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You don't have to wait till 2023 to get a bigger e-bike rebate from Austin Energy

An electric bicycle battery being removed from a Gazelle e-bike at Electric Avenue Bikes in Austin
Patricia Lim
/
KUT
A battery is removed from a Gazelle e-bike at Electric Avenue Bikes in Austin. Rebates are doubling for Austin Energy customers who buy new electric bikes and e-scooters.

Austin Energy customers shopping for an e-bike can get up to $600 back under a rebate program that starts Jan. 1. But you don't have to wait until the new year to take advantage of the program.

Anyone eligible has to apply for a rebate within 60 days of the purchase date. So if you buy a new electric bike, scooter, moped or motorcycle now, you can request the rebate after the program takes effect in January.

The new subsidies double the current rebates. Austin Energy boosted the amount after the City Council voted over the summer to strengthen incentives for e-bike ownership.

Here's how much you can get back:

  • A $500-$999 e-bike qualifies for a $200 rebate.
  • A $1,000-$1,999 e-bike gets a $400 rebate.
  • A $2,000+ e-bike is worth a $600 rebate.

People with low incomes who signed up for Austin Energy's customer assistance program (CAP), which provides utility bill discounts, can get even bigger rebates — up to $1,300 for an e-bike over $2,000. CAP is for people who earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level or already get certain social assistance through Medicaid and food stamps.

The doubling of e-bike subsidies comes as Austin Energy bills are going up by about $180 a year. The two increases are unrelated.

The e-bike rebates are funded by a fraction of the community benefit charge on your bill, which averages about $6 a month. Less than a quarter of that charge is generating the $250,000 set aside for e-bike rebates next year.

A wagon attached to an electric bike at Electric Avenue Bikes
Patricia Lim
/
KUT
Electric bikes fitted with additional cargo storage.

But the e-bike rebate has a catch. You can't go online and find the best deal. You have to buy from one of 26 participating local dealerships, including Bicycle House, Bike Farm, Clown Dog Bikes, Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, Peddler Bike Shop and REI.

"Being a small business is tough in Austin, so we're trying to keep it local as much as possible," said Karl Popham, who oversees the electric vehicles team at Austin Energy. "Also, we get very good data from the local dealerships, so this also allows us to improve the program."

You're unlikely to find an electric bike for under $1,000 from any participating retailers. Some don't even sell e-bikes for under $2,000.

"You get what you pay for," said Kenny Phipps with Electric Avenue, a store at the Triangle that specializes in e-bikes. "I'd say it's really hard to find a solid e-bike that will last you for years for less than $2,500."

A Gazelle electric bike on sale at Electric Avenue Bikes in Austin. A bright yellow price tag dangling from the handlebar says, "SALE!!! $3,999"
Patricia Lim
/
KUT
A Gazelle electric bike on sale inside Electric Avenue Bikes at the Triangle

Trek Bicycle, a participating dealership on South Lamar Boulevard, has e-bikes that start at just under $2,000. But they're not high-performance models, according to sales associate Adam Krueger.

"It's not going to be optimum, but it's most certainly going to work," Krueger said.

If that's too expensive, companies like Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes cater to those looking for a more affordable electric bicycle. Its RadMission e-bikes start at $899. But you won't qualify for the Austin Energy rebate.

Either way, shelling out for an e-bike will save you in the long run if you use it instead of your car.

An e-bike Monitor displaying range, battery percentage, and a smartphone battery percentage
Patricia Lim
/
KUT
An e-bike monitor giving the rider an indication of how much range they have left

"If you live in the city and can do most things on an e-bike, you can get around for an entire month for less than the cost of one gallon of gas," Phipps said of the cost of charging an electric bicycle.

The advocacy group BikeTexas called the higher rebates "fantastic," but said Austin Energy should have allowed people to get the discount right in store instead of making them apply and wait to receive the subsidy.

Austin Energy says getting your rebate currently takes between four and six weeks. The public utility expects that wait time to go up as the bigger incentives attract more buyers.

"It's pretty hard for low-income people who couldn't come up with the money," BikeTexas executive director Robin Stallings said. "If this is going to work to make e-bikes accessible as a car replacement for people in Austin just trying to get by with all the rising costs, that would be a big improvement in the program."

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Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at nbernier@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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