8 Sep 2016

Fed up with sitting in traffic and circling streets looking for parks, Dr Sharee McNab took her morning commute into her own hands and joined the electric bike revolution.

"It has been life-changing really. It’s exercise that is programmed into my day. It’s cheaper, it’s environmentally friendly, it’s reliable – I can get to school pick up in time for the kids. There are no downsides.”

An electrical engineer at the University of Canterbury’s EPE Centre (Electric Power Engineering Centre), Sharee had previously bought a parking permit to avoid spending her mornings circling the University looking for parks.

Sharee McNab on her electric bike.

Sharee McNab loves commuting on her electric bike.

“I hadn’t been happy with my commute for a long time. I am a keen biker but time constraints meant I had always had to drive every day just so I would be able to get to school pick up by 3pm. I just didn’t have the option of biking on a traditional bike and getting to the school on time.”

A colleague suggested an electric bike and she hasn’t looked back.

“I live in Cashmere, quite high up the hill. I can go 20km an hour up hill. It’s always nice when I get to the bottom of the hill and look up and think, right, I’ve got help to get up here. It’s got four different assist levels and I put it on maximum assist to get up the hill.

“From the university to home in Cashmere, it’s about 20 to 25 minutes, but the great thing is it’s the same speed in either direction, so the hill doesn’t matter so much.

“It does make a big difference to my travel times. It means I can finish work at 2.30pm and still be there by the time the kids get home from school – and the timing is always consistent. I don’t have to take into account the weather or wind, or the traffic or anything like that.”

"Once you do it once, you really can’t turn back.''

Colleagues and friends had recommended electric bikes and now Sharee finds herself doing the same thing.

“There are a lot of people getting them. A lot of people are interested. Once you do it once, you really can’t turn back. I ride the electric bike every day now. There is no other option. I don’t have time to drive and I just don’t even consider other options now.''

It cost around $2000 to get set up - $1000 for the bike and around $1000 for the electric motor and battery but Sharee says she expects to recoup the capital expenditure in less than three years though savings in parking fees, and vehicle running costs.

Research shows electric bikes do hold some appeal for New Zealanders. A recent Colmar Brunton poll showed that more than 40 per cent of Kiwis would consider purchasing an e-bike, citing health benefits, cost savings, and reducing commuting times as their key reasons for the choice.

The increased interest in electric bikes is also helping contribute to the New Zealand Transport Agency target of 10 million more cycle trips annually in New Zealand by 2019.

“I have definitely recommended it to friends and colleagues. And it’s only going to get easier and cheaper. Being able to incorporate some exercise into my day by default has been the big win for me and I always hated the waste associated with driving a car with a single occupant to work each day. Not environmentally or economically friendly.”