Why I have now, more or less, turned against e-bikes

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A couple of years ago I got a G-tech e-bike for review and, as I explained in my previous article I have been very happy with it, until now, where I find it almost an impossibility to get hold of a new battery (the original no longer is holding its charge properly and is about to expire). Then there is the fact that, if one would be able to get a new battery it amounts to about a third of the price of a new bike, a price for which one can get a fairly good ordinary Dutch bike, for instance.

But the costs of a new battery (and the problem I am experiencing getting a new one) is but one reason, and the difficulties often experienced in maintenance, even simple tasks, such as repairing a puncture in the wheel that has the motor, another.

In the meantime I have been able to get a replacement battery for the MKI version of the Gtech bike but I am now on my second replacement battery from Gtech; the first one went back because it just was worse in holding charge than the original, six-years-old one that was not longer working properly as to charge and even the second one, after initially performing well as to range no longer is doing so and the range is diminishing by every new charge, it would appear.

The other, probably main reason, however, is the battery – no, not the financial costs of obtaining a new one – for the environmental and human impact the mining of the necessary metals and minerals require for the making of those batteries has. Cobalt, an important component, is being mined in the Congo, often by children, many of them kept as slaves, and lithium mining in South America equally so aside from the fact that the waste of those mining operations, with lithium very much in the forefront, poisons the environment and people. Furthermore at the end of its life the battery falls under hazardous waste and has to be treated almost like nuclear waste.

The same goes, as far as the battery is concerned, though there would be other issues as well, for (other) electric vehicles, be they scooters and bikes of the motorbike kind, cars, vans, and more. While there maybe no pollution, often referred to as (CO2) emissions those vehicles, and especially those batteries, are not environmentally friendly. Rather the opposite. Aside from that there is also the electrical energy required for charging all those batteries. Instead of the vehicle having and exhaust the chimneys of the electricity generating plants become the exhaust for all of them.

While it is, as far as e-bikes are concerned, generally reckoned that the battery will last, properly maintained and such, around three years holding full charge, I have heard of batteries failing after only a year or a little more. Not very good when one considers that those batteries seem to be all around the 300 GBP mark and more. As I said earlier, for that amount of money one can purchase a good quality Dutch bicycle, or a Danish one, if you like; a bicycle that will last almost for ever as long as it is reasonably looked after and is easy to maintain.

Yes, going up inclines with such an “ordinary” bicycle, especially with no gears or but the traditional three, requires a great deal more muscle power (the easier option is pushing it up said inclines; hence the term push bike in English colloquialism) than an e-bike (virtually no muscle power needed in that case) but you get more exercise that way and you have no range restriction and do not need to recharge a battery afterwards bar your own batteries, maybe.

The environmental costs of the manufacture of an ordinary bicycle are also while not zero a great deal lower than an e-bike when taking into account the battery and the proper disposal of the hazardous waste which the battery becomes after the end of its life, but the use of an ordinary bicycle is, if you do not consider the food the rider needs, has a very low to almost zero environmental cost and impact and no emissions.

An e-bike, in the other hands, does have emissions even though not not via an exhaust on the bike it is through the charging of the battery which causes emissions at the power generating plant rather, and while all that is still much lower that the impact of an electric car or van it still is there.

Back to basics is more often than not the better approach and that one more than one level.

© 2021