E-bike discount is mostly dead only as supporters plot next steps

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is a key piece of legislation that would invest $369 billion in clean energy and other climate-fighting equipment, including billions of dollars for expanded tax credits for electric cars.

That’s cars — not vehicles — but the bill’s authors decided to end funding for a type of vehicle that has the potential to fight climate change, reduce car emissions, and make our cities and roads safer and more livable. Has the most potential: E-bikes.

A $900 refundable tax credit on the purchase of a new electric bike was left on the cutting room floor by Congressional negotiators who bike advocates have been pushing for years.

“It’s really, really hard,” said Noah Banyan, director of federal affairs at PeopleForBikes, a cyclist advocacy group, in an interview with ledge, “We are deeply disappointed about this prime opportunity to take climate action and advance progressive climate policy that can make a real difference.”

The pain is particularly acute given how close advocates got to passing a de facto federal policy to encourage e-bike sales. President Joe Biden’s original Build Back Better proposal included a refundable tax credit of 30 percent of the purchase price of a new e-bike, with a maximum limit of $1,500. But Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) had the final word at the end of the day, and the e-bike tax credit was gone.

Photo by Amelia Holovaty Crales/The Verge

Disappointment was evident among the townspeople and bike advocates. David Zipper, a visiting fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government and which focuses on urban development, called it a “crazy lapse.” slate, Washington Post Declared it a “blind spot” for the bill. And bicycling The magazine said the elimination of the e-bike tax credit was a “shame.”

But the e-bike credit may be alive again. According to Congress sources, assistant lawmakers are already working on Plan B, eyeing other opportunities to pass legislation that could juice e-bike sales – perhaps even before the end of the year. .

A source close to the talks acknowledged that the prospect of including an amendment for e-bike credits on the Inflation Reduction Act before it reaches Biden’s desk is “less than none.” But there will be other tax bills that will come up for voting before the end of the year, most notably a bill to delay the amortization of research and development expenditure.

“It’s a tax provision,” said the Democratic source. “If there is an attempt by more members to include that provision later this year, it probably opens the door for us to include other tax-related measures like the e-bike credit or the Cycle Commuter Act.”

Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus and co-sponsor of the Kickstarted Electric Bicycle Promotion for the Environment (E-Bike) Act, vowed to continue pushing for the bill.

“Electric bicycles are one of the most effective ways to move people from cars to bikes and to facilitate carbon-free commuting,” Blumenauer said in a statement. ,While it’s disappointing that my bills to offer discounts for electric bicycles and make commuting by bike were not included in the Inflation Reduction Act, it’s important that Congress doesn’t miss out on eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels. . This package is the largest investment in the history of our country in tackling the climate crisis. As we work to get this law passed quickly, I will continue to advocate for making it cheaper and easier for people to buy electric bikes.

The failure to include funding to help people move from cars to e-bikes, which is explicitly about fighting climate change, is symptomatic of the car-filled American mentality. To fight climate change, cities need to be designed with more walking, biking and transit access in mind. This requires a multi-pronged approach that includes improving infrastructure to build a network of protected bike lanes, more frequent train and bus service to encourage transit use, and – yes – tax credits and other incentives toward electric bikes. To help more people run are involved.

E-bikes are the best tool at our disposal to replace car trips, especially trips that are five miles or less, which involve the vast majority of driving in the US. Electric vehicles are an important step toward decarbonizing transportation, but experts say that reducing driving trips altogether will have a more measurable impact if we are to slow the warming of the planet.

E-bikes are more expensive than normal bikes, typically costing anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000 for some of the more high-end models. But they also have the potential to replace car trips for a lot of people. A recent study found that if 15 percent of car trips were made by e-bike, there would be a 12 percent reduction in carbon emissions. According to a recent North American survey, about 50 percent of e-bike commute trips replaced automobile commute trips, and a more thorough review of European studies showed that e-bike trips replaced 47 to 76 percent of car trips. .

And yet, Senate Democrats reportedly put the price tag — $4.1 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation — associated with subsidizing the cost of e-bike purchases. The Bicycle Commuter Benefit, which will provide pretax commuter benefits for cyclists who drive or take public transportation to work, scores less than about $183 million over 10 years.

Cost will remain a moot point, but Congressional Democrats may try to include language in the bill that would encourage more domestic manufacturing – similar to how the EV tax credit was applied to apply only to vehicles that have There was a significant portion of the parts. US or by trading partners. Today, most e-bikes are manufactured overseas, mostly in China, and “on-shoring the bike industry” could help attract more support, the congressional source said.

Jonah Freemark, senior research associate at the Urban Institute, called the Inflation Reduction Act “an important step for an overall climate” that nonetheless reinforces many of our bad habits and tendencies as a nation of drivers.

“The net effect of the bill’s approach is that it makes no effort to address the fact that electrification of car systems is one of many ways to reduce the climate impacts of transportation,” Freimark said in an email. Told. “Getting people out of cars and instead walking, biking, or taking transit is a more effective and cheaper way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than moving people from a gas-powered car to an electric car.” is in.

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