eCycle Electric

So Many eBike Brands!

Jun 08, 2018

Just a few short years ago, there were maybe a half-dozen major electric bicycle brands in the United States: iZip, Pedego, ProdecoTech, A2B. Now there are, quite literally, hundreds, most small importers seeking to carve a niche for themselves, usually with something customized for them in Asia, typically China or Taiwan. Here's what you need to know about the rapidly evolving world of electric bikes in America.

The numbers are amazing:

• More than 250 million ebikes in use world wide, every day.
• About one million ebikes in USA garages and on the roads.
• 10 million in Europe.
• Sales this year will approach 40 million units, world wide.
• Now the money maker for nearly all the bicycle industry.
• More than 650 brands of ebikes world wide.
• Nearly 300 brands of ebikes offered in the USA!

My consulting company, eCycleElectric has been studying the electric bike industry of the world, and reporting on it in collaboration with Dr. Frank Jamerson, since 1996. We have been witness to a new concept in human transportation that first gained traction in Japan in 1994, and has rapidly become a major people mover world wide - still growing, and with awesome prospects.

One of our areas of focus is to track imports of ebikes into the USA. And to maintain databases of importers, OEM factories, ODM factories, distributors, brands, propulsion system makers, motor makers, battery makers, retailer and retail channels. Since we are based in the USA, with associates in China and Europe, our interests are wide ranging, but we have a particular interest in the USA market.

In 2017, about 600 individuals or companies imported 5 or more ebikes. About 223 of these imported 25 or more ebikes. About 20 of them imported thousands of ebikes.

We learn of yet another ebike brand about twice a week. 2018 is seeing big increases in participants, and we believe, big increases in imports.

One of our beliefs is this: If we are not hearing screams of anguish about slow sales from distributors, brand managers, and retailers, the imported bikes are selling through to consumers. For the last 2 years, what we hear from major brands and retailers, is that sales are up dramatically, and everyone is looking for more bikes. Companies that we had regarded as small, become important players suddenly, and frequently.

These imports come from about 60 factories in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and India. (China being the leader by far.) USA assemblers are less than a dozen, and still small in volume. (USA assemblers all use parts from overseas.)

We count about 95 companies that offer propulsion or some part the propulsion system. The biggest providers, however, are relatively few in number. Two Chinese companies provide the bulk of motors and propulsion to the USA, with one European company not too far behind. Batteries are provided by a handful of battery packagers in Asia and EU. (Battery packagers weld together cells made by cell makers, to produce the exact size and performance of a battery needed by a brand manager.) Cells (lithium) come from less than half a dozen makers.

Warranties and reliability of the product, as well as after sales service and parts availability is being addressed by a handful of factories and suppliers, but this is improving quickly in the USA and the EU.

Service training, once exclusively offered in the USA by the Light Electric Vehicle Association, is now available from traveling clinics, LEVA, the PBMA, Barnett Bicycle Institute, and coming soon from others.

Recent conversations with major brand managers (in the ebike world) indicate optimism, enthusiasm for the substantial growth and acceptance of the product in nearly every retail channel. Some major traditional bicycle companies can be see to be re-inventing themselves as ebike companies! Automotive industry is already participating. Google nearly any car maker and “electric bike” and learn that they have one, or plan to have one, or maybe - had one.

Share bike systems are coming into the ebike world quickly. Only a couple of years ago, there were some share bike experiments. Today, the number of dock type and dock - less systems is expanding faster that we can keep track. Renting an ebike in many cities of the world, (Especially China, but also EU and USA) is easy and inexpensive.

Ebike customers are often the same people who have been bicycle customers. But we are also seeing millions of customers (and potentially hundreds of millions) that would never buy or use a conventional bicycle. Aging populations in the west are finding ebikes can extend one’s mountain biking years. Millennials are finding ebikes useful and economical “sweat free” transportation. Dense cites (more and more humans life in such cities) require two wheel transport, that ebikes provide very well.

The term “wild west” comes to mind when examining the world ebike industry. Growth is stunning, huge numbers of participants. big money to be made. New areas of activity and market expansion seem to occur every week. New players, and a sexy rapid expansion that attracts capital and energy.

What will happen?

We believe that the huge number of brands that exist today will consolidate to, perhaps, a dozen in each major market. We believe that share bike systems will have an impact that is not yet well understood. We believe that ebikes and e-motorcycles will replace most bicycle purchases, and nearly all light motorcycle purchases, resulting in about 130 million units, world wide, per year in the mid to late 2020’s.

We believe that success with ebikes will determine the future of all bicycle and motorcycle brands. And we believe that the door is open today, to new entrants, innovative marketing, and energy / capital / and ideas from outside the industry.

We are living in the bright future, today.

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