Frugality/ Wellness

We Bought E-Bikes to Reduce Our Fuel by Half

January 22, 2020 (Last Updated: April 14, 2020)

Is it possible for e-bikes to reduce your fuel consumption in half? We think so. Here’s our rundown of how we’ve found our e-bikes so far while travelling around the city and leaving the car back in the garage!

Picture of ebikes with the text "We Bought E-bikes To Reduce Our Fuel By Half".

Why We Decided To Get E-bikes

This year we aim to cut our car use down by half with the use of e-bikes. We’d been considering them for a while, and after hearing just how good they were from others in the FIRE community, we did what we do best and started making some lists and calculations.

 

 

First we started by researching types of e-bikes along with brands, pricing and reviews.

We decided we were after the following specs:

– Must be able to fold (for travel, transport and storage)
– 20 inch wheels
– Motorbike mode
– LED Lights
– Min. 40km radius

We then did some calculations and worked out our car costs us approximately 10c/KM.

Similar to looking at fixed costs on a budget, we looked at fixed trips we knew we take each week (family dinners, food shopping etc) and estimated our average trips for monthly work meetings, library and post office stops. This conservatively estimated us to save a minimum of $25 a month on petrol (our current spend is around $150).

Over the year we estimate to save $300.

Now onto the cost of e-bikes. These vary wildly! Anywhere from $500 to multiple thousands.

We were originally looking at the Leitner SuperT bikes which were around $1200 (Dec 19) and the Velectrix Foldaway for $1800 (Dec 19). These would take us 8 and 12 years respectively for the investment to pay off based on the above calcs (the reduction of our carbon footprint would be good though!).

Then we stumbled across the Nishiro Cityhop II. These looked awesome, and usually retailed for around $1099. Then by chance, we were looking on Boxing Day and they were reduced to $700 with an additional flash sale of a further 10% discount. So we ended up with two bikes for $1269 from Mytopia.

Total estimated time for the investment to pay for itself: 4 years. That’s a lot better than 8 and 12!

We’re only three weeks in, and the results are looking a lot more positive than initially estimated. So far we’ve already done 150km on the bikes and only filled up the car once for $55. It doesn’t look like we’ll need another tank this month so January’s savings will be $95!

If it stays like this, these bikes will have paid for themselves in just 12 months! I’m sure it will be a little longer, but we’ll keep tracking along on our Instagram in the meantime.

 

So where have we travelled with our e-bikes so far you ask?

Family Dinners

Every Sunday and Monday night we have dinners with our families. Laura’s parent’s place it turns out is quicker to get to on our bikes than driving because of the direct route we can take! My parents are a 15min bike ride away, which we can take a relaxing ride along the beach path to.

Work Meetings + Shops

We usually have a couple of out of office meetings per week at a local cafe. The return trip is around 20km and takes around 25 minutes each way.

Having pedal assist means we can still achieve some sense of exercise and arrive at a meeting looking refreshed. Win, win!

We usually make the most out of these trips, and right by the cafe is the local library, post office and supermarkets.

We’ll usually take a couple of backpacks so we can take any work items and still have room for books, mail or other items that we pick up.

Food Shopping

Lucky for us the supermarket is only a kilometre away, so we’ll either make the 10min walk or 3 min ride on the bikes depending on time and what we need to buy.

The Farmers Markets

Our biggest trip so far! This was a good test for the batteries. The total round trip distance was 27km (they have a range of up to 40km). The batteries held up, and we’re still on 1/4 power by the time we returned home.

What was amazing about this trip is we were the only cyclists at the market, everyone else had driven and we stuck out apparently! We had around 4 or 5 people come up to us to talk about the bikes or cycling in general. Most were very surprised at the modest cost to purchase the bikes and wanted all the details on where they could get one. We hope to have inspired a few and may well see another bike or two on our next visit!

Sarah on her ebike in front of the river.

What we’ve learnt so far

  • We haven’t needed to use the folding aspect of the bike yet, but will like this ability when we go travelling. We also like the smaller size for storage and parking at the shops.
  • Our bikes don’t have pedal-assist levels – there’s three options – Off, Pedal-Assist or Motorbike mode. The pedal-assist is pretty zippy and does take most of the exercise out. Although, it’s fantastic on inclines!
  • The LED lights are the best bike lights we’ve had – very bright and easy to flick on at the touch of a button on the handlebars. The horn is also electronic and very loud – which is good for alerting people at a distance.
  • The term ‘headwind’ no longer exists on these bikes. It’s one of the best aspects of an e-bike.
  • It’s addictive! The more we take them out, the less we want to use the car. It’s becoming more and more of a habit to grab the backpacks and helmets. (We’ll see if this holds up in winter).
  • Having the different options can come in handy – for example, it’s great to be able to use it as a normal bike when you like or if the battery was to go flat, and if the chain happens to fall off (ahem…I went off a larger curb than expected) you can motorbike it home so you don’t have to get greasy fingers on the street – yay!

 

Quick E-bike FAQs:

How long will e-bike battery last?

