The slogan "Go Pedelec!" is the name of a EU co-financed project, carried out by four municipalities, three non-profit-organizations and three private companies. The common goal of these ten partners from Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands is to raise awareness about pedelecs among citizens as well as among municipal decision makers.
Focus of the project is a special type of electric two-wheelers so-called "pedelecs": electric motor assisted bicycles which are never powered solely by the motor, but the motor is just supporting the pedalling cyclist, e.g. doubling his current muscle power contribution. Compared to other electric vehicles, this concept has the following advantages:
Because of the lightweight construction and the muscle power of the driver, pedelecs have the lowest energy consumption of all motorised vehicles of private transport, their consumption of primary energy is 20 times less than that of a car.
Riding a pedelec is as simple as cycling – as far as the motor just increases the pedal power proportionally, there are no additional controls, just pedalling gets easier. Thanks to the pedal drive you always get home, even if your battery is empty. The necessity to pedal in spite of the assisting motor is better for health and makes rides in winter warmer, than on a moped.
In comparison to a conventional bicycle, the assisting electric drive of a pedelec is of the following use, justifying the higher price:
- Slopes are easy to overcome.
- Because of higher speed, more destinations are accessible in convenient time.
- Business clothing is not stained by sweat.
The project first assesses the current state of the art and the trends of the international market of electric vehicles (WP2) with a focus on electric two-wheeled vehicles, informs municipal decision makers (target group 1) on the results in especially designed Road-Show Information Days (WP3) held in 5 partner countries. The road-show part of these days is also open to citizens (target group 2). The Road-Show Information Days provide for information on the state of the art of electric vehicles to target group 1 and allows for experience exchange about past, current and planned municipal activities on electric vehicles. At a European level (beyond the scope of the project partner countries) dissemination and information relies on the large network of ’Cities for Mobility’ (represented twice in the consortium) and on the use of a brochure ’Electric Vehicles in Urban Transport Systems’ and of a handbook "Pedelecs" (accessible to both target groups). In WP4 the project builds capacities for continuing the information of municipal decision on electric vehicles beyond the project’s lifetime in several European countries (not only the partner countries).
- The pedelec is embedded in the bicycle's culture and tradition with all related problems but also chances. Vehicles similar to a bicycle tend to be seen as
- good because ecologic, safe and easy to handle.
- potentially insufficient because at the end a bicycle is "only a bicycle" - not a car.
In this reasoning it is sometimes overlooked that - apart from slowly mutating to a pedelec - the bicycle itself is changing (new products: cargo biycle, handbike, new materials etc.), so the classic benchmark, the bicycle itself, changes.
- A general feeling is that some municipal decision makers get interested more easily into the new techno-topic"pedelec " than into cycling culture as such Nevertheless, according to the Go Pedelec! survey two out of five municipal decision makers think financial support for cycling should be higher, even if this question did not explicitly refer to cycling infrastructure but rather to dissemination measures. Municipal decision makers know that the pedelec market has a great future: about 80% of all municipal decision makers interviewed in the Go Pedelec! survey expect a growing pedelec market.
- A lot of obstacles relating to the dissemination of pedelecs do not concern technology but are about simple logical thinking and political will: If there is no cycling culture, no atmosphere inviting to cyclists, why should people step on a bicycle or pedelec at all? Accordingly, several barriers are not so much specific to the pedelec but to cycling as such.
- Car industry was successful in lobbying for their core product (though they aggressively enter the pedelec market as well since recently ) and setting topics within the "electric mobility hype": As a result the electric car is found to dominate minds of many decision makers we had contact with when it comes to the topic of "electric mobility" whereas the pedelec is "also nice" but not the "real thing".
- On the other hand cycling seems slowly but inevitably on the rise at least in some European countries. In those cases where cities actively go for improving cycling culture and thereby also promote pedelecs these stakeholders need some minimum information on "not to dos", in particular in the area of installing charging stations, and information on todos and on experience what others have successfully done in order to avoid large misspent investments.
- Pedelecs are sold in large quantities in many countries. However, the substituting impact on traffic and in particular with regard to combustion engines still seems to be low or at least was not measured sufficiently so far.
- The key stakeholders who may get the stone rolling within the pedelec sector which are essentially municipal decision makers, politicians in general, pedelec manufacturers and retailers do not communicate effectively among them or show relevant interaction.
- The intermodal usage of pedelecs, in particular in combination with public transport, seems to be the most immediate future challenge as well as the most promising opportunity in traffic planning. First highly interesting pilots on this topic have started in Germany.