to safely travel. At the time, workers were hesitant to take public transportation and couldn’t afford cars. The program was administered by the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), the state’s agency focused on affordable, clean energy efficiency. Their team was surprised by the tremendous demand for the e-bikes and has been working to expand the program since then.
Colorado’s Statewide eBike Program vs. Denver’s Program
Denver launched its successful e-bike rebate program in April 2022 and since then, continues to disburse thousands of vouchers to the city’s residents via a first come, first served process. The city releases additional vouchers every two months, and they are usually claimed within minutes via an online portal.
When designing the statewide program, CEO knew from the popularity of the Denver program that there would be more interest than funding. They needed to consider rural parts of Colorado that still have limited access to high-speed internet, and residents who might not be comfortable with a digital registration system. To meet the diverse needs of the state, their team opted to disburse e-bike vouchers via random selection.
“You can enter at any time in our application window, which reduces the stress of having to have everything ready,” said Sarah Thorne, the program manager for Colorado’s e-bike rebates.
Unlike Denver’s program which has some vouchers available to residents regardless of income, Coloradans need to qualify as low or moderate income, as measured by the median income of the county they live in. Residents who qualify as low income (80% of their area’s median income) can receive a $1,100 discount on their e-bike at the time of purchase. Moderate income residents (80-100% of their area’s median income) can receive $500 at the time of purchase.
Safety and Accessibility
Colorado’s program emphasizes safety standards for e-bike batteries, avoiding low-quality products that may pose risks. Because there is not yet a federal or state standard for e-bike batteries, CEO is only permitting residents to use vouchers at pre-qualified bike shops that exclusively sell bikes that adhere to European standards or private certifications like UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
“We’re purposely not including retailers with low quality batteries that are more likely to catch on fire for safety reasons,” Thorne explained.
As Colorado’s bike voucher program expands, the state will have to define standards for e-bikes and e-bike batteries, which are relatively new technologies. At the federal level, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSB) is currently holding a public comment period, and it’s expected that new federal safety regulations will begin next year.
To accommodate rural Coloradans while ensuring that consumers are only purchasing the bikes from pre-qualified shops, qualifying residents are also able to order their bike by phone. CEO has also reserved about $3.4 million for a grant program that will empower local governments around the state to create their own e-bike rebate programs in their community.
Advice for mobility managers
Thorne emphasized how surprised her team was at the popularity of the state’s new e-bike program. “You should assume that any amount of money you have is not enough and that it will go very quickly,” she said.
“Think through what your funding source is, and if it will be a sustainable program. You’re likely to be overwhelmed with very excited people.
Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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