Electric Bikes



Electric Bikes

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


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  • Dec 20, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Even though gas prices have subsided (for now), it should have a very little impact on the growing demand for electric bikes in the U.S. And the recession could actually help improve sales as people look for new ways to cut costs and save money. Even with gas prices approaching 5-year lows, consumers can still save a considerable amount of money by commuting with an electric bike or scooter.

    Here's a great article about the cost of operating an electric bike. It includes a neat little tool which shows you to see how much you can save by commuting with an electric bike.

  • Alan Barta
    Dec 20, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Who wants a motorized vehicle when pedaling under you own power offers countless benefits? Air pollution abatement. Health improvement. Stress reduction. Weight loss.

    I thought this was a bike forum. If it's a TRANSPORTATION forum, then rants against DOT's uncontrolled spending, pathetic maintenance, and totally unsustainable roadnet are fair game. Or panegyrics on better alternatives in public transport, busses, rail, and supporting pavement and racks for bikes, etc.

    The word bicycle in the title is misleading. I don't want to compete with them on bikeways, yet they can't hold their own in travel lanes, so what venue are they built for? Like the minimotorcycle, there's no place where they can be safely operated and are not recognized by law as a legal conveyances.

  • Coryndon Luxmoore
    Dec 28, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    I saw many of these operating and being sold during my recent trip to Tokyo. They are bicycles that are mechanically assisted and they are not scooters. They co-exist very nicely with regular fully human powered bicycles since they are identical in speed and form factor.

    The motors seem like they help older folks and the less healthy (by choice or not) stay out of cars while traveling greater distance, carry more weight, and tackle bigger hills. More people using these will engender the same cultural and infrastructure changes we need for "traditional" bicycles.

  • Alan Barta
    Dec 31, 2008 at 7:56 am

    You can't have an electric engine without copper. Copper supplies are dwindling. Electricity is not sustainable.

    I do agree that the infirm could transport themselves short distances with electric powered scooters or wheelchairs. But the root solution is barrier-free mass transit, moving sidewalks, roll-on monorails or subways. If AMTRAK had "bike cars" on all scheduled trains, people could go everywhere without ever driving motor vehicles. Riding between cities then WALKING chews up too much time to support commuting or recreational travel.

    Americans need to be weaned off their fixation on automotive because carmakers need to be bailed out, roads can't be sustained, and the paradigm is doomed. Stop investing billions in roads that only a few people will be able to use after oil production collapses.

  • Jan 10, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I think electric bikes offer a very good compromise between a bicycle and a car. In my experience, there is a big difference between how effective a bike is for someone who can only ride at 10mph versus someone who can ride at 20mph, riding a bike at the higher speeds negates a lot of the advantages of a car. This is precisely what an electric bike affords everyone, the ability to ride at near automobile speeds over longer distances.

    The electric bike market also makes it possible for cargo companies to serious consider dumping trucks for local deliveries. Assisted cargo bikes allow almost anyone to move quite heavy loads. There were some stories about a year ago discussing a delivery company in Cambridge, MA that recently abandoned their fleet of trucks in favor of cargo bikes. Here is one of the articles about the company. They make use of electric-assist bikes.

    It seems to me to be a perfect solution for certain applications.