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Sales prospects for electric bicycles still relatively bright

Despite challenges with distribution and looming environmental issues, e-bikes remain the world's best-selling electric vehicle format.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

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.

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