PSU research will focus on potential, perception of e-bikes

The Ohm electric-assist bicycle-6.jpg
E-bikes could change Portland. But how?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Whether you like them or not, electric bikes are a growing part of the U.S. market. Far from just a trend or a novelty, e-bikes are here to stay. But even with major bike companies (and their marketing power) behind them, improved technology, and lower prices, they are — unlike in some parts of Europe and China — still far from mainstream here.

Now e-bikes have earned another mark of respect: academic research. Portland State University has embarked on a study that will take a closer look at how people use electric bikes. According to the study outline, researchers have two primary objectives, “Understand people’s perceptions and attitudes of e-bikes; and evaluate the use of e-bikes by potential users to determine if these bikes could encourage new bike users.”

There will be at least 100 participants in the study and they were recruited from all over the Portland area. They will use a special batch of made-in-Portland e-bikes from Conscious Commuter for a one month period. The bikes — which are being gifted to PSU by Conscious Commuter — will be equipped with a GPS unit to collect usage data and each study participant will complete surveys before, during, and after their time on the bikes.

“This e-bike evaluation study can provide valuable insight into the potential market, user characteristics and barriers to adoption,” reads the project description.

Understanding the market potential is of particular interest here in Portland because we are very well-positioned to become a manufacturer of e-bikes and related technology. In addition to Conscious Commuter establishing an office in Portland and having their bikes made here, Portland is full of e-bike entrepreneurs and established companies.

Also of note is that $48,000 of the research project’s $216,000 price tag is being paid for through a grant from Drive Oregon, a state-funded non-profit that promotes EVs and electric transportation (the rest is being paid for by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium, OTREC). This grant from Drive Oregon is significant because the organization focuses primarily on electric cars and trucks. Back in June, I took issue with how state and federal programs were missing the boat when it came to treating e-bikes with the same respect and funding opportunities as cars and trucks. (And from the name to the content on their website, it’s clear that Drive Oregon could do a better job of promoting human-assisted EVs.)

This research project has already and will wrap up sometime next year. Stay tuned for the results.

— For more on e-bikes, check out our past coverage.

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