Electric bikes are becoming increasingly popular – their market development in the past five years is a prime example of the potential triumph of electro-mobility. On the one hand, this fits in quite well with the growing importance of the bicycle and fuels it. On the other hand, one must also learn to rethink.
In terms of numbers, the e-bikes meet Chancellor Merkel’s vision for electric auto-mobility: 1 million e-cars should be on the roads in Germany by 2020, and in 2015 an amiable estimate would be around 30,000. Last year alone, however, more than half a million e-bikes were sold. That’s about 12.5 percent of all new bikes – without any industry subsidies. E-bikes fill an obvious need in individual mobility. Often they are replacing a second car instead of a bicycle.
Advantages of the motor-assisted bicycle
It is noticeable that in recent years the e-bike has increasingly lost its rehab image. Of course, senior citizens still enjoy riding e-bikes since they are easier to propel than non-motorised bicycles. However, the average age of e-bike buyers is falling every year – more and more families and commuters are also becoming converts. Depending on the riding style, one arrives at one´s destination faster with the same effort, or simultaneously without sweating. In the meantime, the range of action of everyday cyclists has increased immensely, namely by a factor of 3, as the Elektro Bike magazine reports. E-bikes are, of course, ideal in mountainous regions – no wonder they account for 17 percent of all bikes in Switzerland. Yet even in the far north they are popular as the only effective answer to the eternal headwind.
It´s more than just a “bicycle”
E-bikes cost about two and a half times as much as comparable bicycles. A good everyday bike, for example, cannot be had for less than 600 euros, an e-bike costs from about 1,500 euros. The battery alone costs 500-800 euros, while further components include the motor itself, the control unit on the handlebars and the wiring harness connecting everything. Furthermore, more stable components, such as hydraulic brakes, are needed. Like every good bike, an e-bike should be inspected in the workshop once a year. Checking and possibly repairing the electronics will be additional components on the bill. E-bikes are also heavier. While riding one may not notice it, the power gain overrides, but a ground-level parking space such as a (bicycle) garage is advisable.
E-bikes are still often frowned upon by athletes. Yet here the same applies as for the extra weight: Fun rules! If you´ve ever allowed yourself to be coaxed into the saddle, it´s guaranteed you´ll return from the test ride grinning ear to ear.
Impact on industry and infrastructure
E-bikes are sustainably changing the world of cycling. Bicycle manufacturers are becoming vehicle manufacturers; bike producers are dealing with new technologies and also new financial volumes. Yet, more important for the general public, are the changes in the cityscape and the individual perception of the road users. E-cyclists are not only faster in some cases than cyclists; they are often there in addition to the cyclists on the road, since they motivate car and public transport users to switch to two wheels. Their increasing number is therefore directly related to the growth of cycling in general. That is a powerful call for changes in the prerequisites, i.e. the infrastructure.