E-bike rebates to double under proposed pilot program
Wednesday, November 16, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki
The city will likely dramatically increase its incentives for electric bike purchases beginning next year with a new program that will double the rebates given for individual and fleet-level purchases.
In a memo released this week from Jackie A. Sargent, general manager of Austin Energy, and Richard Mendoza, interim director of the Austin Transportation Department, the new incentive levels are laid out along with an explanation for how those two bodies expect to accelerate the adoption of e-bikes by Austin residents. In June, City Council passed a resolution directing the city manager to increase incentives for e-bikes and find other ways to encourage Austinites to explore purchasing the bikes as a nonvehicular transit option.
The tiered rebate program, which goes into effect Jan. 1, will double the rebate provided through Austin Energy for e-bike purchases, with amounts based on the unit price for both individuals and groups of bikes. The incentive for individual e-bikes will start at $300 for the lowest-priced models and increase up to $1,300 once contributions from AE and ATD are combined. The current limit on individual purchases is $600.
Fleet purchases won’t be eligible for the ATD benefit but will see a rebate increase to between $400 and $800 per unit. Funding for the pilot rebate program will be limited to $300,000, split evenly between AE and ATD.
The rebates are available for qualifying e-bike, cargo bike, scooter, moped, motorcycle, or other electric two- or three-wheel vehicles, with online sales supported if purchased through a participating AE e-bike dealership. The city’s rebate could be layered on top of the federal Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart program to dramatically reduce the cost of the purchases. That tax credit covers up to 30 percent of the cost of an e-bike, up to $1,500.
Those looking to receive the rebate will need to have proof of address in a household that receives electricity from Austin Energy, regardless of whether the recipient is the named account holder. AE plans to increase outreach and awareness of the e-bike program, especially in the city’s Eastern Crescent, including opportunities to take test rides and share awareness of the MetroBike system and other facets of the city’s e-bike infrastructure.
Austin Energy is also working with members of the recently formed Texas Public Power Corridor EV working group, which is focused on encouraging use of all modes of electric vehicles, with Sargent serving as its executive chair.
According to the memo, “We have heard Council’s call to action and believe this comprehensive approach is a solid roadmap to move the needle in Austin’s shift to more transit choice, specifically e-bikes with an equity lens. We will monitor all initiatives, and with community and stakeholder feedback adjust programs accordingly with a goal to improve participation and efficacy.”
E-bikes have been a component of the city’s goal of shifting modes of transportation away from single-passenger vehicles for years, with the Austin B-cycle sharing program first launching in 2018.
There have been some issues with city-backed e-bike availability recently, however, with MetroBike, the bike-sharing program serviced by Capital Metro and operated by the nonprofit Bike Share of Austin, failing to provide a satisfactory number of charged bikes at stations used by regular riders. MetroBike leaders attribute the problems to growing pains with e-bike usage as well as staffing issues and ongoing theft, with the group pledging to correct the issues.
Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.
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