Craig Ianacone, senior mechanic at PikeRide, inspects an electric bike during regular maintenance repairs May 24, 2023, in Colorado Springs. PikeRide, founded in 2018, has over 350 electric bikes in circulation and 60 hubs through Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. The nonprofit aims to provide its community with safe and energy-efficient transportation, especially in areas like southeast Colorado Springs, a portion of the city with a historically disadvantaged population. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

State clean energy officials are finally ready to launch their own e-bike rebate program, and by design braced themselves for the same kind of overwhelming demand for the enticing discounts that Colorado’s city programs have seen.

Colorado’s Energy Office has $10 million to pour into the popular rebates this year, and registration for the lottery opened today. The first round lottery will stay open until 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21; then the state will randomly pick registered names. They hope the money will stretch to about 7,000 rebates for the initial program. 

Here are some of the basics: 

  • State rebates are income qualified. People at or below 80% of their area median income, sample chart here, will get $1,100 toward an e-bike. Those with 80% to 100% of AMI will get $500. Both groups can also qualify for an extra $300 for a cargo e-bike, which can carry kids, tools or groceries, and $100 for a helmet or lock. Those needing an adaptive e-bike for disabilities may qualify for another $250. 
  • The e-bikes must be bought from one of the 100 stores qualified statewide, but they can be purchased over the phone or in-person, state officials said. As the city programs have done, the state has looked for bike retailers who can provide ongoing repairs as well as education about e-bike charging and safety. 
  • The first round is aimed at low- to moderate-income Colorado residents, but residents of any income can qualify for the rebate beginning April 1. That’s when the state will expand to a $450 rebate level for people with higher incomes, and advocates said they won’t have to qualify by lottery. 
  • Don’t despair when the August window closes Monday. Colorado will issue new rounds of rebates, using the same format, each month after that, with dates and times announced on the Colorado Energy Office rebate website
  • Those selected for rebates will have 48 hours after notification to prove their income, by presenting a tax return, a pay stub, or proof of previous qualification for an income-based assistance program such as Health First Colorado Medicaid or food aid. 
  • Colorado’s initial $10 million program will be split, with about $6.6 million for the direct rebates, and the remainder going as grants to local governments who want to control their own rebate efforts.
  • Residents of cities like Denver, Boulder or Colorado Springs that have rebates can still apply for a state voucher, but they can’t use both. Colorado decided against making its new vouchers “stackable” with other offers, which is the way some electric vehicle rebates are designed. 

Clean energy and air advocates say they like the design of the state’s program, including the tax credit for everyone kicking in for all buyers in 2024. That will save the waiting line frustrations for many buyers. 

“People are excited about e-bikes for a reason — they are both fun and practical tools to get from place to place and even haul kids or groceries,” said Travis Madsen, transportation program manager with the nonprofit Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “I’m excited to see Colorado help more people get access to a high-quality bike — expanding mobility options, reducing pollution and improving public health. I hope that local governments will do their part to support e-bike riders by building more protected bike lanes that connect key destinations.”

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)

Rebate designers have had to stay flexible after announcing programs. Denver’s e-bike program has crashed computer lines with eager buyers, and the city’s climate office made changes, such as an every-other-month batch release. Denver also changed launch times to give more residents with poor computer access time to get to a library or another convenient sign-in site. 

Colorado officials say the $10 million makes theirs one of the largest state e-bike rebates in the nation. Denver says 6,118 city residents had redeemed its vouchers and bought bikes through most of July. 

Bike enthusiasts can get busy clearing out space in the garage. 

And advocates remind people to also buy a good lock. The government may help you buy a sweet e-bike, but keeping it will be on you. 

Madsen offered a link to a helpful set of reviews of the most effective bike locks. 

And he went one better on the security front, suggesting owners of e-bikes, which can run up to $3,000, consider insuring their new object of desire. 

“I personally tacked my e-bike onto the family car policy,” Madsen said.

But for those for whom living without a car is the whole point, there are also bike-only insurance policies available. He’s got a suggestion for that, too:

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...