THE RISE OF THE ELECTRIC BIKE

/ By Jacqui Ma

The words ‘power assisted bicycle’ would have attracted scoffs in the snobby bike circles a few years back. But there has been a noticeable shift. NPR reported that in 2013, bicycles were outselling new cars in almost every European country, and of these numbers, the biggest growth was in e-bikes.
Giant electric bicycle

The big bike brands are also cashing in on this growing sector. Brands such as Giant and Raleigh introducing their versions of power assisted city bikes. The Giant Road E+1, powered by a Yamaha motor, its not cheap though they retail at around £2700. These look very much like traditional bikes just a bit heavier and chunkier. There are also a host of brand new companies offering newly conceptualised electric bikes such as A-bike Ltd a compact folding electric bike with wheels the size of chocolate tin and Gocycle which comes with its own portable docking station.


Electric bicycles by GoCycle

But why are electric bikes really coming into popularity now. There are three key influencing factors.

* The ageing active population
* Technology making motors smaller
* The rise in urban cycling due to congestion and awareness of sustainability

Electric bicycle

High end electric bikes being marketed to the rich, Visser, the owner of Trefecta Mobility – who make the Porche of the electric bike retailing at around $25,000 says that his bikes are not just toys for the wealthy, but represent an environmentally-friendly alternative to a car. “I don’t expect all owners to give up having a car, but I think that there are many situations where you can use the bike,” he says. Bikes are obviously easier to use in urban areas, and often require no parking fees.


Urban cycling, electric riders

Where did it all originially start? Back in 2010, the New York Times reported in their article “an electric boost for bicycles” where sales of electric bikes in China were already huge, 120 million electric bicycles were zooming along the Chinese streets, up from just a few thousand in the 1990s.


In the USA with its huge car culture, In an interview with the chairman of the Light Electric Vehicle association, Ed Benjamin said that in the period from the summer of 2011 to 2012, some 70,000 units were imported into the United States. ... Then from July 2012 through June 2013, sales more than doubled to 159,000 units."


Urban cycling

Its a completely different story in Europe, according to cyclingabout.com,
"In Switzerland, there are over 600 battery swap points on their major cycle routes. You can swap your battery at designated bars, restaurants, hotels and bike shops. The Swiss government sees e-bike tourism as a healthy and sustainable way to interact with their beautiful environment. E-Bikes are the real deal. "

One of the key barriers to their introduction is distribution; they don’t quite fit into the mix in traditional bike shops. Additionally the customer is also different, people buying e-bikes are a combination of car drivers gone eco, aging cyclists and potential motorbike riders.


Travelling by bike

According to Electricbikeconversions.co.uk, these are the reasons people should get an electric bike, from this list you can get a feel for the target audience they are aiming at.

Reasons for having an electric bicycle:


1) Reduce your carbon footprint
2) Reduce your transport costs
3) Enhance your fitness levels
4) You will cycle more with an electric bike
5) A form of motorised transport without added premiums and forms
6) Arrive feeling fresh
7) Quick city travel
8) Enjoy the countryside

In Summary

E-bikes are the next big thing to happen in cycling whatever way you want to look at it. Anything that gets more people out of a car and onto a bike or keeps people cycling for as long as they can as they reach ripe old ages is a good thing. Clean power, health and fitness and more refined technology mean that electric bikes will continue to soar in sales. We can also expect to see some great design and further segmentation in this market as brands identify and refine their target markets.



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