6 Best Eco-Friendly Electric Bikes with Zero Emissions

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I love going out on my road bike. It helps clear my head, give me some ‘me’ time, and keeps the midlife spread at bay…just!

I’ve been meaning to test the best eco-friendly bike for a while but never got round to it, until now, for several reasons.

Legs Are Greener Than Batteries

I love traditional bikes because I know I’ve earned every mile through nothing but pedal power.

Maybe I was a bit of a cycling snob, but the idea of battery power boosting me up a hill used to feel a bit like cheating.

I’ve also wrestled with the environmental issues of adding chemical-filled batteries to bikes you can power with your legs.

Greener Batteries - Greener Ride - Greener Planet

Electric bikes (e-bikes) have been around for many years. The technology behind them is improving at a staggering rate.

I’m now happy that a sustainably sourced and built e-bike can be good for the environment.

I’ll go into my thinking in more detail toward the end of this article.

For now, though, it's time for me to get on my bike and reveal the e-bikes that have been rocking my MAMIL world for the past few months.

Six Electric Bikes For A Sustainable Ride

I wanted to keep my recommendations as affordable as possible (ideally all below $2,000).

However, when I got my teeth into the reviewing process, I quickly realized that there were some incredible electric bikes over the $2,000 mark that still offered excellent value for money and deserved mention.

Our Three Favorite Electric Bikes Under $2,000

Other Standout Specs

Hydraulic disc brakes
Easy to remove, semi-integrated battery
25-45 miles range per charge
Puncture-resistant tires

They Say: The RadRover 6 Plus is the latest advancement of our flagship fat tire model. Get more uphill capabilities with the custom geared-hub motor, better stopping power with all-new high-performance hydraulic brakes, and a semi-integrated battery that easily pops in and out. More rider refinements maximize comfort, making this the biggest evolution in RadRover history!

We Say: Road cycling has been one of my favorite things to do for as long as I can remember.

I’ve always considered trying off-road cycling but never liked the thought of low-geared scrambling up steep slippy hills.

So, when I started this e-bike test, I knew what to focus on first. Off-roaders that will help me fall in love with being off-road as much as I love the road.

I’m also mindful of the cost of e-bikes, so I was searching for one that could handle all types of terrain with ease (meaning you only need one bike and one battery pack)...step forward, the RadRover 6 Plus!

The RadRover 6 Plus is excellent for commuting and family trips out the park…but it can also handle some serious off-road action…thanks to the aggressive-looking fat tires and punchy 750W hub electric motor.

A genuinely epic all-rounder at a great price!

The RadRover 6 Plus will be delivered to your front door and is incredibly easy to build yourself.

There’s even a very detailed Youtube video to help if you get stuck.

If you don't like the idea of building the bike yourself, you can get it delivered ready-built for a fee, depending on your zip code.

Other Standout Specs

25-45 miles range per charge
Puncture-resistant tires
Upgraded stability
300lb payload capacity

They Say: The RadRunner made waves as the first moped-style electric bike designed to ride like a utility, cargo, or a traditional bike with just a quick adjustment of the seat. We’ve updated this fan-favorite ride with enhanced handling and a cushier saddle. Plus, you can customize your ride with more than 330 accessory combinations.

We Say: I love the quirky looks of the RadRunner 2.

It’s not all looks, though. This compact utility e-bike packs the same electric punch as the RadRover 6 Plus, with the added benefit of being able to carry a payload of 300lbs.

The RadRunner 2 is easy to ride and feels very stable even when fully loaded. This is due to the laid-back head tube angle. An elegant solution.

This is a seriously versatile electric bike. The perfect commuter bike for whizzing around town doing chores.

Just like the RadRover 6 Plus, the RadRunner 2 is easy to build yourself, but you can pay more to have it delivered pre-built if you wish.

Other Standout Specs

25-45 miles range per charge
Integrated rear rack
Auto lights
Tekro Aries brakes

They Say: It’s the strongest and most versatile version of the RadWagon yet, featuring smaller, innovative new tires developed by our in-house team of expert engineers to achieve a lower center of gravity. Its patent-pending new frame design ensures multiple points of adjustability, including a telescopic seat post and easily maneuverable handlebars.

We Say: This electric cargo bike is a real workhorse. Perfect if you need to carry around cargo and child seats.

Available in orange, black, and white. The orange wins hands down for me. Looks super cool and makes you more visible to other bikers, pedestrians, and traffic.

The RadWagon 4 is one of the more complex builds I tested, so you might want to consider getting it delivered pre-built if your DIY skills are rusty.

Our Three Favorite Electric Bikes Over $2,000

Other Standout Specs

Automatic front and rear lights
Gates Carbon Drive CDX belt
Dual-piston hydraulic disc brakes
USB port for charging external devices

They Say: The Current is the most progressive e-bike on the market, with more power and more comfort than any of its competitors. Featuring 140Nm max torque, a 500-watt motor, an integrated 500 watt-hour battery, and an ultra-responsive e-bike specific Shimano or Enviolo hub, daily commuters will surge down city streets, and adventurers will power through weekend rides.

