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Backed by business and advocacy coalition, Blumenauer introduces ‘E-BIKE Act’

Posted by on February 10th, 2021 at 9:52 am

Customers eye Gazelle models at The E-Bike Store in north Portland.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

If you thought Portland’s U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer was done pushing bicycle policy on Capitol Hill with his bikeshare and bike-to-work tax credit bills; you don’t know Congressman Blumenauer.

Yesterday his office made official something we teased in the Monday Roundup: Blumenauer has teamed up with Representative Jimmy Panetta, a Central California Democrat, to introduce the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act. The bill seeks to give a strong push to EV-bikes in America. Despite not having the rebates or purchase incentives of EV-cars, people are flocking to bike shops to buy electric bikes in record numbers.

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The E-BIKE Act (PDF) would create a tax credit that covers 30% of the cost of an electric bike, up to $1,500 (or $3,000 for joint returns). It’s applicable to bikes costing under $8,000, and is fully-refundable, allowing lower-income workers to claim the credit.

According to the bill text (PDF), the credit can be applied to e-bikes that have pedals, a saddle, a motor of less than 750 watts and that meet one of the three-class definitions: class 1 (20 mph max with no throttle), class 2 (20 mph max with throttle), or class 3 (28 mph max with no throttle). The credit can also only be used on new bikes. And if you’re building a fleet of e-bikes, you can only claim the credit for one bike (or two for joint returns).

Panetta and Blumenauer framed the legislation as a way to replace car trips and reduce carbon emissions:

“A recent study found that if 15 percent of car trips were made by e-bike, carbon emissions would drop by 12 percent. 46% percent of e-bike commute trips replaced automobile commute trips according to a recent North American survey, and a more thorough review of European studies showed that e-bike trips replaced car trips 47% to 76% of the time.”

It’s notable that a strong, broad-based coalition has already joined the lawmakers to support the bill. Major bicycling and environmental advocacy groups have teamed up with one of the largest e-bike makers in the world to make sure the bill is signed into law. The coalition includes:

– PeopleForBikes
– League of American Bicyclists
– California Bicycle Coalition
– Bike Santa Cruz County
– Bicycling Monterey
– Ecology Action
– CALSTART
– U.S. PIRG
– The National Resources Defense Council
– Gazelle Bikes
– Current eBikes

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“America’s car-centric transportation system is wreaking havoc on our health and the health of our planet… As we move through the COVID-19 crisis, we urge policymakers to not only accommodate e-bike adoption, but to actively encourage it,” said John Stout, a transportation advocate with U.S. PIRG.

And Ewoud van Leeuwen, GM of bike maker Gazelle USA, said the bill could take America one step closer to a northern Europe-like future: “Increasing the adoption of e-bikes in the US will have a positive and transformative impact on cities, quality of life, and how people relate to one another, similar to what we have seen in the Netherlands.”

Federal incentives would be a boon for EV-bikes in the U.S. Here in Oregon, our robust electric car incentive programs do not include bicycles. Oregon House Bill 2165 would expand rebates available through the Charge Ahead program and H.B. 2179 would add electric tractors to the rebate program; but neither effort includes e-bikes.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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The eBike Store
Guest

The difficulty is that the eBike supply chain is very stretched right now.

Raw materials used to make bikes are up 40%. Shipping containers cost 3x more than a year ago and the US dollar is falling in value internationally.

a 30% rebate is extremely helpful, but please understand that prices are going up and it might end up being an offset for the price increases…

207bikes
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207bikes

This is a common sense policy. If the federal government can allot a tax credit of $7500 for an electric luxury, sports car (see Porsche Taycan – http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml) , then it can cough up a few hundred bucks for an ebike, which will do more to benefit low and middle-income taxpayers, public health, the environment and traffic to boot.

Carrie
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Carrie

This is very cool — thank you for sharing Jonathan! There are some significant equity considerations with this bill (you don’t get a tax credit if you don’t owe taxes, which some lower income folks don’t, so it’s really not an incentive for them). But given that Oregon isn’t budging on this issue right now, the Federal action is a great place to legitimize it!

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

Interesting that the bill is written to apply to motors of “less than 750 watts,” rather than “no more than 750 watts.” A lot of the popular e-bikes right now (including several RadPower models) have motors rated at exactly 750 watts, and wouldn’t be eligible under this wording. I wonder if that’s intentional, or just careless syntax. If I were RPB I’d be getting ready to re-rate my bikes as 700 watts.

Also take note that the bill is written to take effect as soon as it’s passed. No waiting until a specific date like July 1, as with many bills. That is of personal interest to me because I’m finally ready to buy an e-bike during the current tax year, and may well take advantage of it. The tax credit is unlikely to encourage me to buy a more expensive bike, but it will save me money – and might get me buying earlier.

On another note, I’m not thrilled about Class 3 e-bikes being included in this incentive. I don’t like the idea of flooding the bike lanes with very many 28 mph rigs.

Jake
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Jake

I wish this were retroactive. I just dropped a lot of money on my first eBike last fall. A rebate would be nice, but this is still good news moving forward.

Lucy W
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Lucy W

An e-bike is out of reach right now for my husband and me, this would be HUGE for helping us get one!

JEFFREY BERNARDS
Guest

I showed my e-bike to Blumenauerat at public event, 10 or 11 years ago? his comment “you’re cheating”. Getting older and educated about the benefits of e-bikes is nice to see. People are going to get out of their cars and on to an e-bike, before they get on a push bike.

mark smith
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mark smith

Ebikes are the new motorcycles…except without any real safety gear. Ride a motorcycle? Have to wear a dot helmet. Ride an ebike that you can essentially ride however you want with little regard for laws and use the bike lanes?

No helmet. I won’t be surprised when someone in power figures out ebikes will need a motorcycle endorsement.

Nils Tillstrom
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Nils Tillstrom

My question is if there’s a cap at $1,500/3,000, why preclude bikes over $8,000? There goes the incentive to get our R&M to fully replace our car.