Green Transportation
Moving toward a transportation system that fuels healthy people and a healthy planet.

EV Sales and the End of the Internal Combustion Engine


A Chevy Bolt parks next to a Tesla. Photo by Steve Rainwater

General Motors Chair, Mary Barra, announced on Thursday, January 28th that GM will completely phase out the manufacturer of vehicles using internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2035. The auto company is ahead of the pack committing to phase out all gas and diesel for light-duty vehicles, cars, pickups, and SUVs. GM plans to invest $27 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles by 2025. It’s the end of ICE cars!

Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) have served us well for some 160 years, powering our cars, planes, ships, and more. Karl Benz had the patent for the world’s first car powered with a gas combustion engine in 1886. Today, however, ICE cars are nearing extinction, obsolescence is on the horizon. Powerful and macho — they don’t work well in a carbon-conscious world. Internal combustion engines have four strokes: intake, compression, power, and exhaust. The last spells their demise. Meanwhile, Bloomberg NEF reports that the cost of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) has dropped 87% from 2010 to 2019. The writing is on the wall as one technology falls and the other rises.

Chevy Bolt Leading a New Generation

GM wants market share in the growing EV space, and is no doubt keen on tackling Tesla while fending off other EV upstarts including Rivian. GM produced its first “long-range” battery electric vehicle in 2016, the Bolt. It has been competing nicely with the Tesla Model 3; the Bolt being sold at less cost while offering similar performance.

GM is working in partnership with LG Chem to drive down costs further. By opening a new plant in Ohio to manufacture its new Ultium batteries, GM hopes to cut the costs of its Bolts by another $4,000.

GM is not the only car maker making bold statements: In early February, Ford announced that it will invest $29 billion in EVs and autonomous vehicles by 2025. It too aims to compete with Tesla in the race to bring EVs into the mainstream. By 2030 Ford will only produce all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. An electric version of Ford’s cash cow, the F150 pickup truck, will go into production next year.

More Automakers Make All-Electric Pledges

Other automakers are moving away from ICE. Bentley laid out a target date of 2030 to switch entirely to battery electric vehicles. Nissan will electrify all vehicles by the early 2030s. In early February, Jaguar announced that it will only produce electric vehicles by 2025. Its owner, Indian Tata Motors, reportedly hopes the move to all-electric will turn around the struggling 86-year-old car company’s fortunes.

The end of ICE is being driven by technology and policy. EVs are fun to drive and are more and more affordable to buy. There are many models available. They are low-cost to operate and require no maintenance. Their growth and speed of their adoption, however, are still dependent on government decrees. At the beginning of 2021, there were 31 national and local governments that had announced bans on the sale of cars with internal combustion engines. A list compiled by Charged Future runs from Norway to South Korea, Slovenia, and India. Some governments regulate fleets, other regulations are just for new vehicles. Norway will ban ICE cars by 2025; the United Kingdom, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, and the Netherlands by 2030.

American states with ICE bans include California, Colorado, Washington, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. There will be more to come. All these above are reactions to the climate imperative – to clean our tailpipes – and to the sharp rise in EV sales and Tesla’s success.

Global EV Sales Surge

In 2020, global EV sales surged despite a drop in overall sales of passenger cars. According to the market research firm Canalys, EV sales jumped 39% globally. At the same time, sales of passenger vehicles dropped by 14%. EVs are now almost 5% of all new car sales globally. Europe was responsible for much of this growth in 2020.

According to, 2020 was a banner year for plug-in electric vehicle sales, with sales increasing from 2.26 million in 2019 to 3.24 million in 2020. These values include Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV). Europe is the leading region, taking 1.4 million units, 137% more than in 2019. This growth was due to attractive models, incentives from green recovery funds, the European Union’s “95g CO2 mandate” for average fleet emissions, much improved EV availability, and intense promotion of EVs.

Now, let’s look at the share of the market. What percentage of total sales were EVs? Overall, sales of BEVs and PHEVs made up 4.2% of the global car market, up from 2.5% in 2019. In Europe, EV sales were 10.2% of the market, up from 3.3% in 2019. In China the EV share rose from 5.1% to 5.5%. Meanwhile, in the United States, EVs were 2.4% of new car sales, up just 4% from 2019. U.S. EV sales did nevertheless outperform the overall American auto-market, down 15% year to year. Analysts suggest that this was mostly due to the introduction of the Tesla Model Y.

