How a San Francisco woman saved over $50,000 by swapping her car for an electric bike

Environment

A San Francisco woman has learned firsthand that electric bicycles aren’t just for recreation, they also make efficient and cost-effective alternatives to typical transportation like personal cars.

That’s exactly what Maureen Persico has discovered after she made the switch, though e-biking wasn’t part of her original plan.

In 2014 her car was totaled when she was hit by an uninsured driver.

Her insurance wasn’t enough to cover the cost of a replacement car, and so she had the idea to try switching to an electric bicycle instead.

She had already been increasingly involved in cycling, having taken it up after her pregnancy as a way to get back into shape as well as reduce her own impact on the environment by leaving her car in the garage more often.

But now that her family was without their car, she and her husband decided to see how long they could go without it.

Maureen used the insurance money from the accident to purchase an electric bicycle. That was seven years ago and they have yet to get another car.

They use their e-bike to perform most of the same trips they used to do in the car, even dropping their son off at school.

There’s a large hill on the way and so Maureen benefits from the electric assist to help power the two of them up and over the hill.

And it doesn’t appear that the smaller form factor of an electric bicycle has limited Maureen’s ability to move about the city or carry cargo with her.

Armed with a set of bike panniers, bike racks and some obvious ingenuity, she has done some pretty impressive utility riding.

Maureen estimates that she’s saved over $50,000 in the last seven years by not owning a car.

That matches with AAA’s data that suggests car ownership in the US costs around $700 per month on average.

Maureen explained to SFGate’s Tess McLean that she still occasionally rents a car when they need one for road trips or other occasional tasks that can’t be performed on the electric bicycle.

But these days there are so many different types of electric bicycles, including electric cargo bikes that can carry several passengers or hundreds of pounds of cargo, that more and more people are going totally carless in favor of e-bikes.

radwagon 4 electric cargo bike
My nephews and I on the RadWagon electric cargo bike

Electric bicycle sales have skyrocketed over the last year, with the COVID-19 pandemic further fueling the already rapidly-growing e-bike industry.

Now a new federal tax incentive program is trying to help more people like Maureen purchase an electric bike to reduce or replace their car use.

If the pending E-BIKE Act passes it would provide a 30% tax credit for an electric bicycle purchase in the US, up to a maximum credit of $1,500.

Outside the US, e-bike incentives are much more common. Some European countries already offer grants for an e-bike purchase in exchange for trading in an old car.

France is also considering this type of incentive, with the current plan offering up to $3,000 towards an e-bike purchase in exchange for trading in an old car for scrap.


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