E-bike sales hit almost $15 billion last year

Big easy with kids
© Big Easy with kids on back/ Surly

New studies find that sales are big and getting bigger. It's time to give them a safe place to ride.

Everybody loves to talk about electric and autonomous cars, but the real transportation action is happening in e-bikes, which are booming right now. A new study looked at global sales of e-bikes and found that "the global e-bike market was valued at USD $14,755.20 million [$14.775 Billion in North America] in 2018, and is expected to grow at a CAGR [Compound annual growth rate] of 6.39%, during the forecast period, 2019-2024."

The study is produced by an Indian consultancy with the scary name of Mordor Intelligence, and their Great Eye scanned the world markets to find that the Pedal-Assisted (Pedelec) style bike dominating the market, with the fastest growth in Asia. Europe is the second-fastest growing market, with Germany leading:

In 2018, the e-bike sales in Germany captured a 23.5% share in the total bicycle market. Out of the total e-bikes sold in Germany, 99.5% are of 250W/25Km/h models...In Germany, an ebike is a preferred mode of mobility, as well as for sports and leisure, also as a clean, quiet, and space-saving alternative for city logistics in the country.

Sales of Speed Pedelecs that can go up to 45 Km/hr are declining "primarily because of the infrastructural issue, as they have to share roadways with cars." They are not allowed in bike lanes.

Some of the benefits offered by these bikes are as follows – ease of travelling (especially long distances); best suitable for recreational activities, such as hill climbing; ease of carrying heavy loads; ensure fitness of the consumers (owing to growing health concerns among baby boomers and consumers (especially professionals); and save money.

Another very expensive study, Electric Bicycle Market Report: Trends, Forecast and Competitive Analysis, is even bolder in its predictions, concluding that "the Global Electric Bicycle Market is Expected to Reach an Estimated $21 Billion by 2024 with a CAGR of 12.5% from 2019 to 2024."

The future of the global electric bicycle (e-bike) market looks promising with opportunities in the areas of travelling, exercise/fitness, and recreational activities. The major drivers for this market are increasing health conscious consumers, high traffic congestion, environmental concerns, and increasing government initiatives to promote cycling in order to reduce carbon emissions.

Electric car sales are growing too, up 60 percent last year. But according to Nick Butler of the Financial Times, sales of SUVs are growing faster.

A casual reader of the media during the past few months could easily get the idea that electric vehicles were in the process of taking over the market. One headline tells us that the electric vehicle boom is coming. Another says that the boom offers a bleak future for gasoline...But EVs cannot be considered in isolation. The 7m to 8m EVs that should be on the road by the end of 2019 represent less than a tenth of 1 per cent of the 1.1bn cars and other light vehicles that use internal combustion engines. Some 85m ICE vehicles were sold worldwide in 2018. The even more telling fact is that the growth of EVs is being exceeded by the much more rapid growth in the number of SUVs.

It's clear that we are not going to get the majority of people out of gasoline powered cars any time soon. We probably can't get the majority of people on to bikes and e-bikes either. But we CAN get a significant minority of people on to them if we give them a save place to ride and park their bikes and e-bikes. In Europe, where they have this, the numbers are huge, and the range of climate conditions from the top to bottom of Europe are not less extreme than most of North America.

Gazelle under the bentwayGazell Medeo on the Bentway Park/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

A while back I paraphrased Horace Dediu, noting that "e-bikes will eat cars." It's happening. But I also noted:

As Dediu sees it, first the disruptive technology arrives, then the suitable environment follows. Early roads weren't smooth enough for the first cars. Early cellular networks couldn't handle smartphone data. But with time, the world adapted to fit the promising technology.

We now have this promising and disruptive technology, micromobility, delivered by cheaper and better batteries and electric motors. It's time to build that suitable environment for them. It is the fastest and cheapest way to get a lot of people out of cars, reduce carbon emissions, and build better cities.

E-bike sales hit almost $15 billion last year
New studies find that sales are big and getting bigger. It's time to give them a safe place to ride.

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