We Say: The Priority Current e-bike is a joy to ride and a prime example of what you get if you're able to spend a bit more.

When you get into this price range, you move from hub motors to mid-drive motors, giving you a smoother experience when applying motor power to your ride.

You get two options for gearing shifting with this bike. Shimano or Enviolo. Both options are explained in a video on this page.

The Current ships to your door as a class 1 e-bike. You can easily boost this to class 2 or 3 via the console if you wish.

The range is around 30 to 60 miles on a full charge, depending on the class setting you select.

Other Standout Specs

Integrated cargo rack
OCLV carbon frame
Bosch SmartphoneHub display
Removable integrated battery

They Say: Allant+ 9.9S is the ultimate e-bike, one that’s more than worthy of replacing your car. The super-powerful Bosch Performance Speed motor that assists up to 28 mph and extra long-range battery lets you go fast and far for long-distance commutes and speedy weekend rides. Plus, the light carbon frame is trimmed with thoughtful features designed specifically for dedicated e-bike riders.

We Say: This is the best electric bike I tested!

It’s also the most expensive. But, you do get a lot for your money.

The design is sleek, and everything has a premium feel to it.

The built-in display shows riding mode speed and loads more data.

You can download the Bosch app (iOS and Android) to keep track of your journeys.

The power from the motor on this bike is incredible. The 85 Nm of torque effortlessly gets you up to the 28 mph top speed. All delivered smoothly via the mid-drive mounting.

A premium e-bike from a well-known and respected brand.

Other Standout Specs

Shimano GRX 800 rear derailleur
Shimano SLX M7000 cassette
Niner carbon seatpost
Niner custom saddle

They Say: We’re calling it our first e-gravel bike, but it’s more like a pedal-powered SUV. Or an overland expedition vehicle. Or an urban ninja transit device. Our design details make this new bike equally at home across a range of environments, rolling over a broad swath of surfaces. Bosch-powered, cargo capable, front suspension-ready, and flat-bar friendly, there’s almost no transportation task this chameleon can’t handle.

We Say: The rest of the options in this article are off-road capable bikes that also handle the road effortlessly, so I thought I’d wrap things up with a road bike that can handle gravel.

I tested a couple of options, and one stood out miles ahead of the rest…the Niner RLT E9 RDO GRX!

I love the design of this electric bike.

The battery is hidden away in the frame, but is still fully removable and replaceable. It takes around 6 hours to charge and will give you about 30 - 40 miles of range.

It's worth noting that this bike ships without pedals, so you’ll need to add those to your order (if you don't already have some).

This model is light for an e-bike, and I found I only needed to use the power assistance for steep hills. This means I can get a good workout from my ride and go further/higher than ever before.

Umming And Ah-ing…For Years!

As I mentioned at the start of this article, I’ve debated with myself whether electric bicycles can really be environmentally friendly for many years.

So I made a ‘for’ and ‘against’ list…and it turned out ‘for’ won hands down.

Pros - The Case For E-Bikes

Healthy Body Healthy Mind

Cycling is great fun. It’s also a very efficient cardio workout.

With an e-bike, you can go further for longer. Great for clearing your head and decompressing.

Use Renewable Energy Sources

Yes, some e-bikes do need to be charged at home. But you do have complete control over where that electricity comes from.

Maybe consider switching to an eco-friendly energy tariff, or even invest in solar panels, to reduce your carbon footprint.

Some higher-end e-bikes charge themselves when you pedal and/or brake.

E-Bike Batteries Are Improving

Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries power most modern electric bicycles. These batteries are getting more efficient (and smaller/lighter) over time.

As batteries improve, so do overall bike designs. Features such as integrated front and back lights, and even basic ride computers/sat navs, are becoming more commonplace.

Battery ranges are improving (with the average currently being around 20 - 30 miles).

Battery charging times are getting shorter.

E-Bike Designs Are Improving

The overall design of e-bikes is taking massive leaps forward.

Gone are the ugly, heavy e-bikes that first hit the scene.

Innovations in materials and battery designs mean that e-bikes are becoming lighter and more streamlined.

Lighter e-bikes have multiple benefits:

  • Easier to transport (for example, taking with you on vacation).
  • Cheaper and more environmentally friendly to ship.
  • Less damage to roads, sidewalks, off-road trails, etc.

Cheap And Easy Maintenance

Most e-bikes are easy and cheap to maintain.

No expensive annual services or trips to the body shop are required.

Beat Rising Fuel Costs

Using an e-bike as your primary method of travel (when commuting to work, for example) will mean you're no longer a slave to the ever-rising cost of fuel for your car.

Grant And Discounts

To encourage the uptake of e-bikes, some employers, local authorities, agencies, etc., occasionally offer discounts or grants.

