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Easing up everyday life

Can E-Cargo bikes replace cars in everyday life? The eight members of the Silbernagl family from South Tyrol tried it out. The test is a challenge in busy daily life with six children, their own bike school, countless outdoor hobbies and family holidays in Sardinia. How does the Load 75 fare compared to their proven family van – comparing CO2 emissions as well?

Less stress in car-free family life

Of course, the Silbernagls are the epitome of bike enthusiasts. Mum Kathi, dad Hannes and their six children – Nora, Mara, Lina, Jula, Ilvy and Erik – live in Lana, South Tyrol, a few kilometres south of Merano, where the parents run a bike school. A Riese & Müller Load 75 joined the family’s fleet of bikes in April 2020. Why? “Ask other families how relaxed even short car trips with children can be”, answers Kathi jokingly.

“The Load has enabled us to drastically reduce the number of kilometres we travel by car”, she reports. “Before that, we drove about 1,300 kilometres a month on average. Now we drive an average of around 100 kilometres.” Most daily trips can now be done using the Load, such as shopping, trips to sports courses or transporting the children, but also 1,000-metre climbs up to the alpine pastures in the surrounding area.

They spent their family holidays in Sardinia, where they arrived with the family van and E-Bikes, including the Load, on the trailer. Their tour around the island gave them a new feeling of freedom: thanks to the full-suspension Load, the family was able to head off on trips to explore the island, even on difficult terrain, and thus easily reach remote bays. Our van was able to rest in the shade during our four- to seven-day stops.

“The whole holiday was much more relaxed than by car.”

Katharina Silbernagl

It’s worth a rethink

But, above all, the Load needs to prove itself at home: “Of course, you have to get used to it and rethink things. Whereas in the past we would have simply driven to Lake Garda, we have now explored a whole host of destinations closer to home.” Kathi Silbernagl sees many benefits in this. “Leaving the car behind makes these trips extremely relaxing. You no longer have the stress of waiting for the best traffic situation. There are no traffic jams and no need to search for a parking space. We can stop at any time when someone needs something or has to go to the toilet. We and the children can experience at first hand the landscape, routes and distances, and we are actively trying to give them an understanding of environmental conservation.” The reality is that the destinations in their own backyard are largely unknown but are at least as beautiful.

“Leisure activities are often limited with young children. Here in the alpine region around Lana, the routes are often too long and too steep for the little ones. We have repeatedly put off many destinations so that we can experience them as a family when the children can manage them too. The Load means that we simply take them with us.” In recent months, the Silbernagls have visited all the alpine pastures in their immediate vicinity by bike – and, unlike by car, the kids also enjoyed getting there.

Town – Country – Bike?

“Apart from convenience and comfort, the main argument for cars is speed”, explains Hannes. “We need a good infrastructure of cycle paths in our towns and cities. Cars can’t really play their trump card here. But in the countryside, where the distances are greater, the speed of the bikes also plays a greater role.” This is where the S-Pedelecs1 come into their own. Having said that, you can only ride bikes with assistance up to 45 km/h on the road. You cannot ride them on the forest track up to the alpine pastures or along the cycle path to the next town. Not an option for the Silbernagl family.

That raises practical problems. Hannes recalls: “We were at a friend’s barbecue party who lives 30 kilometres away, with a climb of 300 metres. We rode back after midnight thanks to the lighting system. Three children slept in the Load – but it was an adventure for the other children who were pedalling themselves. However, that was, of course, a total exception, riding for over an hour in the middle of the night.”

Which vehicle is more climate-friendly?

“In our case, the car has ideals chances of winning out, as we only drive it fully loaded. And when we take the E-Bikes out, of course it takes a lot of bikes. That also consumes energy.” Kathi Silbernagl was rather cautious in her expectations.

With eight people, their car is a van with an average fuel consumption of 12 litres per 100 kilometres. When you translate that to eight people, that’s just one and a half litres of petrol per 100 kilometres. Very low consumption for an internal combustion engine. The CO2 emissions per kilometre are approximately 300 grammes of CO2 per kilometre (see chart).

On the other hand, eight E-Bikes emit 43.2 grammes of CO2 per kilometre. The Load would be rated a little higher but is approximately compensated by the two children’s E-Bikes. In conclusion, compared to the – optimally fully occupied – van, transporting the family on E-Bikes reduces CO2 emissions by around 70 percent.

Even if you take the E-Bike battery into account, the calculation still adds up: on average, the manufacture of a battery emits about 27.5 to 37.5 kg of CO2. Driving 100 km by car generates an average of 19.7 kg of CO2 emissions. As a result, on average it is worth switching to E-Bikes after just 165 kilometres (German source).

  • Calculation of the CO2 emissions of an E-Bike

    German energy mix

    565 g of CO2/KWh

    Battery capacity

    24 V x 10 Ah = 240 Wh = 0.24 KWh

    Range/charge

    30 km

    Battery life

    500 charging cycles x 30 km = 15,000 km

    CO2 emissions in the production of the lithium-ion battery (EMPA)

    54 kg of CO2/KWh

    CO2 emissions of E-Bike battery at 240 Wh

    54 kg of CO2/KWh x 0.24 KWh = 12.96 kg of CO2

    CO2 emissions of E-Bike, charging only

    0.24 KWh/30 km = 0.008 KWh/km

    0.008 KWh/km x 565 g of CO2/KWh = 4.52 g of CO2/km

    CO2 emissions of E-Bike, charging only

    12.96 kg of CO2/15,000 km = 0.864 g of CO2/km

  • Mobility CO2 emissions

    Petrol car; 8 l/100 km

    200 g of CO2/KWh

    Diesel car: 4 l/100 km

    124 g of CO2/KWh

    Local public transport

    53 g of CO2/person/KWh

    Regional train

    95 g of CO2/person/KWh

    Long-distance train

    52 g of CO2/person/KWh

    Aircraft

    369 g of CO2/person/KWh

    Petrol-driven moped: 2 l/100 km

    50 g of CO2/KWh

    E-Bike (power mix including battery)

    5.4 g of CO2/KWh

  • About the Silbernagl family and the Bikeacademy Lana

    Hannes Silbernagl (40) is a computer scientist and has been cycling in the mountains since he was very young. In 2016, he translated his passion into his job and founded the Bikeacademy Lana bike school. Now he guides all kinds of different groups across the Alps and around his South Tyrolean homeland.

    Katharina Silbernagl (36) is a full-time computer science teacher and puts her good intentions into practice by riding her racing bike to work every day – a distance of almost 30 kilometres. She completed her training to become a mountain biking guide in 2016.

    They particularly want to share their love of the Alps with their six children, Nora (14), Mara (11), Lina (9), Jula (7), Ilvy (5) and Erik (2). There is now room on the Load 75 for the two smallest ones – as well as climbing, swimming or hiking equipment, plus food and drink for eight people.