E-Bikes Driving Innovation

Having ridden in China, we can say, “good!” for news that China’s workers are growing weary of the traffic and choosing E-bikes. Sure a visitor wants to see the progress in China; all those shiny-new buildings and apartments displacing old hutongs, but then damn that traffic. We wondered if the Chinese were enamored with their cars so much they just ignored it or if some thought, “modern society is traffic? Bikes were better.” Well, 22 million electric two wheels sold last year. Since 07, the e-bike market has been growing here in the States (note those numbers are for bikes and scooters).

The bicycle was a vivid symbol of China in more doctrinaire communist times, when virtually no one owned a car. Even now, nearly two decades after the country began its great leap into capitalism, it still has 430 million bicycles by government count, outnumbering electric bikes and scooters 7-1. But production of electric two-wheelers has soared from fewer than 200,000 eight years ago to 22 million last year, mostly for the domestic market. The industry estimates about 65 million are on Chinese roads.

More E-bikes Please

We hope that market demand continues to grow and the prices drop accordingly. More importantly, the part spec and quality should improve along with the weight. Urban, commuter, city bikes need to weigh less and perform better. Consider what could happen if the innovation that goes into a racing bike was applied en masse to commuters and e-bikes? You’d have a contraption like this

turned into this

eneloop.jpg

and not just for the gadget-crazy Japanese.

A Killer Bike App

We’re not sure why urban, city bikes aren’t better than they are. Maybe product managers don’t think it matters, that price points drive it, or the industry thinks we all live in flat cities. Here in Seattle and elsewhere, cyclists are choosing e-bikes to help them get up the hills with their groceries. Now if an e-bike weighed 5 pounds less and was spec’d with Ultegra level components, imagine how much further they could ride and more agile they’d feel.

Civia is making high-end city bikes and so is Globe, Trek too. The talent that went into those bikes, if applied to an electric version? Damn then we’d be unto something, maybe like this or the El Ranchero. Gary Fisher said it himself last year.

“Hey - We will make a long bike, E bike? RIGHT on!”

What we need is a killer app for the bike industry and we don’t have it now. Gary? Others? You working on that?

Photos: E-bike stacked Photo uploaded by Herbi Ditl. E-bike contraption uploaded loloboho. Carbon fiber, E-bike by Akihabaranews.com.

Note: Cargonistats this applies to you too. Bettie is a longtail, e-bike.



6 Comments

Hear, hear! Currently, hybrid electrics seem to be hot just about everywhere other than the U.S., but I think they have a big future here, particularly if you consider our aging baby boomers. I wrote a similar article here:

http://www.ecovelo.info/2009/06/27/electric-hybrid-bicycles/

Alan@EcoVelo

I think Lee Iacoca was working on an e-bike as well, their popularity comes and goes. What we’re saying is, “put some real development time into them.” Come up with a killer e-bike and watch it sell. Of course, don’t do it like Coasting and all.

I can’t tell from the pictures—is this thing longtail-stable or a “reverse funny bike” to keep the chainstay at a somewhat normal length?

Either one of these things could be a tough selling point with consumers who think they need full suspension and couchlike “padded seats.”

Not sure either—it’s a concept bike.

The is a new company called PEDEGO that makes stylish electric bikes with quality parts and a really reasonable price. Google pedego.They are starting to show up all over Southern California.

Good tip on the Pedego, but that’s the type of bike we’re asking the bike industry to not design. Note, there’s a place for comfort, cruiser bikes, but we’re asking for a high-performance, high-end e-bike.

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