TRANSPORTATION: Electric bicycles drawing U.S. consumer interest (12/05/2008)
Sales of electric bikes — a category of vehicles that combine pedal power with electric assistance — are on the rise in the United States as major producers rush to put more of them on their shelves.
U.S. consumers are projected to buy a record 170,000 e-bikes — which range in price from $350 to $14,000 — this year, up from 120,000 in 2007, according to Frank Jamerson, an e-bike supporter who tracks the industry.
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, began selling e-bikes from Currie Technologies — the largest U.S. producer of e-bikes — and Toys”R”Us plans to expand its distribution tenfold to 550 stores. Target also sells the bikes.
“This has been the most rapid growth year in the company’s [10-year] history,” said Larry Pizzi, Currie’s president. “We’ve seen dramatically increased interest thanks to financial motivations, environmental concerns.”
The increased U.S. sales come as demand slackens in China, the world’s largest market for e-bikes, where 20 million are sold annually.
But the industry’s recent success could disappear amid a drop in gasoline prices, which decreases the cost of automotive commuting, and the recession, as bicycle purchases are closely correlated with disposable income (Olga Kharif, BusinessWeek, Dec. 4). — PR