The world’s largest EV manufacturer is Tesla. In the first quarter of 2020 it had a 29% market share. It was followed by Renault-Nissan with 13% of the market share, Volkswagen Group (11%), and BYD (6%). Tesla’s Model 3 has been the world leading EV, but Model Y sales last year equaled Model S, X, and 3 sales combined.

All told, Tesla delivered 499,550 vehicles in 2020. It has new factories in Austin, Texas, and Brandenburg, Germany. It is boosting production with eight massive casting machines. Tesla is going big and building all-electric, semi tractor-trailers. It is also going small, developing the Model 2, a compact hatchback with a price that may be as low as $19,000. There are rumors that Model 2 steering wheels will be optional.

Ted Flanigan runs EcoMotion, a California-based company with the mission of the cost-effective greening of cities, corporations, and campuses. He has dedicated his career to finding win-win solutions that create financial and environmental benefits while fostering a sustainable society. Connect with Ted on Facebook and Twitter, listen to The NetPositive Podcast, read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our blogging guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Homestead-Homeschool 101: Teaching Teens Vehicle Maintenance Lesson

We’ve been homesteading for nearly five years now but we’ve only been homeschooling our four teenage girls for about one year. One thing we love about homestead-homeschool is we can teach our girls things they don’t normally learn in school. We love to learn about homesteading with them, explore the forest and touch on subjects often overlooked in public school like writing in cursive, learning how to grow your own food, caring for farm animals and so much more. 

Photo by Tonya Olson

Most adults in the US operate a vehicle every day of their life, yet many know very little about how a vehicle actually works or how to perform basic maintenance on a vehicle. I myself am no expert but I feel I have enough knowledge to put together a basic lesson for my gour girls.  Because we are also YouTubers I made a video of this lesson as well. Here is my lesson plan and video. I didn’t do any research on this and really did wing it- so please comment if you have any suggestions or ideas or anything i missed and I encourage you to watch the video as we had some fun along the way! 

I hope this lesson plan or video helps your homestead teach your kids about basic vehicle maintenance. 

Part 1: Basic overview of how a vehicle works

In this part of the lesson I asked the girls “How does a vehicle run?”. I then went on to explain some basics about combustions and how the fuel essentially explodes and expands and forces a piston through a cylinder and converts that energy into movement and rotation. As you can see in the video I tried to also explain how amazing it is that a vehicle is essentially powered by countless little controlled explosions over and over again and that’s pretty amazing!

Photo by Kerry W. Mann, Jr.

I transition this into discussing the oil. The piston moves inside the cylinder and when we have metal on metal we end up with heat and wear and the oil helps lubricate these moving parts to not overheat and over wear.  

Part 2. Checking Air Pressure in tires

Next I showed the girls a tire pressure gauge and explained how to check the tire pressure using the tool. I also explained that the MAX PSI shown on the tire is not the recommended amount of pressure, but rather it is the maximum amount and I showed them where to look inside the door to see the recommended PSI (for our minivan it is 35 PSI). I showed them how to use the tire pressure tool to remove excess pressure and I also demonstrated how to use our air compressor to add more air pressure. Next time we are at a gas station I am going to have each of them test and adjust the tire pressure as needed. 

Check Tire Pressure
Photo by Kerry W. Mann, Jr.

Part 3. Basics Under the Hood Review

I reviewed the basic components under the hood. I showed theme the spark plug wires and explained how the electrical system is powered by the battery. I showed them here the oil is added and the dipstick and I covered a few other basic items like where the brake fluid is added, coolant, transmission dip stick and where to add wiper fluid.

Part 4: How to Use a Jack

I demonstrated how to use our floor jack and let the girls try it themselves. I also told them how using a jack is very dangerous and a jack stand should always be used. I also mentioned it’s important to place the jack under the solid metal frame of the car otherwise it could fail. 

How To Use a Jack
Photo by Kerry W. Mann, Jr.

Part 5: Changing the Oil

Add Oil
Photo by Kerry W. Mann, Jr.

I explained how we need to go under the vehicle and remove the oil pan drain bolt and allow the old dirty oil to drain out into the oil pan. I showed the girls the location of the oil pan and plug. I also showed the girls a new oil filter and explained how to add some oil to the rubber seal on the filter and showed them how to remove the old one by hand or with an oil filter wrench.  Then I removed the plug (lefty-loosey) and drained the oil.

