Sales prospects for electric bicycles still relatively bright

Sales prospects for electric bicycles still relatively bright

Summary: Despite challenges with distribution and looming environmental issues, e-bikes remain the world's best-selling electric vehicle format.


Turns out some electric vehicle formats are actually doing pretty well, in terms of sales. A projection from Pike Research pegs sales of electric bicycles at 30 million during 2012, reflecting the need for practical transportation in certain emerging economies.

The research firm's "Electric Bicycles" report suggests that compound annual growth for electric bicycles will increase by about 7.5 percent between 2012 and 2018, reaching 47 million units by the end of that six-year period. A more aggressive forecast calls for unit sales to reach about 51 million.

This relatively positive outlook is despite serious problems when it comes to distribution of electric bicycles, especially in Latin America and North America, according to the report.

The biggest market for sales, by far, is and will be China. The Pike Research report predicts that Asia-Pacific country will account for approximately 89 percent of the electric bicycles sold during those years, with about 42 million.

With that success will come environmental challenges, however.

It turns out that most of the electric bicycles being sold in China are ones that use sealed lead acid batteries, making for a growing lead contamination problem. As the expense of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries comes down, Pike Research predicted that penetration of bicycles with Li-ion technology will grow from about 6 percent in 2012 to 12 percent in 2018.

Related stories:

Topic: Enterprise Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Pity about the legal restrictions in EU etc

    Sadly, I think adoption of electric bikes is held back in the EU, certainly in Ireland and the UK, by overly-restrictive laws.

    For example, here, an electric bicycle is legally classified as a motorbike if any of these conditions are met:
    a) Bike has a twist-grip throttle (rather than pedelec sensor only)
    b) Electric motor is over 250W output
    c) Bike can give electric assist beyond 25km/h.

    This means that many bikes on the market (or imported from China, as are many electric bikes here) technically should be taxed and insured with a license plate displayed. Nobody wants to do that, so the choice is either ignoring the regulations (which is fine by me) and risk highly unlikely legal consequences, or don't buy an e-bike, or buy from a very limited market of cut-down e-bikes which have been configured to match the restrictions (yet are still expensive, usually around ???1000 for an entry level bike).
  • It would help....

    If they weren't so heavy.

    250W doesn't go far when the average setup adds 7-11kg to a frame.
    Uncle Stoat