For example, the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act proposes to offer a 30% U.S. tax credit for the price of a qualifying e-bike.

0% Financing

Some manufacturers and retailers offer attractive finance packages to help make e-bikes more affordable.

Rad Power Bikes is offering 0% APR (subject to credit).

Emission-Free

Electric bikes do not emit fumes or burn fossil fuels as cars do, making them good for the environment. They help reduce air pollution.

Ensure that the electricity you use for your bike is green, and you've got yourself a 100% environmentally friendly mode of transport with a low carbon footprint.

Quieter Cities

E-bikes are quiet.

If more people commuted to work on e-bikes rather than driving, we would dramatically reduce sound pollution.

Less Congested Cities

If more people commuted to work on e-bikes rather than driving, there would be less traffic congestion.

No License Or Insurance Needed

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines define electric bicycles as usually two- or three-wheeled vehicles with fully operable pedals, an electric motor of less than 750 watts/.75 kilowatts, and a top speed less than 20 mph (32 km/h) when powered solely by the motor.

In general terms, e-bikes are fully legal in the U.S. (and you can use them without any license, registration, insurance, etc.), providing they meet the CPSC guidelines.

However, the rules can vary from state to state, so it's always best to double-check if you’re unsure.

An electric bicycle that can exceed highway speed limits will be classed as a motor vehicle. A license, registration, insurance, etc., will then be required as per standard electric vehicles (electric cars, scooters, etc.).

Cons - The Case Against E-Bikes

Battery Waste

Most e-bike manufacturers say that the battery on your bike will last around three years.

When replacing your battery, you need to dispose of the old one. If not done correctly, this can lead to serious pollution issues.

Production Pollution

On the subject of pollution, we need to address the resources used and the environmental impact of producing e-bike batteries.

According to nsf.gov, “each battery represents 30-40 percent of its lead content emitted to the environment in the production processes, resulting in about 3 kilograms of lead emitted per battery produced. When scaled up the 40 million electric bikes currently on the roads, this is an astonishing amount of lead emitted into the environment”.

This quote is taken from an old article, and battery production has undoubtedly improved since then (particularly with the rise in popularity of lithium-ion batteries). However, the impact of battery use still has to be taken seriously when talking about e-bikes.

E-Bike Motors 101

There are two types of electric motor that power e-bikes.

  1. Hub Motor Drives: Usually found on more affordable entry-level models and situated in the hub of the bike’s wheel.
  2. Mid-Drive Motors: This is a more sophisticated system located in the bike's center. The power is transferred to the bike via the chain, giving a more natural feeling as you pedal.

Don't Forget The Helmet

E-bikes can get you over 30mph in no time, so I recommend that you always wear a helmet when riding.

Competitive Cyclist has an extensive range to suit all needs and budgets.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Fast Can An Electric Bike Go?

There are three classifications for electric bike speeds:

  1. Class 1: The electric motor only supplies pedal assistance when the rider is pedaling. The maximum assisted speed is 20 mph.
  2. Class 2: Similar to class 1, but also has a throttle enabling the rider to start moving without pedaling.
  3. Class 3: Has a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph and offers pedal-assist only or pedal-assist with added throttle control.

What’s The Difference Between An Electric Bike And An Electric Scooter?

Generally, a scooter has no pedals and a higher top speed than an electric bike. Scooters are classed as electric vehicles, so are more regulated and have to comply with more highway regulations.

Can Electric Bicycle Batteries Be Recycled?

Yes. Services such as e-bike battery recycling help you sustainably dispose of your electric bike battery when it reaches the end of its usable life.

Can You Buy A Folding Electric Bike?

Yes. I tested one folding bike but didn't like it. I’ll keep an eye out for more folding options and update the article when one makes the grade.

The Final Word

The demand for e-bikes is huge.

According to Deloitte, “between 2020 and 2023 more than 130 e-bikes (using all battery technologies) are expected to be sold, and in 2023, e-bike sales are expected to top 40 million units worldwide, generating about US$20 billion in revenue”.

The same report also states that electric bicycles date back to 1895.

So, I'm clearly late to the party on this one.

However, weighing the long list and positives against the small list of negatives, I’m now well and truly converted.

I’ll not be putting my conventional bike into mothballs anytime soon. But I’ll be adding electric bike runs to my weekly schedule to mix it up a bit. Especially on the off-road trails!

Yes, the battery on an electric bike is not the most eco-friendly thing even made. However, the environmental impact of these small batteries pales into insignificance when compared to that of a car.

We need to be mindful of where our electric bike batteries are coming from to ensure that our new electric ride is as sustainable as possible.

Look for reputable brands using ethical manufacturing processes. The brands mentioned in this article are a great place to start.

Get In Touch

Have you already converted to the joy of electric bicycles? Or are you still on the fence about whether or not they’re good for the environment? Are you a road rider, and do you love attacking off-road trails? Drop me a line and let me know.

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James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.
James Miller
James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.

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