I showed the girls where to find the oil capacity specification in the user manual and let them use a funnel to add the oil. I also let them each check the dip stick several times to ensure the proper amount before testing driving. The test drive was sort of a reward for the girls. They are each too young to drive (13)  but I allowed them to drive on our property.

Overall this was a fun lesson with my girls.

Study Questions

  1. Why is oil important to a vehicle? 
  2. How do we know how much oil to use? 
  3. When do we check the oil? 
  4. How much tire pressure is needed in our minivan?
  5. When do we change the oil next? 
  6. What happens if we put too much oil in the car?

Please comment if you have any questions or ideas to improve this lesson plan! Enjoy the video version.

Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology, including YouTube and, to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his Homestead How YouTube pageInstructablesPinterest Facebookand at My Evergreen Homestead. Read all of Kerry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Cycling During the Pandemic: The Bicycle Industry Booms in the U.S. and Europe

Photo by Maxfoot on Pixabay

A small but shining silver lining: The coronavirus has accelerated the shift to pedal power in Europe and the United States. The German Cycling Association (ADFC) reports that Germans across the country are spending twice as much time biking as they were before the pandemic. There is surging demand for bikes and shared-bike subscriptions, and now even shortages throughout bicycle supply chain. For bike shops it’s an unprecedented boom. So much so that it requires cities to improve their biking infrastructure.

In unimagined numbers, bikes are starting to squeeze out cars in our cities. This uptick in cycling has spurred 930 miles of new bike lanes in Europe, “muscling aside cars on Europe’s city streets,” according to European Cyclists Federation. Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands are pioneering fast lanes for commuters. “Pop-up lanes” are being used for bikes in Berlin and Paris; Rome has painted new bike lanes, in each case taking away lanes from cars.

Germany is the largest bicycle market in Europe with 1.36 million bikes sold in 2019 and now a surge in demand. That compares with 3.6 million cars sold last year. According to Bloomberg Energy News, that volume tumbled 35% in the first half of 2020.

Electric Bicycles and Other Trends

Women riders are reportedly a big factor in the biking revolution. E-bikes are, too. E-bikes use an onboard battery to boost power to the drive train when the rider is going up a hill, or just needs a rest. E-bikes have removed “the sweat factor.” Who wants to show up to work or a party sweaty? Many Europeans that use E-bikes see them as substitutes for their cars. They are switching to bikes and E-bikes for their commutes to improve health and fitness, save money, because they enjoy riding, and for the sake of the environment. Nine in ten Danes own a bike; only four in ten own a car.

Financial Incentives

The European Cyclists’ Federation states that bikes are strongly supported by European governments to cut carbon and increase the quality of their cities. European countries provide direct financial incentives for cyclists.

At the end of April, France announced a 20 million Euro plan to promote cycling after the end of the lockdown. The plan includes 50 Euro vouchers for the repair of a bike. Italy worked on a decree for Covid recovery whereby 120 million Euro was set aside for purchase subsidies covering 70% and up to 500 Euro of the price of conventional, muscle-powered and electric bikes.

U.S. Bicycle Industry Booming

Not to be outdone, go USA! Our country’s bike shops are booming too. There have been record online bike sales. One survey found that nationwide bike sales have doubled, leisure bikes up 121%, commuter bikes up 66%, E-bikes up 85%. A bike shop in Brooklyn, New York, claims sales 600% of that a year ago. Hard to find “sub-$1,000 bikes” in Chicago. For Richards Bike Mart in North Texas, sales are up 30%. It’s hiring new staff for repair services. Many shops have long wait lists for bikes. A D.C. retailer noted its largest sales volume in 50 years of operating the shop.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are “flocking to one of the most basic forms of mobility: the bike.” Many are taking up cycling for the first time in 10, 20, 30 years. It’s a good form of socially distanced exercise, especially now with gyms closed. Trek Magazine reports that its survey of adult bikers found that 21% plan to ride more during the pandemic, and 50% say they keep it up post pandemic.

The pandemic will likely permanently transform society in many ways, and biking is one of them. This dramatic uptick is and will be changing the urban infrastructure. In April, New York City temporarily opened 100 miles of roads to pedestrians and cyclists. Oakland shut down 10% of its streets during the pandemic for cars.

