Electric bikes are 20 to 50 times more environmentally friendly than electric cars, emitting between 2 and 5 grams of CO2 per kilometre ridden. Even if you charge your bike's battery with green electricity, there can be CO2 emissions along the entire sustainability chain, as bikes are produced in countries where the electricity mix is not yet as green. Electric bikes also include a lot of rare, valuable materials. Those who care about sustainability should therefore choose a quality bicycle and use it for as long as possible. In order to take steps towards sustainability, research centre Flanders Make and bicycle manufacturer Åska Bike are starting a living lab together with a consortium* of innovative players in the Flemish e-bike landscape.
Until now, the bicycle industry has mainly focused on selling as many new bicycles as possible. Large foreign suppliers of bike parts often make new versions that deliberately do not match older versions of their parts. In addition, cheap electric bikes are also more difficult to repair, and labour costs are high in our region. Therefore, it is often cheaper to buy a new electric bike than to repair or refurbish an existing one.
Making the bicycle industry more sustainable is therefore a big challenge. With this living lab, we are taking up the gauntlet. Our focus is on fast electric bikes or 'speedpedelecs'.
"In the living lab 'CaDaNS' (Circular, Data-Driven Value Network around Speed pedelecs), we are building an ecosystem of companies that supports the full life cycle of sustainable e-bikes and their components. The manufacturer retains ownership of the bike and we are working out subscription formulas where the customer pays to always have a well-functioning and comfortable e-bike. We can apply what we learn from this in other sectors afterwards, and we will share this information with the wider industry in Flanders."
Research Architect - Flanders Make
"To exploit the full growth potential of these speedpedelecs as a sustainable means of mobility, we want to get more people cycling. We focus on commuting, which in Belgium accounts for some 50 million kilometres travelled every year, only 1% of which is done by bike or on foot. With a decent speed pedelec, such a bike ride becomes feasible even for people who live 30 to 40 kilometres from work, and even more for the really enthusiastic".
Project Manager - Flanders Make
Sustainable speedpedelec from Åska Bike
Åska Bike is already quite far along in its realisation of a sustainable speedpedelec, with its production chain located as much as possible in Europe. The battery and frame are made in Flanders. All suppliers of the bike components have been selected for their focus on sustainability. The bike is built for easy maintenance and longevity, with the possibility of upgrading it rather than completely replacing it with a better version after a few years.
"Together with the living lab partners, we will learn how to set up a good business model, selling bike enjoyment instead of bikes. We will also equip our bikes with sensors to collect information about their use. That way we will learn when it is best to schedule maintenance and how to make our bicycle design even more sustainable. Each bike also gets its own digital passport which contains all useful information about the bike."
Director - Aska Bike
In order to test the Bike-as-a-Service concept in real conditions, we are involving a few Antwerp companies that can use it to offer easy accessibility to their employees. Employees are increasingly looking for a healthy work-life balance and also judge their employer on sustainability. So with a sustainable speedpedelec for employees, companies have an extra asset in the war for talent and to keep their current employees on board.
The following partners are part of the consortium:
support from VLAIO & Europa
VLAIO is the contact point of the Flemish government for all entrepreneurs in Flanders. We stimulate and support innovation and entrepreneurship and contribute to a favourable entrepreneurial climate. We do this in cooperation with numerous partners. VLAIO is fully committed to circular entrepreneurship. That is why this VLAIO project received support and resources from the European Commission's NextGenerationEU fund.