British Columbia

High demand for B.C.'s new e-bike rebate program sends thousands to the wait list

British Columbians excited by the expanded rebate program to help them purchase an e-bike had to be quick to claim their money, as just the first 4,000 applicants had their rebates processed right away.

8,000 people were waiting to hear if they qualified as of Friday, according to the province

A male cyclist rides an e-bike on a paved trail.
A cyclist rides an e-bike on the Galloping Goose Trail in Victoria, B.C. The province is now offering cash rebates on eligible e-bikes. (Ken Mizokoshi/CBC)

British Columbians excited by the province's expanded rebate program to help them buy an e-bike needed to be quick if they wanted to claim their money.

The new program received 12,000 applications within the first 24 hours of its launch on June 1, according to the province's transportation ministry.

And only the lucky 4,000 people who applied within the first eight hours received the rebate right away.

As of Friday, the remaining 8,000 were placed on a wait list to allow staff to process applications properly and in order, the ministry said in a statement. 

In comparison to the average of 16 monthly rebate applications under the old program, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming said the demand was "unprecedented."

"I'm very pleased to see that people are so enthusiastic," Fleming said in a Sunday statement to CBC News. "By lowering the cost of e-bikes, we're helping to make efficient, emissions-free travel more affordable for people across B.C."

The rebate varies depending on applicants' income, and can be applied to an e-bike purchased within 30 days of being approved. But people cannot purchase a bike and later claim the rebate, the ministry said.

'They don't know how long they need to wait'

Katy Lu, who manages E-NIC E-bike Sales and Rentals shop in Vancouver's West End, said more customers are already coming in looking to buy an e-bike now B.C. has lowered the cost barrier.

"They're very excited to finally get a chance to buy an e-bike," Lu said. "They are currently applying, and they are on the wait list, and they don't know how long they need to wait."

A woman speaks to the camera with a green wall and row of e-bikes behind her.
Katy Lu says customers have been coming into E-NIC excited to purchase e-bikes with B.C.'s new rebate program. (Yasmin Gandham/CBC)

She cautioned customers to wait to buy one until their own rebate request has been approved, because there are fees for assembling and restocking e-bikes at many stores like hers, and those fees are usually non-refundable if the e-bike is returned.

Nonprofit advocacy group HUB Cycling's Navdeep Chhina says people who are low-income or disabled should be prioritized in the application process.

He also wants the grants, which top-out at $1,350 for low-income people, increased for disabled people and those on public assistance so they can benefit from e-bikes as well.

"People with mobility needs can buy [adaptive bikes] so they can get to places and those bikes tend to be more expensive to there needs to be a bigger grant," Chhina told CBC News.

Despite the long wait list, there is still $6 million left in the rebate program fund, according to the province, which announced the $350 to $1,400 rebates on May 25.

With files from Yasmin Gandham