Electric bike vs car: Which is more convenient?

As most people that own an electric bike have discovered, an electric bike makes a great car replacement because it makes getting carrying things and getting from a-b a sweat free experience that, if the e-bike is designed well, can be done in regular clothes.

As a car replacement, it is interesting to compare an electric bike and a small car on several key fronts that people consider important when choosing how to get from A to B - environmental footprint, cost, and convenience.

This Post From The Bridge compares the cost of using an electric bike vs a car for everyday urban transport. We also have other posts that compare environmental footprint and cost.

While environmental footprint and cost are two important considerations when choosing a form of transport, both of these are longer term benefits. A more immediate consideration is the here and now convenience and it is here that an e-bike, and especially our Tiller Rides Roadster, comes into its own.

To compare the convenience of a car vs an e-bike I thought it would be interesting to compare a typical commute to work in Tiller Rides’s home town Perth, Western Australia. The observations from this comparison equally apply to a shopping trip, a night out to a local restaurant, or a trip to the doctor or dentist - and are highly transferrable to many countries where the car has become a dominant form of transport.

The car commute

An average commute to work by car might go something like this.

You grab your car keys, house keys, bag, leave the house and jump in your car to head off down a quiet suburban street. After weaving through a few quieter streets you reach a busier main street and join the flow of peak hour traffic. When you reach the first traffic light, there is already a queue of 10 cars in front of you and you wait for one minute for the light to change and then hope that everyone moves off fast enough so you can get through the intersection.

As you get closer and closer to work, the queues at the traffic lights get longer and longer until it takes a few light changes before you can get through. You start looking at your watch wondering if you will get to work on time. To calm yourself, you play some music or listen to the radio but can’t help wondering if this is a good use of your precious time.

As you sit idling in traffic, you look down at your fuel gauge and realise that you need fuel and so at the next fuel station you pull in to fuel up. As the bowser pumps away, you watch the traffic that you were once in front of roll past and slow the flow even more.

Eventually, after some unknown amount of time you make it through the traffic and begin searching for a parking space. Today you are a later than normal and all the free street parking is taken, so you drive around the block a couple of times before realising that you will have to pay for parking.

You roll into the carpark and take your parking voucher which later today will be exchanged for $12 so you can leave the parking lot. After some careful manoeuvring into the tight parking space, you grab your bag and try to exit the car without banging your door on the car next to you. As you lock the door, you hope that the driver of that car will be equally careful not to bang their door on your passenger side paint work.

Finally after a careful walk through the busy peak hour carpark, you get to the street and commence the walk to work. This morning’s fuel stop cost you the time required to get your morning coffee and so you arrive at the morning's meeting slightly flustered and rushed.

The journey home is similar, minus the hunt for carpark, but either way you have invested a significant amount of time sitting in a car.

The e-bike commute

In comparison, the average commute to work by e-bike might go something like this.

You grab your pannier bags and slide your phone, purse/wallet, work laptop, notebook and lunch into it and head to the garage where your e-bike is charging. You disconnect the charger, grab your helmet and head off down your quiet suburban street.

A couple of houses down you see your neighbour taking in her bin and so you wave and say good morning and tell them you are looking forward to their barbeque that weekend. You ride with ease through your regular backstreets and eventually reach the bike path along the river.

With the sun shining on your face and the fresh air in your lungs, you ride 15 - 20 minutes on the bike path at a continuous 25 km/h (the maximum assisted speed of an e-bike in Australia and Europe), with a few stops for traffic lights and cross street crossings.

Eventually the bike path ends and you take a few more quiet backstreets and footpaths to your workplace where you park your bike in the dedicated bike parking space under the building. As you grab your pannier bag and walk into work, you wave to a colleague who has ridden his racing bike in and is heading to the showers and change rooms with a handful of clothing.

You walk to your desk and begin the day feeling energised and refreshed ready to get stuck into the tasks that are all too easy to procrastinate on.

The trip home is a reverse of the morning trip however you drop the power assist setting a notch and integrate a little more exercise knowing you will have a shower when you get home.

The Roadster - even more convenient

It is quite obvious as to which of the above methods of getting to work is the most convenient and healthy. While the above comparison is illustrative of what the average electric bike can do, here at Tiller Rides we have developed our Roadster with a few features that make the electric bike option even easier.

One of those features is our locking system. On a regular e-bike you need to carry a heavy lock and possibly a key which is often either in your bag making it heavy or hanging off the bike’s frame in an awkward location. On a Roadster, the physical lock is integrated into the frame so to lock the bike you simply wrap the quicktether cable around the bike parking rack, through your helmet straps and plug the end into the lock hole in the bike before pressing a button on the handlebars to lock it in place and arm the bike’s alarm and GPS tracking.

With only a physical lock on a standard electric bike you walk away from your bike hoping your lock is strong enough for any thief that may come along during the day. On the Roadster, you walk away knowing that thieves usually avoid GPS tracked devices and that even if they have a try, you will be notified on your phone if someone touches it because of the motion sensing alarm. In addition, the seat of the Roadster isn’t removable so you know your nice gel seat will be there when you go to head home.

Another convenient feature of the Roadster is the built in lights. This means you don’t have to spend time keeping track of where your lights are, whether they are charged, or remembering to take them off when you park it so they aren’t stolen. This also means that you never have to ride home after dark without lights which is extremely unsafe.

Another popular feature on the Roadster, is the greaseless belt drive instead of a chain. By using a Gates Carbon Drive, you can use a Roadster without fear of getting your clothes dirty and in addition, it is maintenance free meaning no more messy chain cleaning or greasing sessions.

Lastly, the Roadster also has an emergency tyre repair and rain poncho locked inside the innovative frame for the occasional time where you get a flat tyre or don’t predict the weather accurately.

By integrating all these needed features that others call accessories, the Tiller Rides Roadster is more convenient than your average electric bike. This is what makes a Roadster an unrivalled car (or second car) replacement for many everyday trips - especially for trips within five kilometres of home or to work if it isn’t too far away.

By Julian Ilich - Co-Founder of Tiller Rides

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