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FattE-Bikes’ models, ranging around 45 miles, can accelerate to 25 miles per hour. The Denver-based company has designed and built compact, hybrid and cargo bikes since 2017. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Lucrative discount voucher in hand, Emily Kleinfelter is ready to roll into formation in the battle against global warming. 

Now she just needs the friendly folks at FattE-Bikes shop to finish putting her ride together. 

Kleinfelter is among the thousands of Denver residents who accelerated online to land an electric bike rebate from Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency, part of a $9 million round of subsidies announced on Earth Day. The grant and rebate programs are financed by a sales tax approved by city voters in 2020 estimated to raise more than $40 million a year for climate action. 

The climate office reported Thursday it had maxed out e-bike applications at 3,250, and the rebates will pause until Denver allocates more money periodically throughout the year. More than half the applicants sought the $400 e-bike rebates that don’t depend on income, and about 40% applied for rebates that go up to $1,200 for income-qualified candidates. Those buying e-cargo bikes, set up to carry kids to school or deliveries or equipment for work, can get an additional $500. 

Funded by a sales tax for climate action, Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency offers electric bike rebates depending on income. The climate office reported Thursday that e-bike applications were maxed-out at 3,250. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

“It was not a cheap purchase. That’s still something I want to acknowledge,” said Kleinfelter, who is getting a cargo bike. “But I recognize that it’s an investment, and it’s also a replacement for a car for me.”

E-bikes use a battery pack and motor to make pedaling easier or extend coasting, with variable settings that can set the bikes cruising from 15 to 30 miles per hour. They can help take hundreds of pounds of cargo across town and up hills, and advocates say they make commuting safer by allowing bikers to surge at green lights and avoid accidents.

The $400 Denver rebate, and an extra $100 knocked off by the Sun Valley neighborhood’s FattE-Bikes to boost the program, put the $2,000 to $3,000 cost of a high-end e-bike in Kleinfelter’s range. 

“I have been looking to get one for a while. But I felt like it wasn’t exactly the most feasible thing when it came down to money,” said Kleinfelter, who used to have access to a cargo e-bike for work and has ordered a similar, workhorse model. “And so with the rebate program becoming an option, I felt like it was too good to pass up on.”

The Denver office says it still has funds for rebates, and is processing vouchers as quickly as possible. The rebates are “instant,” so once a resident qualifies and takes the voucher with them, participating retailers take the amount off at the register. 

“This thing got slammed with a lot of applications from Earth Day until now,” said Denver climate office spokeswoman Winna MacLaren. 

State legislators passed a bill late in the session that includes funds for statewide e-bike rebates, welcome news to commuters jealous of the Denver plan. “I feel like I’m holding my breath for the state-level rebate to come to fruition. Like I want to already know what model I want,” one rider said, after mentioning the rebates on social media. 

The current round of $9 million also provides up to 100% rebates for electrifying homes, with the subsidies making it cheaper to replace appliances that run on natural gas. The goal for local and state leaders is to move energy needs toward electricity that is increasingly generated by clean sources such as solar or wind power. Homeowners can use Denver and Xcel rebates to sharply lower the cost of electric heat pump alternatives to furnaces and water heaters, battery storage systems for solar panels, wiring for fast electric vehicle chargers, and the solar panels themselves. 

FattE-Bikes’ models, ranging around 45 miles, can accelerate to 25 miles per hour. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)
The Denver-based company has designed and built compact, hybrid, and cargo bikes since 2017.

Those subsidies are for existing homes and must be handled through an approved contractor, with a list provided by the city. 

Denver’s happy to see interest in the rebates from a wide variety of residents, MacLaren said. For e-bikes, the goal is to replace car trips powered by dirtier gas with clean electric-powered bike trips, so all purchases help with that, she said. But providing equitable opportunity to communities already adversely impacted by pollution and climate change is also built into all climate office grants. 

“We really do want to have a program that is open to all of Denver. We also want to make sure that those that are going to be cost burdened by this have the option to cover those costs,” she said.

Bike stores, of course, are thrilled. FattE-Bikes assembles its custom models at its Sun Valley shop, saying it is the only bike company to build theirs in the U.S., co-founder Kenny Fischer said. 

The rebates have dropped the average age of the customer by 25 to 30 years, Fischer said. E-bikes were already popular with baby boomers and other older riders who like the electric power assist and have the disposable income to upgrade their rides. 

“But we’re in this for impact, getting cars off the road, and the rebate has proven there’s demand among younger riders,” he said. So far, Fischer said, Denver’s rebate system has proved “user-friendly.” 

The program will advertise itself, he added. “More people are going to see them, and more people are going to want them,” Fischer said. 

Michael Booth is The Sun’s environment writer, and co-author of The Sun’s weekly climate and health newsletter The Temperature. He and John Ingold host the weekly Sun-Up podcast on The Temperature topics every Thursday. He is co-author with...