Make Room for the E-Bikes, the Top-Selling Electric Vehicles for the Next Decade

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©. Big Easy with kids on back/ Surly

A new study from Deloitte predicts what we have said before: e-bikes will eat cars.

Recently, after calling the teens the decade of the bicycle, I predicted that the Twenties would be the decade of e-mobility.

Now the big consultancy, Deloitte, makes its technology, media and telecommunications predictions for 2020 and calls e-bikes the next big thing.

By 2023, the total number of e-bikes in circulation around the world—owned by both consumers and organizations—should reach about 300 million, a 50 percent increase over 2019’s 200 million. These 300 million e-bikes will include both privately owned e-bikes and e-bikes available to share.

Deloitte gets why people like e-bikes; they are less work, easier to get started after a red light or stop sign, and great for chewing up long distances, hills or when carrying stuff, "or some combination of the above."

They also open up bicycling to people who otherwise might not do it: the older and the less fit. "And the effect doesn’t end with out-of-shape able-bodied individuals. Electrification can be a game-changer for the disabled." They suggest that they are real competition for cars.

Paul with Big Easy

Wait, there is more to come/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

E-bikes may soon start to invade the niche currently occupied by automobiles thanks to their convenience, utility, and relatively low cost. Even electric cargo bikes, though more expensive (at about US$8,000) than standard e-bikes, are much cheaper than most cars—and may be just as useful for running most errands. According to one survey, 28 percent of e-bike buyers bought the e-bike as a substitute for a car, not as an upgrade to a bike.

Deloitte also notes (as I have) that cities have to change, that people riding bikes need a safe place to ride and a secure place to park.

Although cars are likely to remain prevalent for decades to come, a growing number of cities are beginning to reallocate available space to accommodate other forms of transport, including bicycles. Giving bikes more space is very likely a critical step toward making cities more hospitable to bicycle use: Many people who might otherwise embrace cycling are frightened off by the prospect of sharing a crowded road with big metal vehicles with only a helmet for protection.

Then they have the funniest line in the report:

The good news is that there is plenty of space to reallocate. The United States has more than a billion parking spaces, for instance, and more than half of all of the country’s downtown space is given over to roads or parking.

Anyone who has ever witnessed a public meeting discussing a bike lane knows that this is a battle. The world can be burning, but as Doug Gordon notes, we keep arguing over parking spaces.

On the Verge, Andrew Hawkins questions some of Deloitte's numbers, quoting consultants who say they "seem high." He also wonders whether Americans are ready for this.

It seems preposterous on the surface, given American attitudes toward cars (love ‘em! bigger the better!) and the media hype surrounding new EVs, especially from companies like Tesla. Also, Americans tend to view bikes more as recreational vehicles than as legitimate transportation, something you use in fair weather, not in the rain and snow like the Dutch. In the US and Canada, only about 1 percent of the workforce commutes by bike today.

Trips by bikes

© Deloitte

But in their bottom line, Deloitte notes that even though not that many people are riding bikes now,

...bicycling can be immensely important—and the more people who bicycle, the greater the likely societal benefits. As technologies continue to improve, bicycling will most likely continue to become easier, faster, and safer. That’s good news for cities worldwide as they search for more economical and more sustainable ways to move people and things around.

Gazelle under the bentway

Gazell Medeo on the Bentway Park/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

I agree, and repeat my conclusion to the previous post:

I have often quoted analyst Horace Dediu, who predicted that "electric, connected bikes will arrive en masse before autonomous, electric cars. Riders will barely have to pedal as they whiz down streets once congested with cars." It appears that Dediu was dead on the money. The world is changing fast; nobody is talking much about fully autonomous cars these days, and a lot of people are falling in love with e-bikes, including me. Little batteries, little motors, and micromobility will move a lot more people.