The emergence of electric bicycles as a more common mode of transport brings opportunities for the use of e-bikes for a variety of applications and also to bring environmental benefits. The purpose of the PRO-E-BIKE project, supported by the European Commission’s Intelligent Energy for Europe programme, was to facilitate trials of e-bikes for various uses. In Croatia, the city of Zadar trialled the use of e-bikes in a number of municipal operations, as did a number of other companies in Croatia, including Hrvatska pošta (Croatian Post).
The sale of e-bikes in the EU has increased significantly in recent years. Between 2014 and 2015, sales of e-bikes in the main EU markets increased by around 50%. E-bikes enable existing cyclists to travel longer distances and make it easier to cycle up hills, while potentially encouraging people to take up cycling. In this respect, e-bikes have the potential to replace some car journeys over small distances, thus contributing to reductions in congestion, as well as being quieter and less polluting.
It is within this context that the PRO-E-BIKE project facilitated trials of e-bikes in various cities across Europe, including the Croatian city of Zadar. The city is the fifth largest in Croatia with a population of around 75,000. It is situated on Croatia’s Adriatic coast and its administrative area includes a number of islands. Zadar has signed up to the Covenant of Mayors and so is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions.
Within the PRO-E-BIKE project, Zadar trialled the use of electric bicycles by various city employees, including inspectors who had to move around the city to do their jobs and also to the employees of a care home. The e-bikes proved to be successful, particularly when roads were otherwise congested, and also proved to have lower maintenance costs per kilometre travelled than conventional vehicles.
The most successful trial of the PRO-E-BIKE project was that undertaken by Hrvatska pošta. E-bikes, including an e-tricycle, were trialled over a six month period to deliver letters and small packages. Hrvatska pošta was so impressed by the performance of e-bikes compared to the petrol scooters that they were previously using, that they decided to purchase 180 e-bikes to replace petrol mopeds. Their tender required that the bicycles had a two-year guarantee and that the batteries had the capacity for 800 re-charges. The e-bikes are delivering financial as well as environmental benefits. The annual saving per vehicle, i.e. comparing an e-bike to a petrol moped, was €930, making a total annual saving of €168,000, in additional to a CO2 reduction of 100 tonnes a year.
Hrvatska pošta’s new e-bikes were officially unveiled on 7 October 2015 by Croatia’s Prime Minister.