Emil Rofors, a post-doctoral fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, rides his e-bike in South Berkeley on Nov 17, 2022. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Berkeley could soon offer rebates on electric bikes right at the register in an effort to reduce the city’s carbon emissions.

During a meeting this week, the City Council voted to include an e-bike rebate item in its budget. If it passes, the city would provide up-front rebates for e-bikes next year, which means buyers would get a discount when they make their purchase.

In Berkeley, transportation still makes up about 60% of the city’s carbon emissions, which have been dropping slowly over the last two decades. Berkeley has set a goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2045.

The rebates would be intended to incentivize e-bike ownership, replace some daily car trips and help the city make progress toward its climate goals. Low-income residents would qualify for larger rebates.

“I believe our climate goals are meaningless if we do not make a concerted effort to give people options to get around town other than a car,” said Councilmember Rigel Robinson, who wrote the item with Vice Mayor Kate Harrison and Councilmember Terry Taplin. The item was co-sponsored by Councilmember Sophie Hahn.

“Sure, I like bikes, but mostly to me they are a means to an end, the end being a safer and more sustainable Berkeley and an end to a reliance on fossil fuels,” Robinson said.

Demand for electric vehicles spiked during the pandemic and e-bikes, already a mainstay in some European cities, are becoming increasingly popular. Cities like Denver have launched similar rebate programs.

Compared to electric cars, e-bikes are powered by a fraction of the electricity and cost a fraction of the amount, but they’re still expensive. E-bikes can cost $1,000 to $3,000, and a cargo bike that you can haul kids to school in can cost upward of $10,000.

The rebates could be matched by similar ones funded by the California Air Resources Board and East Bay Community Energy Program that are set to take effect next year, providing steeper discounts to Berkeley residents.

The details of the rebates, including how much of a discount they would provide, are still being worked out, but the item recommends that the city devote $500,000 to the rebate program.

Emil Rofors, a UC Berkeley sutdent, rides his e-bike in South Berkeley on Nov 17, 2022. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Ally Markovich, who covers the school beat for Berkeleyside, is a former high school English teacher. Her work has appeared in The Oaklandside, The New York Times, Huffington Post and Washington Post,...