Last week, after six months of subsidies which halved the fuel excise – a flat tax we pay on our petrol – the full excise was reinstated. Over the next few weeks, as supplies purchased by retailers at the discounted rate dwindle, the cost per litre is expected to jump over 25 cents. While there are global forces at play that could help keep prices stable in coming months, some analysts believe there’s a chance prices could shoot up even further heading into summer.

And petrol isn’t just pricey, it’s also terrible for the environment. Parking sucks and traffic can drain your will to live. Alternatives like schlepping it on public transport or cracking an unseemly sweat cycling aren’t always right for the occasion. Could an e-bike be the answer?

Once the preserve of the diehard green-commuter, thanks to their bulky frames and hefty price tags (basic options start at around $1500), some say e-bikes are heading into their golden era. According to Phil Latz – founder of Australia’s inaugural micromobility conference, to be held in Sydney later this year – 2020 to 2021 was the biggest year ever for e-bike imports, with more than 1.6 million arriving in the country. And with increasing appetite comes increasing options – new generation models are shaking off the utilitarian vibes and getting more elegant and less cumbersome. Even Porsche is getting in on the game.

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Intrigued by this cheap-to-run and increasingly stylish mode of green transport, Broadsheet decided to road-test one. Lug & Carrie is a cargo-bike leasing outfit that offers month-to-month options in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane that will cost you less than a tank of petrol. Anyone can request a free test-ride, and the company’s community manager, Rachel Ware, says the uptake is close to 100 per cent. “Once people get on them, they can’t believe how relaxing it is and how safe it feels,” she says.

The bikes Lug & Carrie lease are by Taiwan-based brand Tern, which has been making e-bikes for more than a decade and distributing them to more than 65 countries. With price tags of up to $8000, they’re not something most of us would impulse-buy – making the full-service lease option a winner if you’re keen for a low-stakes foray into e-biking over summer .

To be fair, they’re not the most stylish looking bikes in the world, but once you’re zipping along the bike path, sun in your face and wind in your hair, we can assure you all self-consciousness will melt away. Soon it’ll be replaced by the smug assurance that you are definitely on to something – why isn’t everyone doing this?

They’re much lighter than they look
Setting out from the company’s Fitzroy warehouse, a five-minute tutorial was all it took to get out on the open road with our chaperone, Ware. The former costume designer and mum of two initially came to the business as a customer, eventually becoming so enchanted with the e-bike lifestyle she became a full-time advocate.

While the bikes may look bulky and hard to manoeuvre, their small wheels provide a low centre of gravity that aids balance, and they’re much lighter than we’d imagined. To get going, all you need to do is push off and peddle as you would a regular bicycle. Then it’s just a matter of pushing a button to activate the power and shift between four levels, which range from a pedal-assisted breeze at your back to effortless gliding in zippy turbo mode.

After a leisurely 10-kilometre ride along backstreets, cruising through parks, along bike paths and even down busy main roads, we hadn’t even cracked a sweat. And out on the road, it feels a lot more visible and secure than a regular push bike.

They can hold up to 200 kilograms with ease
The bikes have a range of attachments that can be added and swapped out at any time. A member of the Lug & Carrie team will even come to your home and switch them over for you if your preference changes. You can carry kids, pets, work gear and even a decent sized grocery shop. The two models available – the GSD and HSD – respectively carry up to 170 and 200 kilograms with ease. I strapped a sizeable backpack to my e-bike’s front carrier and pretty much forgot it was there.

High-quality options start from $2000
While the first wave of users tended to be older, Latz says plenty of companies are now tapping into a younger market, offering good-looking, high-quality options starting at around $2000. And there are lots of financing options available to reduce the initial outlay. Latz reminds us that even though e-bikes “aren’t cheap compared to a Malvern Star, they’re cheap compared to a Toyota”. That doesn’t even take into account the running costs, which are vanishingly low. Five cents is about all the average 15-kilometre commute in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane will cost you on an e-bike.

What if it breaks?
Latz says that traditional car insurers, such as RACV, are offering roadside assistance to cyclists and e-bike riders, including on-the-spot puncture fixes and taxis to take you and your bike where you need to go. There’s also a plethora of options to cover against damage and theft.

Would we get one?
The e-bike’s dowdy image, bulky frame and significant price tag can be off-putting, but after taking one for a spin we are well and truly convinced it could replace a car for most city-siders most of the time – especially over the warmer months. With full-service leasing options offering seriously reasonable rates, and beautiful models hitting the market all the time, there’s room for all levels of commitment too.

lug-carrie.com
@lugandcarrie