German company Bosch is pushing to have electric bikes included in the proposed subsidy scheme for electric vehicles.
E-bike sales are soaring in this country, more than doubling in the past two years in spite of their high price tag compared to other cycles.
Bosche makes components for about 20 brands of e-bikes in New Zealand and says if in the ''Feebate'' programme they would contribute to emission reduction, health and reduction of congestion.
The proposed scheme aims to encourage higher uptake of electric vehicles, knocking around $8000 off a new $60,000 electric car, while large petrol vehicles would cost almost $3000 more.
The vehicle proposal has hit opposition from those opposed to subsidies and those questioning the environmental benefits of electric vehicles.
Prices for quality e-bikes start at around $2500 and research shows most are ridden by higher-income earners.
When asked if it was fair to have taxpayers subsidise the expensive bikes, Bosch e-bike marketing manager for Australia New Zealand, Andy Pike, said it made even more sense to provide incentives for two wheels rather than four.
''Despite the proposed clean car discounts, an electric vehicle is still out of reach for many New Zealand households.''
The cheapest new electric car on the market cost just under $60,000.
As part of a submission on the feebate plan, Bosch says e-bikes can contribute to the country's emission reduction target.
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Statistics NZ figures show 67 per cent of vehicle trips were less than 5km, typically an easy 15-minute e-bike trip.
The company, best known for power tools, car electrics and home appliances, says that if 5 per cent of short car trips were moved to bikes it would avoid 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and save motorists $37 million in fuel bills.
Options for the Feebate scheme, on an e-bike costing $2500 would involve repayments of $24 a week over two years and this would help lower income households.
Research done this year by Ipsos stated more than a quarter of those resisting buying e-bikes did so because of cost.
''The capability of e-bikes to expand the reach of traditional and new cyclists means that e-bikes are carrying out the important function of replacing short carbon-emitting vehicle trips. This is sufficient justification for including e-bikes in the proposed Clean Car Feebate scheme,'' the submission says.
But while Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter sees e-bikes as a ''game changer'' for urban transport, there are ways government agencies are supporting them already, without the need to be included in the Feebate scheme.
"The biggest barrier to e-bike use is that lack of safe, separated cycling infrastructure in many of our towns and cities. It's why we're investing $390m over three years to improve our streets for people walking, scooting and cycling,'' said Genter, a keen cyclist herself.
E-bike projects were now eligible for funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's low emission vehicle contestable fund, which co-funds projects supporting the uptake of electric vehicles.
The NZTA was also supporting businesses to bulk-buy e-bikes and negotiate discounts for their employees. These schemes include providing a wage advance or loan to staff, paid back through salary deductions over a set period.
Under this programme, some organisations encourage take-up by providing employees with a wage advance or loan (typically up to $2000) towards their e-bike purchase, which they then pay back through automatic deductions from their salary over the course of an agreed period.
Genter said e-bike purchases were growing at a far faster rate than electric cars without any price incentives.
''So currently there are no plans to include e-bikes in the Clean Car Discount policy."
Research by the University of Auckland medical and health sciences faculty in 2018 found that the average pedestrian was willing to walk 3km, those on pushbikes would commute up to 5km while many participants in the study were comfortable commuting 15km on e-bikes.
"Consistent with studies overseas, all e-bike users in this study were middle to upper-middle income people. The participants commented on their frustration that e-bikes are unaffordable to low-income commuters who may need e-bikes the most.''
Bosch's Pike says the cost of the bikes could be coming down as their production steps up to cater for surging demand in crowded cities, particularly in Asia.
Already batteries were becoming more efficient and capable of longer ranges and other technology such as ABS braking was being fitted on to the latest, more expensive e-bikes and onboard connectivity though bikes' computers was growing.