There’s now even a bike shortage – lagging behind the PPE shortage — due to tariffs on bikes from China, lower production, and fewer imports. As the benefits of biking become ingrained in our lives, our urban infrastructures will change too… with less focus on cars and more on the cycling form of “active transportation.”

Ted Flanigan runs EcoMotion, a California-based company with the mission of the cost-effective greening of cities, corporations, and campuses. He has dedicated his career to finding win-win solutions that create financial and environmental benefits while fostering a sustainable society. Connect with Ted on Facebook and Twitter, listen to The NetPositive Podcast, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Electric Driving in an Oil State

electric driving 1

States like Texas are famous for their connection to the oil industry, but that doesn't mean that driving an electric vehicle (EV) is out of the question. As the market for electric vehicles grows larger, states that would traditionally resist giving up petroleum are being forced to adapt.

In fact, Texas has become one of the better states for electric cars ownership, with favorable tax incentives, increased charging station availability and local governments that are investing in the electric infrastructure needed for a greener future. Here’s how one of the biggest oil states in the U.S. is rethinking driving — and what other states are doing to follow suit.

Tax Incentives

Typically, electric cars are more expensive than your standard internal combustion vehicle, especially when you compare the features and niceties inside. The federal government offers a hefty $7,500 tax credit to help lower the price tag, but Texas goes even further. In June of 2018, Texas reinstated their $2,500 state tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle after a three-year hiatus from offering this credit. This is great news for Texans who want to drive green, as tax incentives are critical for making EVs and hybrids accessible to the average consumer.  

In addition to the tax rebate, the AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Vehicle Replacement Program from the Texas Department of Environmental Quality will give a further rebate of up to $3,500 for trading in for a more efficient vehicle, especially EVs and hybrids. However, the requirements for this program are a bit more stringent. You must be in a low-income bracket and your current vehicle must meet certain requirements for inefficiency. It's also only available to residents in certain parts of the state. 

Charging Station Availability

Texas is a big place, but there are already 960 charging stations across the state, allowing EV drivers to make it almost anywhere without running out of juice. Most of these charging stations are located in urban areas, but some are placed along highways that run through the state. 

Additionally, the federal government has designated several interstate highways to be "Interstate Charging Corridors," including Interstates 10, 20, 30, 35 and 45. This is backed up by $4.5 billion in guaranteed loans from the government to companies building EV charging stations – part of an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 80 percent by 2050. 

Austin: A Haven for EVs

The capital of Texas has gone all-in on making the switch to electric-powered transportation. The local power service, Austin Energy, offers EV owners a rebate to help install a fast-charging station (up to $1,200) at home, even if they live in an apartment building. Apartment buildings and condo complexes make it notoriously hard to own an EV, but if you have a designated parking spot or garage, you may qualify for the rebate. Austin will also help apartment and condo buildings install charging stations with rebates, as well as lend support for maintenance and marketing the high-demand amenity. 

EV owners can also take advantage of Austin Energy's EV360 pilot program, which offers unlimited charging at home between 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. for a flat $30/month fee (if you qualify). The program also offers unlimited access to Austin Energy charging stations throughout the city for $4.17/month. And even better news for green drivers — Austin Energy also says that charging your car during off-peak hours will use 100 percent renewable energy.

EV Ownership in Other Oil States

Texas isn't the only oil state with an EV-friendly environment. California is also a major oil producer, and also an EV-friendly state. California offers a staggering tax credit of up to $7,000, which nearly matches that of the Federal government. There are also HOV lane permissions, utility incentives, local jurisdiction rebates and discounts, as well as plenty of electric vehicle charging stations to go around. Other big oil producers like Oklahoma, Alaska and North Dakota have yet to equal Texas and California’s EV initiatives, but the times are certainly changing. The more states that follow Texas’s example, the easier it’ll be to own an EV almost anywhere in the U.S. 

Haden Kirkpatrick is the head of marketing strategy and innovation at Esurance. He is constantly thinking about how IoT, blockchain and machine learning will impact the auto insurance industry.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Benefits of Electric-Run School Buses

school busCurrently, there are about 480,000 school buses operating today in the United States. These school buses alone contribute 5.3 million tons of climate-altering pollution every year. If schools in America were to swap out all of these school buses with electric-powered replacements, it would not only have numerous environmental benefits, but it would also have many health benefits for the students who take those school buses every week.

