e-Bikes – Past, Present and… Possibly in Your Future?

Dale Campbell: Co-Editor

Introduction:   What is an e-Bike?
  • An Electric Bike (a.k.a. e-Bike) is “a bicycle that can be run on electric power as well as by pedaling.” (According to the Oxford Dictionary)
  • Wikipedia goes into a bit more detail by describing an e-Bike as
    • “a bicycle with an integrated electric motor which can be used for propulsion.… all, however, retain the ability to be pedaled by the rider and are therefore not electric motorcycles.E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter varieties can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on the laws of the country in which they are sold, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph).”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle
  • Generally, an e-Bike closely mimics the design of a traditional bicycle, with the addition of a small and efficient electric motor, power source(i.e. battery) and electronic control mechanisms.
  • Typically, market focus is on the opportunities to use an e-Bike as a commuter vehicle alternative to a typical car or motorcycle.
    e-Bike Basics
  • The total cost per mile (including energy cost, purchase price and the cost of running the vehicle) is less than 5 cents for an e-bike versus 71 cents for a car.
  • Electric bikes can generally cover 20 to 50 miles on a battery charge, well within the distance of many daily commutes.
  • In terms of fuel economy, the e-bike’s energy consumption translates into about 1000 miles per gallon.
  • Global sales of bikes driven by battery-powered electric motors have climbed nearly 20 percent since 2005.
  • There is an old proverb that “There is nothing new under the sun“, and “Everything that is old is new again“. So…think about e-Bike history the next time you read an advertisement about a new e-bike product that is “Revolutionary!”
  • Specifically, patents submitted as early as 1881 in France and in the 1890s in the United States
  • E-bikes re-appeared — briefly — in a much clunkier incarnation on the transportation scene in the 1970s following the energy crisis.
  • They started gaining more notice in the mid-1990s.
    • These versions incorporated pedal-activated power, followed by hub motors.
    • Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports, an industry newsletter, estimates that 100,000 electric bikes were sold nationwide in 2005.
    • e- bike sales were forecast to double by 2009 to 200,000
      Present Equipment Configurations and Possible Advancements
      Some of the focus areas include:
  • Electric Bike Batteries – Lithium-Ion, LiFePO4, LIPO
  • Electric Hub Motors – Rare Earth Magnet Direct-Drive, Composite Geared, Steel Geared, DC Mid-Drive
  • Electric Bike Controllers – Regenerative Systems, PAS Technologies
  • Portable Hydrogen Fuel Cells – Fuel Cell Range Extenders
  • Solar Powered Electric Bikes – Portable Solar Charging Stations


