Freewheeling: What Six Locations, 61,000 Trips, and 242,000 Miles in Colorado Reveal About How E-Bikes Improve Mobility Options

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


E-bikes have been quickly growing in popularity in recent years. Access to e-bikes poses an opportunity to improve mobility options as a comparatively inexpensive yet similarly convenient alternative to car ownership. This study focuses on the outcomes of the CanBikeCO program developed by the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) that provided e-bikes to low-income users in sites across Colorado. This is the first large-scale, longitudinal evaluation of how privately-owned e-bikes are used, revealing energy, emissions, and behavior implications. The evaluation indicates that e-bikes primarily replaced driving alone. They were primarily used to access employment opportunities, although their use spanned the spectrum of mobility needs. They were popular among low-income, disadvantaged participants, with the greatest usage in the < $25,000 income bracket and by those who did not have access to a household vehicle. They have similar proportions to driving alone and shared rides for trips under 5 miles, so are a viable alternative for the majority of trips in the United States. Finally, they are competitive with cars in the number of destinations that can be reached in a given time, especially in urban cores and areas with good bicycling infrastructure. Analysis of the CanBikeCO pilot program revealed that e-bikes are a viable alternative to larger motorized modes, particularly for disadvantaged communities who may not have a variety of other mobility options. With supporting land use and infrastructure, their high energy efficiency can support substantial energy and emissions impacts due to mode shift, even in smaller communities. We will expand on these themes in a comprehensive paper to be released later this year.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5400-86388


  • CEO
  • Colorado
  • community
  • data
  • deep decarbonization
  • e-bikes
  • mobility


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