A new report, “Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthy Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air”, from Environment America Research & Policy Center, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, and Frontier Group shows that replacing all school buses in America with an electric-powered model would be the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off of the road, saving millions of tons of pollution annually.

Not only do these hundreds of thousands of buses have terrible effects on the environmental, they also have harmful health consequences for the students riding the bus every day. Approximately 95 percent of school buses run on diesel fuel, which is proven to cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma.

"Pollution from school buses is harming our children's health and contributing excessively to global warming,” said Andrea McGimsey, Environment America Global Warming Director. "Our research shows that whether they're boarding the bus or on the bus, kids are exposed to toxic air in high concentrations. Electrifying our buses is a common-sense solution for communities across the nation.”

These electric school buses are already available for schools to consider. They are cleaner, healthier, and often cheaper for schools to purchase in place of diesel-fueled buses in the long run. Electric school buses have zero tailpipe emissions, which could help reduce kids’ exposure to toxic fumes on a daily basis.

"When we put our kids on a school bus we rely on these buses for safe transportation,” said Jeff Robinson, director of U.S. PIRG’s transportation program. “We have the technology to avoid these negative repercussions, so why wouldn’t we drive toward a cleaner future?”

This press release is presented without editing for your information. MOTHER EARTH NEWS does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

Compare Lifetime Cost Savings When Considering an Electric Vehicle

Interior BMW Electric Vehicle

Photo by Pixabay/rezaqorbani

Electric, plug-in vehicles, or EVs for short, are a rapidly growing vehicle option for any household. In many ways operating more like our handheld rechargeable devices than an internal-combustion vehicle, EVs have the potential to revolutionize our everyday commute and fuel consumption habits.

With all major tech giants, including Google, Tesla, Uber, and even Sony investing in electric vehicle models or infrastructure, the EV future is appears closer with each passing month. Here we recount several of the most heralded benefits for consumers considering switching to an electric vehicle.

EVs can be affordable investments. Believe it or not, but electric cars might just be a cheaper option in the long run if you’re looking to buy a new car. With rapid advancements in technology, electric cars are no longer as expensive as they used to be, and the price is predicted to go lower in the future, as more and more rival competitors entering the market.

For example, according to a research report by Cox Automotive, the EV median prices declined by 13.4% in 2019 compared to the overall median price increase of 2% for vehicles in the U.S.  According to some other studies, electric cars will reach the price parity with gas and diesel cars within 8 years.

Besides that, just like for diesel or gasoline cars, you can choose from a wide range of models and brands. This way, you can pick one that fits your budget. As electric cars require low maintenance and have a longer lifespan than gas and diesel cars (see below), they can prove to be a better longer-term investment despite sometimes higher upfront cost.

Low maintenance. Even if you feel that the price of an electric car is more or less the same as diesel and petrol cars, there’s one advantage you won’t find in the latter category. Electric cars are cheaper to run and maintain as compared to diesel and petrol cars. According to, the cost of driving an EV the same distance compared to gasoline vehicle is less than half: USD $1.17 compared to 2.57 average.

First, a basic electric car consists of minimal components, namely, the inverter, the charger, and the motor. Fewer moving parts means less wear and tear on the motor. You’ll be saving a lot on repairs and regular servicing.

Second, after you’ve invested in an electric car, you can be completely concern-free about fuel. For most locations, electricity is much cheaper than petrol or diesel, which means you’ll cut out on fuel expenses. Keep in mind that the cost of electricity varies based on the state you are driving in. For example, in Arkansas, the difference in cost is $0.88 electricity equivalent to a gallon of gasoline, while in Massachusetts, the figure is $1.93 USD. [Data source]

If you want to compare cost per charge for different regions, here is a quick comparison:

Rhode Island: $0.23 per kWh

Washington DC: <$0.10 per kWh (benefits of hydropower)

California: $0.20 per kWh

Oregon: $0.10 per kWh

Sustainability. The greener aspect of driving electric vehicles is undeniable. Perhaps most importantly, EVs can reduce harmful carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Still, manufacturing electric vehicles can make stride to become more efficient and lower lifecycle emissions. Studies have shown that the process for manufacturing electric vehicles is comparably as harmful as producing equivalent gas-powered vehicles. Manufacturing electric vehicles requires significant consumption of energy.

