Saving money, exercising for free, getting around without getting stuck in traffic: these are only a few of the benefits that are inspiring more and more people to choose the bicycle as their preferred means of transportation. An important way of cutting polluting emissions in the city, the bicycle is growing in popularity all over Europe, particularly in the Netherlands. With twenty million bicycles for seventeen million people, the land of the tulips is definitely the most virtuous when it comes to cycling, and it has also been the first to see a boom in electric pedal-assisted bicycles. Perfect for travelling longer distances or uphill stretches, these are bicycles in which an electric motor, active only when the rider pedals, alleviates the fatigue of physical effort. In Italy, one of the biggest producers in Europe (as emphasised by Confindustria and ANCMA, the country’s National Association for Bicycles, Motorcycles and Accessories), the law says that they cannot travel at more than 25 km/h, and their practicality, along with the fact that they do not pay insurance premiums or road tax, has made them more and more popular. ANCMA also notes that eBikes began to register an increase in sales in 2013, when 51,405 of the bikes were sold in Italy – 12% more than in 2012 – and their popularity continues to grow. They combine design content with ecology and technology: from batteries cunningly built into the frame to little panels that can be connected to a smartphone for feedback while pedalling, eBikes continue to evolve.
It was impossible for city authorities to ignore the growing success of eBikes, and last year the government of the city of Milan added a thousand electric pedal-assisted bicycles to its bike-sharing service (which has 3650 bikes). This new development certainly gave a boost to the popularity of the service, for its number of subscribers grew 53% in 2015 over 2014. The figures are promising: forty-five thousand subscribers have helped save 4 million kg of CO2 since 2008.
Italy has a number of different eBike manufacturers, who are aiming to come up with new technologies and a design that makes the difference with respect to their low-cost competitors from Asia. Italjet, a historic Italian scooter maker, is now re-launching its image with electric bike models. Another Italian company, Askoll, with over 11 international branches is launching the EB1 eBike in addition to its electric scooter.
Italian producers also include Piaggio, with pedal-assisted bikes offering numerous high-tech features such as GPS theft protection, an app for staying in shape and, of course, an advanced motor that allows you to choose your power level and pedalling mode (city, hill or standard). Atala is another historic company which is now going into electric bikes, focusing on sporty mountain bike style models.
The Piaggio and Atala models are offered by Enel, which sells a number of models with an easy to recharge removable battery and a 36-month extended warranty at its Enel Points and in its online store: a new incentive for alternative ways of getting around the city safely and ecologically.