World Market and Growth

  • E-Bikes first became popular in China, where the government made developing e-bikes an official technology goal in 1991.
    • Global e-bike market dominated by China, with an estimated 85 percent of all e-bikes being sold in China.
    • As estimated by Macquarie, in 2013, there were 180 million e-bikes on the road in China, and that nearly 37 million new e-bikes were produced in the course of 2013.
    • Footnote:430 million owners in China represent the biggest increase of individual mobility of the human history!http://www.chinatravel.com/facts/china-bicycle.htm
  • Asian countries are the largest manufacturers of e-bikes.
    • For the EU, 83.2% of all imported e-bikes originate in China
      • Over 300,000 e-bikes imported from China into the EU in 2013.
    • Japan is Europe's number two supplier, with over 31,000 units and a 8.4% share of the total imports.
    • In third and fourth position, respectively, are Taiwan with 18,000 and Vietnam with 16,000 units.
      SOURCE: The Global E-bike Market  Sept 2014
  • E-Bikes are the only transportation device that managed in the last 20 years to take significant part of the bicycle market share!
    • In some markets, e-Bikes are gaining taking market share away from conventional bicycles and in others, such as China, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.
      SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle  
  • EBWR estimates worldwide e-Bike sales at 36,881,000 for 2014 with 200 Million Electric Bicycles Ridden Today
  • EBWR predicts 100,000,000 worldwide e-bike sales in 2035, with overall rider market poised to Grow to 2 Billion by 2050!
    SOURCE: Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports (EWBR)  http://www.ebwr.com/ 
    US Market Snapshot
  • Projection from 2012 E-bike sales in the United States will more than triple in the next six years, the report forecasts, reaching 265,000 in 2018
  • Sales in the USA have grown 80% in 2013 over 2012 with high end products doing well.
    EV World http://evworld.com/news.cfm?newsid=32890 
    Overview - Cost to Purchase
  • First, consider the following:The price of an e-bike is mainly determined by the:
    • Type of frame material
    • Quality of its mechanical parts - brakes, shifters, derailleurs, tires, etc
    • Quality of its electric parts - battery, motor, controller, etc –
  • Least expensive:$400 to 600
  • Most Expensive:$8,000 to $10,000
  • Most reputable complete e-bikes are in the range of $1,000 to $2,500
  • Next class of e-Bikes is somewhere around $3,000 to $4,000
    SOURCE: http://www.electric-bicycle-guide.com/electric-bike-price.html#sthash.mX4F1yLS.dpuf
    Is There a Cheaper Way?  …Conversion Possibilities
  • Conversion kits are available in a few different forms, front and rear hub drive, with geared and ungeared hub motors, and Mid drives (with and without throttle).
  • Two primarytypes of conversions
    • Hub motor kits power the bike using a hub motor built into the bicycle wheel.
    • Mid-drive kits modify the bike's chain path to transmit both human and motor power to the gearing at the rear wheel - which provides the user with both high speed and good hill-climbing.
  • Cost Range: $500 to $2,500 (dependent on power of motor) plus any installation costs

e-Bike Conversions - Pros and Cons

  • Flexibility
  • Extended range/reduced stress
  • Riding uphill and into the wind
  • Exercise is optional
  • Safe and easy to operate
  • Much cheaper than gas
  • Getting out of the way in a hurry
  • Injury Assist
  • Getting out more
  • Practical transport in town/Practical commuting
  • Togetherness
  • Low Maintenance
  • Saving money
  • Saving air
  • Fun for all ages
  • Cost of initial investment
  • Limited range and speed
  • Less security and protection
  • Flat Tires
  • Extra Weight
  • Battery replacement
    Projections for the Future
  • EBWR suggests e-bike business paradigm shifts may be underway.
    • Paradigm Shift 1: Auto makers, and auto suppliers, are entering the two-wheel business with expanded technology and marketing options.
    • Paradigm Shift 2: The collision avoidance technology explosion in the four-wheel market will be adapted to e-bikes making them virtually collision free eventually. E-bike sales will then explode also.
    • Paradigm Shift 3: Jay Townley, noted bike consultant, proposes a way for independent bike dealers to be more customer centric thus stronger, a provocative shift.
      SOURCE:  Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports (EWBR) http://www.ebwr.com/
  • Major Car manufacturers worldwide are stepping into the e-Bike Market.
    • Ford Motor Company partnering with Pedego and Dahon to create their own branded e-bike.
  • Other examples (you might recognize a few of these names):Porsche, Lexus, Honda, Toyota, VW, Audi, BMW, Smart and Mercedes
    Summary and Conclusions
  • Continuing growth worldwide in ownership of e-Bikes
  • Further advancements in technology and design can be expected
  • For an initial lower investment into the market, consider conversion kits
  • When considering purchasing a complete e-Bike or a conversion kit, will the advantages be worth the cost?


References for More Information
An additional reference published in the local newspaper – Colorado Springs Independent – is also a good reference.  In the article titled Rise of the e-Bike - With long ranges, high speeds and relatively low costs, e-bikes are mighty, the author - Bret Wright – covers many of the topics I’ve outlined above.  The article can be found at:  http://www.csindy.com/coloradosprings/with-long-ranges-high-speeds-and-relatively-low-costs-e-bikes-are-mighty/Content?oid=3493198


Bent Fork 2016-1 - Volume 9 Issue 1

Bookmark and Share