The average e-bike battery lasts around 40km. Although, you can get upgraded batteries to last longer. One tip we recommend is turning the bike on only once you’re up to speed so it’s not working as hard and can help get you a little further on one charge if you need. Plus you get a few extra calories burned – win, win!

Can e-bikes go up hills?

Oh yeah baby! Okay, so technically the instructions said not for inclines – I think this is because it probably chews the battery, however, we’ve found the bikes to be brilliant getting over some bridges in our area and inclines on the path/road. Hills are no longer a concern – and I hated riding up hills on a regular bike. I’d usually hop off and walk it instead.

Can an e-bike replace a car?

I think this really depends where you live. In our case, I think our e-bikes can replace maybe 75% of our car usage. We’re lucky that most of our everyday places are within walking or riding distance from our home, however we still need a car for travelling, taking friends around, transporting our paddleboards etc. All in all, replacing as much usage as we have is fairly high. Do a calculation of how many frequent locations are within cycling distance, and see if you could drastically reduce your car use with e-bikes instead.

Where to your charge e-bike?

Regular powerpoints! We’ve got powerpoints in the shed where we charge up our bikes. What’s great is the batteries easily slide out so you can take them into work, a cafe or even the library and plug them in while you work or study.

What are the rules for riding a e-bike?

They’re very similar to bicycle rules here in SA. Here’s the e-bike rules for South Australia – check your home city to see what applies to your area.

 

Do you have an e-bike? What has been your favourite part about owning it?

Looking at getting an e-bike? Shoot through any questions you have and we’ll do our best to answer or point you in the right direction!

 

Want more Frugal hacks? Try these posts:

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    January 23, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Wow $700 for an ebike sounds super reasonable! And I clicked on the link, it’s still posted at the price – you lucky Australians! Not sure how much sense it makes for us in the artic north since we’d only get use out of them half the year but definitely something to look into since we live at the top of a hill and the idea of biking up it is super intimidating. Thanks for sharing all the details!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      January 25, 2020 at 9:44 am

      Yeah, especially if it means getting outside more – could tack on something like this for Finn when she’s older haha. You can also look into eMTB’s (electric mountain bikes) which may work better in your area. You could calc how many car trips you make on average in the summer that are replaceable by bike and see how long it would take to save the $$ for the investment worth it or not. 🙂

  • Reply
    Bek
    January 23, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Hey Sarah and Laura,
    It was great to meet you both at the Adelaide Mustachian catch up last month. I’m so excited to hear you’ve both taken up eBiking, you’re right it’s super addictive. I’ve learnt a couple of things using the bike for my commute since last February which might be helpful:
    – Buying the bike in late Feb allowed me to get an older year’s ‘model’ and there were really good discounts available (mine was around 30% off)
    – I’ve found I can ride all week (100m) and have around 20% battery left and there’s a bit of an incline on my journey. This might be bike dependent though, mine’s a Merida Espresso 600 (2017 model). The downhill journey uses very little battery compared to the uphill because when you’re riding faster than the 25kph the bike isn’t assisting you/using power
    – Riding in winter actually wasn’t that bad last year, I probably only got rained on about 5 times. The main adjustment to make is layering… thermal pants and tops and a thin beanie were life savers. They stayed in daily rotation until the weather got warm enough that it was uncomfortable to wear them
    – I’ve also realised that visibility is a big thing. Cars don’t necessarily see you so it’s best to be lit up like a christmas tree. I’ve got a headlight and two back lights (one on the helmet) and a fluoro yellow long sleeved jacked and a fully reflective vest for night time riding.
    – Locks. At ride to work day last year, a SAPOL guy said that the standard coil lock wasn’t going to cut it and suggested I get a D lock or something like an Abus folding lock. Especially because eBikes are desirable targets!
    – I’ve been measuring the payback of my bike against the cost of bus trips as I’m mainly using it for my commute. I think it came to around a 1.5-2 year time frame.
    Cheers!
    Bek

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      January 25, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Hey Bek! Awesome to hear from you – seeing you take off on your bike after our catch up looked pretty fun haha, had a great time chatting about yours!

      These are some great tips! Ours were definitely on the cheap end – so they only last 40km, which is enough for us to do one big trip, or a few small trips to the supermarket or to visit friends/family close by before needing another charge. So good to know re: winter. I was already talking about using a beanie. We got rained on, on the way to the farmers markets the other day, but wasn’t too bad and brought our rain jackets and rain cover for our bags too. It’s all about just planning for it hey? Haha Thanks for the night time + lock tips too – super handy!

      1.5-2 years to get your money back is a fantastic investment! Great choice, and so cool that you can make it work for your lifestyle. 😀

      Hope to see you at the next FIRE catch up! 😀

  • Reply
    Adventures With Poopsie
    January 23, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    Hello! I’ve only just discovered your blog and spent most of last night reading it all (and checking out your Instagram). I’m loving it so far, please keep writing. It’s so refreshing having smart, capable (and cool) Aussie voices in the community.

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      January 25, 2020 at 10:01 am

      Hello! Well this was a very message to read. You’ve made our week! Glad you’ve been enjoying our content, there’ll definitely be more to come! Looking forward to chatting with you again soon I hope!

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