The city has increased the loan cap for its popular e-bike program. Photo: Unsplash/ KBO Bike

The city has increased the loan cap for its popular e-bike program. Photo: Unsplash/ KBO Bike

City of Nelson expands e-bike loan program

$1 million is available through the city’s EcoSave Retrofits Program

by Timothy Schafer

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily

The City of Nelson’s e-bike program has moved into full gear after the financial loan service offered through the municipality has been approved for an increase.

There will be $1 million available through the city’s EcoSave Retrofits Program — up from $500,000 — after the bylaw was amended to provide a greater amount of loans to Nelson Hydro’s city customers— a move predicated after the first plateau of loans was reached.

The EcoSave Retrofits Program provides loans to Nelson Hydro for people to fund energy retrofit projects and e-bike purchases, repaying through Nelson Hydro’s on-bill financing. The bylaw had set a cap for the aggregate of such loans issued by the city at an amount of $500,000 — an amount that has been reached.

Obviously, it is a successful program and it is measured in the amount of uptake, said Mayor Janice Morrison when the bylaw was first read in council chambers.

“But has everybody been paying us back? Have we had any defaults or any concerns about people not being able to pay back their loans?” she asked.

City chief financial officer Chris Jury said there were no defaults or losses on the loans, mentioning that the city had the bill collection tools of Nelson Hydro to recover funds if people were remiss in paying the loan.

The city first began offering on-bill financing for energy retrofit programs in 2012 when it adopted the EcoSave Retrofits Program Bylaw, said climate and energy manager Carmen Procter.

On-bill financing refers to the financial loan service that the City of Nelson has made available for energy retrofits and e-bike purchases to Nelson Hydro’s city customers.

The customer repays the on-bill financing loan on their regular Nelson Hydro utility bill through automatic withdrawal.

The loan is available to those who reside within the City of Nelson and own a home, and approval is based on payment history and property ownership verification.

The maximum allowable loan for retrofits is $16,000 with the choice of a five- or 10-year repayment term. The maximum allowable loan for an e-bike purchase is $8,000 with the choice of a two- or five-year repayment term. The current fixed interest rate is 3.5 per cent and is subject to change for any new loans on January first of each year.

Three years ago the e-bike offering was added and, as technology has improved, they are rapidly becoming more popular amongst city residents, said Procter in her report to council.

Bikes are generally being bought by those aged 31-to-50 years old, with the average loan for an e-bike hovering around the $4,700 mark. About 60 per cent favour the five-year option, as opposed to the two years offered.

She said 112 people in last 12 months — June 2022 to June 2023 — have applied for the e-bike program, but 139 loans have been administered.

“What we saw in the first couple of years is people applied and it took a little while to get the bike they wanted and it was on back order,” she said. “I feel like now, when people are applying for their loan they are handing it in a lot sooner because it seems more bikes are available.”

More communications and marketing around the programs have led to increased awareness and uptake for the program, she added. As a result, the program should continue to see significant demand.

However, since the program’s inception, Procter said there has been a zero loss rate from loans with the vast majority of loans being repaid in a timely manner.