Electric vehicle batteries are much larger than those used in gas-powered cars. These batteries using in electric vehicles feature a different chemistry as well, lithium-ion batteries, like those found in cellphones and laptops. With these batteries comes the significant extraction and refinement of metals like lithium, nickel, and cobalt. Lithium-ion batteries are much harder to recycle.

You might have heard about the long tailpipe theory and probably believe that the pollution electric cars prevent is offset by the dirty electricity from the power plants charging the EVs relies on. These are important considerations and very dependent on your local grid. But even if all the pollution from electric power plants is compared to the emissions from combustion engines, the former is less for most regions.

Enhanced performance. Yes, another benefit of electric vehicles is that they can perform better than petrol or diesel cars. Many drivers consider electric engines more responsive, providing improved acceleration, torque, and power. What’s more, you can control an electric vehicle easily, as their center of gravity is concentrated in one single battery located at the chassis. A great example of this is the balanced, prompt acceleration of the Tesla Roadster. Nevertheless, combustion engines do work well when you’re talking high-speed sprints on long tracks. But, you’re not likely to take your car on the racetrack.

Fossil fuel independence. With electric cars, you’ll never have to stop at a gasoline fuel station again! Think about it this way: How long is your car parked idly each day? If you count your work hours along with family time at night, your car stays parked for more than twelve hours each day. Now, if you have an electric car, you can leave it to get charged until you need to use it again the next day. You can also recharge your cars during work hours for your trip back home. You can easily forget the long gas-station queues and the extra time spent every day.

All you need to do is install an all-weather charging port inside or outside your garage and connect your car to it. It works the same way as charging your smartphone. Consider EV chargers for your home. While it usually takes eight to 10 hours for an electric vehicle to get fully charged, you can also get high-speed chargers, which can get your car ready in about an hour as well.

Summing it all up, it’s evident that electric vehicles are the way of the future. Not only do they benefit the environment, but they also give you a faster and more accessible driving experience as well. The next time you think about purchasing an automobile, compare the benefits and convenience of electric vehicles to the high power range of combustion engines before you decide what’s best for you

Kyle Baker is the owner of sustainable technology blog Green Coast, where he covers renewable energy, electric vehicles, and seeks to simplify discussions on sustainability. Connect with Kyle via Green Coast on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Build a Bicycle Cargo Trailer

This article originally appeared on Instructables and is posted with permission from the author. 

Bicycle cargo trailer 

Have you ever wanted to take something extra with you when you ride your bike, but didn't know how you could get it on the bike and still be able to ride? I have, and believe me one of my favorite challenges about bike riding is figuring out how to strap anything from a tennis racket to a load of firewood to a bike. There is something about that moment when you wrap that bungee cord around your item just right, pull on it until your fingers hurt, and get it to hook on. You step back and think to yourself, "This is rigged but it just might stay on."

In my effort to carry more things with my bike, I decided to build a cargo trailer. It wasn't going to be a typical trailer, though. I wanted something that was heavy-duty, maybe something that could handle most household appliances. I got started just like with every other good homemade bicycle cargo trailer — with a pair of garbage-picked wheels and a set of tires that were given to me for free.

Here is a quick rundown of the main features of the cargo bike trailer:

  • Large 28-by-41-inch deck
  • Mounts to any bike rack with a quick-release ball joint
  • 1-inch square steel tube frame can accommodate up to 700-centimeter/29-inch wheels and tires
  • 100-millimeter dropout spacing to allow for most bicycle front wheels
  • Space for toolbox with tools, straps, and bungee cords
  • Adjustable pulling arm to allow mounting to any bike

My main motivation for building this DIY cargo bike came from many bike-move videos and blog posts on this topic. A bike move is just what it sounds like — moving to a new house using only bikes for transportation and hauling. This requires cargo bikes, bike trailers and the blank stares of people as you ride past with a massive load of stuff on your bike. 

You're probably wondering, "How much can I really tow with a bike?" Well, the company Bikes At Work sells bicycle cargo trailers and has some great references on hauling large items by bike. Check out How Much Weight Can a Bicycle Carry? for a calculator on towing weight. It states that "Most people can comfortably pull 300 pounds (137 kilograms) with a typical mountain bike and cargo trailer." I have not purchased anything from this company but, from the info they give and the pictures of their trailers in action, I believe they sell a good product, although a little pricey.

So, now that you see the potential behind a simple DIY cargo bike trailer, let's build one!

