As US states prepare to start subsidizing the purchase of e-bikes to get people out of cars, Vermont has become the first to do so.
On July 1, thousands of Green Mountain State residents became eligible for a new point-of-sale rebate that gives them up to $400 toward the purchase of a new e-bike, according to their level of income. The innovative pilot program, which was approved last year as part of a broader effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state, explicitly aims to “reduce[ing] vehicle-kilometres traveled in personal automobiles. And if previous research is any indication, it’s likely to be successful: Between 35 and 50 percent of e-bike trips purchased with a government incentive replace a car trip.
Dozens of local and regional e-bike incentive programs have proliferated across America in recent years as cities
but efforts to offer statewide discounts have so far struggled to get off the ground, even when voters approved them. A high-profile $10 million effort to boost e-cycling in California, for example, only named a trustee last week, while rebates in Massachusetts, New York and Oklahoma have not yet been named. now been offered. A very popular discount program in Denver, meanwhile, was not offered to Colorados beyond the Mile High City limits.
The people behind the Vermont program, however, say thinking beyond the municipality has serious benefits, and more communities may want to follow suit.
“It’s early in the process, but our view is that a statewide program can bring a level of standardization that ultimately simplifies things a lot and can make these programs more effective in some ways,” said Mark Bielecki, senior director of transportation programs for the Center for Sustainable Energy, which administers the program.
Bielecki acknowledges that structural reasons are likely a big part of why Vermont got its e-bike discount across the finish line so quickly.
With just 624,000 people, the New England community is America’s second-least populous state, and it already had five active local e-bike incentives before the state streamlined them all into one program. according to a national tracker from the Transportation Research and Education Center. That means many Vermonters have already snagged their rides, and the new rider money will be able to stretch a little further.
By the way, that pot of money is only $92,500 — roughly a rounding error compared to the $12.3 million in incentives the state will give to electric cars this year — and the value of each individual credit is quite low compared to other cyclists. targeted programs. A married couple filing jointly, for example, would only get back $250 if they earned an adjusted maximum of $125,000 per year, while Denver’s generous rebate offers a minimum of $400 per year for everything residents, with some low-income people eligible for a staggering $1,700 if they buy cargo bikes. (And needless to say, the Vt. program pales in comparison to countries like France, which just extended its e-bike credit for low-income residents in some areas to nearly $4,000 usd.)
Bielecki says that while Vermont undertook a meaningful process with stakeholders to determine the initiative’s scope and revenue limits, that process could have been a little simpler given the state’s small size. (Some supporters might suspect that the state’s astonishing lack of diversity might also have been a contributing factor.)
“A lot of the e-bike initiatives happening across the country involve a lot of community organizations, advocacy groups, retailer networks and other groups that are involved in shaping the program – and that can sort of pull things out,” Bielecki said. “Vermont did that too, but they were certainly able to pass the legislation and move into implementing the program fairly quickly.”
We are proud that Vermont is the first US state to offer an e-bike subsidy. Now let’s think bigger! https://t.co/Qs8nVdJOKZ
— Local Motion (@LocalMotionVT) August 25, 2022
While their success may be hard to replicate in larger communities, there’s still much to admire in Vermont’s e-bike effort — and not just how quickly it gets people out of cars.
Bielecki points out that the statewide program could prove more sustainable in the long term, since it is now impossible for Vermonters to move from one municipality to another and buy several subsidized bicycles thanks to local discounts. The new program will offset this constraint by allowing participants to buy from out-of-state retailers and even online, opening up a line of much cheaper direct-to-consumer bikes that can help maximize the value of the rebate. For those who prefer to buy local, a long list of participating stores will be able to pass the incentive directly to consumers from the moment they shop if they present a Vermont state ID and a simple form to verify their income.
These retailers, Bielecki says, have been crucial in getting the word out to people most likely to use their bikes for transportation, which is the state’s primary goal.
“A statewide model can still have that kind of localized, community-focused angle; that’s where these dealer networks really come in,” he said. “They are the ones who serve the local communities, they know the members of their community and they tend to have repeat customers.”
Regardless of how they choose to structure their programs, Bielecki is confident that more incentives for e-bikes are on the horizon in American communities, including at the state level.
“Vermont is the first to do this, but there are several others who are going to be hot on their heels,” he said.