Electric Bicycles Update – Into 2014 & Beyond

Dale Campbell, Co-Editor Bent Fork Chronicles

According to a 2013 report from Navigant Research (a Boulder, CO based research firm), worldwide revenue from e-bicycles will grow from $8.4 billion in 2013 to $10.8 billion in 2020 (http://www.navigantresearch.com/research/electric-bicycles).  According to the report, one factor contributing to this growth is the increasing quality and affordability of lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries will help expand the e-bicycle market, as well.  Longer life spans at lower weights are recognized from Li-ion batteries  when compared to conventional lead-acid batteries.   At the moment, the general consensus in the industry is that the lithium iron phosphate type is the most E-Bike friendly battery technology, because of the combined thermal stability and long life. Further details can be found in the Navigant Report

That’s a reflection of the business side of the market, but what about the practical side, that experienced by potential purchasers of E-Bikes?  Here are five interesting facts about EAPCs (Electric Assisted Pedal Cycles) from a study compiled by John MacArthur, Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium at Portland State University.  As an aside comment, it’s interesting to note that Portland has more than 6% of the city’s population commuting by bicycle, a much higher percentage than many other large US cities, such as New York City, which is striving to reach 1.5% (based on the 2012 American Community Survey by the US Census Bureau).

1) Converting a bike to an E-Bike is slightly more common than buying an E-Bike from scratch.  Forty eight percent of E-Bike users purchased an E-Bike, whereas 52 percent converted a standard bike (most commonly a mountain bike, but 13 percent of them a cargo bike or Xtracycle) by adding a battery and motor.

2) E-Bike conversions are usually cheaper than purchases, but not always.  Sewventy percent of E-Bike conversions and 46 percent of E-Bike purchases were done for $1500 or less.

3) E-bike trips seem especially good at replacing car trips.  The most common reason to go electric was to replace some car trips, though health, ability and comfort were also common reasons people took up E-Bikes.

4) E-bikes turn people into daily riders. Fifty five percent of E-Bikers rode their standard bike weekly or daily before the purchase. After the purchase, weekly or daily biking rose to 93 percent. Even the few (6%) who had never ridden bikes as an adult were now riding weekly or daily.

5) The biggest complaint with E-Bikes is their weight. About 26 percent of respondents called it the main downside. (Another 8 percent, meanwhile, said there was no downside to riding an E-Bike.)  Fewer than 5 percent cited fear of theft or battery charging time.

The above conclusions were contained in the “Electric Bikes (E-Bikes) in the United States” presentation given on 18 October 2013 by John MacArthur, Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium at Portland State University.  If you’re interested in learning more, there are additional details in the full 53 page presentation, which can be found at http://transportation.research.pdx.edu/sites/default/files/JMacArthur%2010-18.pdf 

Bent Fork - Volume 7, Issue 1 - Volume 7, Issue 1 - 2 February 2014

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