NOTE: To use this bicycle cargo trailer you must have a bike rack. 

Step 1: Assemble the Tools, Materials and Plans

Here is a list of the tools and materials you will need to build this bicycle cargo trailer.


    A.  4.5-inch angle grinder with cutoff, grinding and sanding discs
    B.  Drill press with vice or c-clamp (not absolutely needed but makes drilling steel much easier)
    C.  Drill bits, sizes 1/4-inch, 5/16-inch and 3/8-inch
    D.  3/8-inch No. 16 tap
    E.  Center punch
    F.  Hammer
    G.  Welder (I am currently using the 90-amp flux core welder)
    H.  Welding gloves and helmet
    I.  Tape measure
    J.  Permanent marker


    A.  1-inch square tube steel (I got most of the steel for this trailer from an old BBQ grill and a bench-press stand)
    B.  2-by-3/16-inch steel flat bar, 1 foot long
    C.  1-by-3/16-inch steel flat bar, 1 foot long
    D.  3/8-inch No. 24 threaded bolt rod, 1 1/2-inch long (fine thread size; could come from an old bike axle or you can just cut off the head of a right-sized bolt)
    E.  Two 3/8-inch No. 24 nuts (might also be able to use bike axle nuts)
    F.  Four 1/4-inch No. 20 2-inch long bolts with nuts and washers
    G.  Two 3/8-inch No. 16 1.5" long bolts with nuts and washers
    H.  Four 5/16-inch No. 18 eye bolts with nuts and washers
    I.    28-by-41-inch piece of 3/4-inch MDF (for the deck of the trailer; you can use whatever material you want)
    J.  Quick disconnect ball linkage (McMaster part No. 6058K34)
    K.  Two bike wheels and tires (I used 20-inch wheels, but the frame design allows for larger 700-centimeter wheels)

Aside from the quick disconnect linkage, all items can be found at a local hardware store or picked from old bike parts. If you're going to purchase the steel, I would highly recommend finding a local steel supplier by searching the Yellow Pages. If that's not an option for you, I would recommend Speedy Metals for fair prices and reasonable shipping. 

If you're lacking some of the tools I mentioned, borrow them from an uncle, check out yard sales or search online classifies. These tools are pretty common and should be easy to find at low cost. For the welder, a MIG or wire welder is best for this project. It is completely doable with a stick or even a TIG welder, so just use what you have. If you have never welded before, the 90-amp flux core welder I'm using is enough to learn with, and at roughly $100 it's by far the best bang for your buck.

Open my Trailer Drawings PDF to view detailed drawings of the frame and the pulling arm, both of which are explained in the next few steps.

DropoutsStep 2: Make the Dropouts

The dropouts are easy to make from 2-by-3/16-inch flat bar.  First, put a cutoff wheel on your angle grinder. Cutoff  wheels for this type of grinder are roughly 1/8-inch thick. If the wheel you have is thicker than that, it's not a cutoff wheel but a grinding wheel. Now put on your safety glasses; this is a must because your grinder will be throwing sparks everywhere. Mark off a 3-inch section of the bar and cut it off. I found that a good practice for cutting with a grinder like this is to first make a shallow cut right along your line. This will act as a guide when you make the rest of the cut. Repeat three more times to get four 3-inch long pieces.

Now get out the ruler and permanent marker and mark a point in the middle of each piece 3/4-inch from the end. Then grab your hammer and center punch, put the punch on your mark and hit it with the hammer. Don't miss! Next put one of the pieces in your vice and center up the center-punch mark with the drill bit in your drill press. Clamp everything down tight and put a dab of motor oil on the drill bit. This is not the ideal coolant method, but it will keep your bit from going dull. Set your drill press to the lowest speed possible, less than 500 rpm if you can. Then drill the hole and repeat for the next three parts.

Next, make a few marks from the edges of each hole to the edge of the part. Then get out your grinder and cut from the hole to the edge of the plate. When you're finished with all four dropouts, you'll be a cutoff wheel master and ready to tackle the rest of the project.

Trailer frameStep 3: Weld the Frame

The frame is built from 1-by-1-inch square steel tubing. I recycled this material from an old BBQ grill and a bench press stand.  The tubing already had the nice right-angle curved bends so all I had to do was cut and weld it together. The main box of the frame came from the legs of the bench press, which were butt-welded together. The two outer parts of the frame came from the BBQ grill and were also butt-welded together. The interior parts of the frame were straight sections of tubing and were welded in after finishing the perimeter of the frame.

