Sustainable mobility: Pedelec: eco-friendly travel on two wheels?

E-bikes are an environmentally friendly alternative to cars on some routes. They are an attractive solution, especially for commuters and people with longer commutes.

You can see them everywhere: e-bikes. Whether in the city, in the countryside or on the way to work – more and more people are turning to e-bikes. But how environmentally friendly are e-bikes really?

It really depends on the perspective. E-bikes offer a number of advantages over cars. Not only are they cheaper and good for your health, they are also more environmentally friendly. According to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), e-bikes cause only a fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions compared to cars.

Lower emissions than internal combustion vehicles

UBA calculates CO₂ emissions per passenger kilometre, which is a unit of measurement that describes the transport of one person over a distance of one kilometre. To do this, emissions from vehicle use, energy supply, vehicle manufacturing and infrastructure are added together.

According to this, a Pedelec produces about 15 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometer, while in comparison a car produces about 194 grams of CO2. To put it simply, according to the UBA, e-bikes cause about 7.7 percent of the greenhouse gases of a car.

The bottom line: According to the UBA, switching from a bicycle to an e-bike provides an environmental benefit only if the e-bike is regularly used for trips that would otherwise be made by motorized transport. Therefore: Switching to an e-bike instead of a bicycle has no environmental benefit, as simply producing the required battery causes additional CO2 emissions.

Environmental impact and proper disposal of e-bike batteries

According to UBA, the biggest environmental impact on e-bikes comes from the production of the batteries, which are mainly lithium-ion batteries. They contain raw materials such as cobalt, nickel, iron, copper, aluminum and lithium, the extraction of which is often associated with high environmental impacts, such as high water consumption and soil contamination.

According to the UBA, e-bike batteries should therefore be removed before disposal, if possible, and taken to used battery collection points. Lithium batteries can self-ignite and cause a fire if disposed of incorrectly. Used batteries from e-bikes are considered industrial batteries and are returned by distributors free of charge. They are legally obliged to take back batteries of other brands and designs if they have powertrain batteries in their range. According to UBA, many recycling centers also accept these batteries for free. If you don’t want to run twice, better ask in advance.

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