Germany’s government has been trying hard to think of ways to achieve what it calls the ‘Verkehrswende’, the green transformation of its transport sector. A rising number of environmentally conscious Germans are buying electric cargo bikes, which last year outsold electric cars in a country known for its love of the combustion engine, according to opinion polls.
Climate change is the top concern for Germans but government subsidies to boost sales of electric cars have not gained traction. Only 36,000 electric cars were sold in Germany last year, compared with 25,000 in 2017, according to motor vehicle authority KBA.
Electric cargo bikes are three-wheeled vehicles that have a motor to help with pedalling and a large cargo basket that can fit kids, pets and shopping and so make them popular with parents, according to Reuters.
According to Germany’s Two-wheel Industry Association (ZIV), 39,200 electrically powered cargo bikes were sold across the country last year, compared with only 36,062 newly registered electric cars, despite smaller subsidies.
Robust, easy to park and never slowed down by traffic jams, cargo bikes have been discovered as an efficient alternative to four-wheel transport, not just by parents on the nursery or school run but also carpenters, plumbers, photographers, even chimney sweeps. Yet with prices ranging from €2,000 to €5,000, they are also not cheap.
"I think Germans have realised, especially in cities like Berlin and Frankfurt, that a cargo bike can replace a second car," said ZIV head Siegfried Neuberger.
"You can use it to go shopping, you can take the kids to day care and so it's very practical, environment-friendly, sustainable and healthy, which makes it very attractive to Germans," he added.
Karen Lebek, a water security researcher at Humboldt University, who lives with her husband and two daughters on a leafy street in southwest Berlin, was persuaded to buy an electric cargo bike, saying, “It makes everything easy.”