If you don't have the luxury of steel tubing lying around, you can buy tubing from a local steel supplier. You don't need bends at the corners but they do make the trailer look nice. If you have straight tubing, you could bend it yourself with a Woodward Fab Pipe/Tube Bender.

Step 4: Fabricate the Pulling Arm

Pulling armThe pulling arm attaches the trailer to your bicycle rack. The arm is made from 1-by-1-inch steel tubing and 1-by-3/16-inch steel flat bar. The pulling arm attaches to the upright tube on the frame with two pinch bolts. The top pinch bolt goes through the two clamping plates with the 3/8-inch holes and around the upright tube. This clamps firming on to the upright tube. The bottom pinch bolt tightens against the upright tube and uses the tapped hole. This keeps the arm from twisting on the upright tube. I chose to attach the pulling arm in this way because I wanted to be able to adjust the height of the arm in order to keep the trailer platform level. By moving the arm up and down, I can adjust for different bike rack heights, so the trailer can always be level on any bike it's attached to. 

Step 5: Build the Trailer Platform

Close-up of platform boltI choose to use medium-density fiberboard (MDF) for the platform of the trailer, but realize now that it might not have been the best choice. A treated plywood may be better because it can get wet and not fall apart like MDF. You can use whatever sheet material you have, but something as rigid as 3/4-inch MDF or plywood is preferable. Making this platform is pretty simple. The dimensions are 28-by-41 inches. I cut a piece using a circular saw, then I clamped it to the trailer and marked the radius of the corners and cut those out with a jigsaw. I clamped it again to the frame and marked the locations of the mounting holes in the frame. I drilled the holes with a 1/4-inch bit, for the 1/4-inch bolts I called for in the parts list. I also wanted to make sure the platform was not obstructed by the heads of the bolts, so I marked out a section around the holes and used my router to cut out a pocket.

Quick disconnect ball linkageStep 6: Prepare Your  Bike Rack

You need a rack to mount and pull this bicycle cargo trailer. The frame design and pulling arm are centered around this type of setup. The trailer is connected to the bike rack with a quick disconnect ball linkage (McMaster part No. 6058K34). This linkage has a ball much like the towing hitch used on cars and trucks, but much smaller. The other part of the linkage that attaches to the trailer has a spring release so it is very easy to detach the trailer from the bike, but still securely captures the ball when pulling. To mount this to your bike rack, just drill a 3/8-inch hole in the platform. I suggest putting the hole in the center of the rack and forward of the rear axle. Most racks have a crossbar underneath the platform—don't drill though this, but put your hole near it for added stiffness. Also, don't drill through your tire! It's probably best to either remove the rack or your rear wheel from your bike when drilling. Mount the ball to the bike rack with a 3/8-inch No. 24 nut, and you're done.

Step 7: Accessorize

I made the frame a little longer in the front so I would have a spot to mount a toolbox secured with a bungee cord. Here are the items I carry in the toolbox:

    A.  1/2-inch and 9/16-inch wrenches (for the bolts and nuts used on the trailer)
    B.  Bungee cords of various lengths and styles
    C.  Set of ratchet straps (for holding the load)
    D.  Roll of tape (always seems to help when securing the load)

Finished bicycle cargo trailer, hauling a barbeque grill.Step 8: Start Towing

Just hook the trailer to your bike and load it up. I have found this bicycle cargo trailer to be very maneuverable. I can ride in slow tight circles with the trailer attached and it just spins in place behind me. It would be very difficult to jackknife with this cargo bike trailer, but I'm not going to say it can't be done. 

The first thing I hauled with the trailer was a BBQ grill. I rode 7 miles on fairly flat roads with moderate traffic and only had one issue: The garbage-picked wheels really needed to be trued because there was a harsh vibration around 12 mph. This was an easy fix.

If you've been thinking about building a bicycle cargo trailer, stop thinking and just do it. You will be surprised at how useful your bike will become. If you are moving, you should definitely consider a bike move. The best part about a cargo bike trailer is the looks you get from people as you ride by. Everyone assumes that pulling things with a bike is impossible, or at least impractical, but their minds will be blown when you cruise past. Have fun, ride safe and wear a helmet.  


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