To reduce smog, the French government will give $3000 (€2,500) to citizens who trade in their old cars for electric bikes. The credit toward the e-bikes would help eliminate gas-guzzling, polluting vehicles, and traffic congestion on roadways.
Lawmakers in the National Assembly approved the measure in a preliminary vote in April of 2021. According to Reuters, officials added the amendment to an existing draft climate bill, the French Governments’ Climate and Resilience plan.
This plan includes various measures to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in France. If the proposal passes into law, France will become the first country to offer the incentive for electric bike owners.
Says Olivier Schneider of the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB):
“For the first time it is recognized that the solution is not to make cars greener, but simply to reduce their number.”
The original climate bill does address the need to switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy. However, until recently, the cash-for-clunkers incentive hadn’t even made it to the discussion table. Now, lawmakers see it as a viable way to achieve the ambitious climate goals they’ve set for the country. They hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels.
Cycling Industries Europe, a trade association that advocates for investments in cycling, strongly supported the proposal. They hope more governments will follow suit in the near future. Chief executive Kevin Mayne said:
“Ever since the start of the COVID crisis, we have said there should be no car scrappage schemes in recovery and climate plans that don’t include the option of bicycle purchases.”
“We are seeing a welcome increase in stand-alone incentives for bicycle purchases, but the French Assembly has made it clear – e-bikes and cargo bikes are to be supported as vehicle replacements. Every government needs to recognize that it is the cycling industries of Europe that are leading the world in the change to e-mobility,” he added.
Cycling Industries Europe and other cycling groups have called on governments across Europe to increase cycling investments. The coalition of biking associations has encouraged expansions of the €1 billion spent on COVID-related cycling measures in 2020. The groups suggest a multi-billion Euro package of cycling infrastructure and financial support for bike purchase and sharing.
In addition to electric bikes, France offers other solutions for beating climate change
In the detailed climate plan, the government ensures that the Paris Agreement cannot be reversed, first and foremost. The French government already requested “all government departments across the board to step up the pace of the energy and climate transition.” To do this, they have several strategies in place, namely:
Improving everyday life for all French citizens
- Eradicate fuel poverty in ten years: The government will offer assistance to tenants and owners struggling to pay energy bills while transforming older buildings into energy-efficient ones.
- Use energy more responsibly: They will also offer support to residential areas that wish to produce and use their own renewable energy sources (biogas, solar energy, etc.).
- Make the circular economy a central feature of the energy transition: small businesses that take steps to save energy and resources will be offered assistance to cut waste going to landfills by 50% and achieve 100% plastic recycling by 2025.
Eradicating fossil fuels in favor of a carbon-neutral society
- Generate carbon-free electricity: The government will help guide local areas that have trouble transitioning to clean energy The central focus will be simplifying the development of marine and geothermal energy sources as well as anaerobic digestion.
- Leave fossil fuels in the sub-soil: By 2040, the government will ban any hydrocarbon exploration plans. This ends the production of oil, gas, and coal.
- Raise the price of carbon to put a fair price on pollution: prices of carbon will go up, and diesel and petrol will be taxed accordingly. Low-income households will receive an “energy voucher” to help with higher costs.
- Become carbon neutral by 2050: the Government will achieve carbon neutrality by balancing man-made emissions and carbon capture initiatives. This is an ambitious goal. Indeed only France, Sweden, and Costa Rica have passed it into law.
- Take greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles off the market by 2040: stopping sales of gas-powered cars will force carmakers to switch to all-electric vehicles. This change will greatly lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Other countries have also started promoting electric bikes
While France sets the bar high for achieving a carbon-neutral world, other countries are also joining the movement. Late last year, Lithuania unveiled a car trade-in program to promote electric bikes. Lithuania’s Environmental Project Management Agency (APVA) launched the program. It went into effect during the summer of 2020 with a budget of €8 million.
Citizens could apply for the grant and receive up to €1,000 (nearly USD $1,200) in exchange for an old car. They could put the money toward a new electric bicycle, bicycle, e-scooter, e-moped, or e-motorcycle. They even had the option to use the funds as public transportation credits. Since many car owners traded in vehicles with a value less than €1,000, the owners actually got the better end of the bargain.
Electric bike sales have also been climbing in other European nations like Sweden, Norway, and Germany. While Lithuania offered a similar trade-in program, France’s comes out on top because of their more generous grant. The government will offer 2.5x the trade-in value, making it more enticing for people to give up their vehicles.
Final Thoughts: France proposes a cash-for-clunkers program to encourage electric bike use
Electric bike sales are already soaring across Europe. However, France will become the first country in the world to offer $3,000 toward a new e-bike. If citizens agree to trade in their old, inefficient vehicles, they will receive the grant. People may still need cars for longer road trips, but even using e-bikes occasionally can help reduce smog.